Lebanese President Michel Aoun set out for Saudi capital Riyadh on Monday for his first official visit abroad since assuming office late last October, Lebanese media has reported.
According to the Lebanese Foreign Ministry, the visit comes in response to an invitation from Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
Repairing Lebanon’s strained relations with the Gulf States, which have been plagued by mounting tension in recent years, is regarded as one of Aoun’s most daunting tasks as president.
Saudi-Lebanon ties have been dogged by tension due to ongoing differences over the conflict in Syria (where Lebanon’s Hezbollah has fought alongside the Assad regime); an attack on two Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran by Iranian demonstrators early last year; and the subsequent decision by Riyadh to suspend military aid to Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia accuses Hezbollah of taking its orders from Tehran — considered Riyadh’s main competitor in the region — and dominating Lebanese politics.