Hariri raises Zakka with Zarif in a ‘passing’ handshake

In a passing handshake with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Wednesday at the Brussels conference on Syria, Prime Minister Saad Hariri brought up the issue of the ongoing detention of Lebanese national Nizar Zakka.

Hariri, Mogherini and Zarif pose during a group photo at a conference ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region’ at the Europa building in Brussels, Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

The encounter between Hariri and Zarif came as ministers and officials gathered for a group photo at the international “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” conference – also known as Brussels II – being hosted by the European Union.


A source close to the premier said that it was a “passing” greeting and not a formal conversation. The source confirmed that Hariri took the opportunity to raise the issue of Zakaa’s detention, but did not elaborate on what the prime minister said.

Zakka was arrested after traveling to Iran to attend a state-sponsored conference in Tehran in 2015. At the time of his arrest, he was the secretary-general of IJMA3, an Arab communications organization, and had received an official invitation to visit.

His family has been lobbying the government to raise the subject with Iran and criticized ministers for not doing enough to secure Zakka’s release.

On the sidelines of the second day of Brussels II, Hariri held a series of meetings with Arab and international officials.

He met with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir at the EU headquarters where they discussed the bilateral ties between both countries, according to a statement from Hariri’s office.

The premier also held talks with Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield in the presence of Nader Hariri, the prime minister’s chief of staff. “They discussed the developments in Lebanon and the region as well as the relations between both countries,” the statement said.

Earlier in the day, Hariri held talks with Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Expansion Negotiations.


This article has been adapted from its original source, published in The Daily Star on April 25, 2018.