French President Francois Hollande is embarking on a state visit to Saudi Arabia where he is expected to discuss with the Saudi monarch the ongoing Syrian crisis and an arms deal between Paris and Riyadh.
Hollande will stop in Beirut before flying to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in the city of Jeddah. The Lebanon visit will be the first by a French head of state since 2008.
A French government source has described the planned visit to Beirut as “a strong political gesture of backing for Lebanon’s sovereignty and the preservation of its integrity in the face of destabilization threats.”
Sources in France have said Paris and Riyadh share views on the spiraling conflict in Syria.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of security forces, have been killed in the violence.
Syria accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey as well as some Western countries of fanning the flames of violence in the country.
The US, Britain and other Western states have backed a Qatari plan that seeks the creation of a consistent Syrian opposition that would engage in talks with the Damascus government, or provide greater arms supports to insurgents if negotiations fail.
The plan, due to be formally introduced in Qatar’s capital city of Doha on November 8, will unify foreign-based Syrian opposition groups with armed groups fighting on the ground.