The International Support Group for Lebanon calls for national unity in the aftermath of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's shock resignation.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun (L) meets with Walid al Bukha, the Saudi charge d'affaires (R) at the Presidential Palace in Lebanon. A senior Lebanese official said Aoun has formally told Bukha that the way former Lebanese premier resigned is
Lebanese President Michel Aoun (L) meets with Walid al Bukha, the Saudi charge d'affaires (R) at the Presidential Palace in Lebanon. A senior Lebanese official said Aoun has formally told Bukha that the way former Lebanese premier resigned is "unacceptable" and requested his return to the country. November 10, 2017. (AP)

The International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon appealed for Lebanon to "continue to be shielded from tensions in the region", a joint statement said on Friday.

Following a meeting of ISG members with Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Friday, the group, whose members include the United States, Russia and France, stressed the importance of restoring "vital balance" of state institutions in Lebanon, and welcomed "the call of the president for Prime Minister Hariri to return to Lebanon," the statement said.

The Lebanese government believes that the former premier's resignation was forced by Saudi Arabia and that Hariri is under house arrest. Riyadh maintains that Saad Hariri is a free man.

Religious leader calls for level-headedness

Lebanon's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, the top cleric for Sunni Muslims, said Hariri's resignation came amid difficult circumstances, Lebanese Al Jadeed TV reported on Friday.

Derian called for national unity and for waiting before taking any stance on the shock resignation, which Hariri announced in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia on Saturday. 

On Saturday, Derian described Lebanon's ties with Riyadh as "brotherly, historical relations."

President Aoun told Saudi Arabia's envoy to Lebanon on Friday that former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri must return to the country, Lebanese media reported.

Aoun also told the Saudi Charge d'Affaires Walid al Bukhari that the circumstances of Hariri's resignation were unacceptable, the reports said. Hariri resigned while in Saudi Arabia last Saturday.

Meeting with the ISG on Friday, Aoun expressed concern over reports surrounding the circumstances of  Hariri and urged clarification of these circumstances, presidential sources said.

A top Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt said in a Twitter post on Friday that after a week of absence from Lebanon, "whether it was house arrest or voluntary", it was "time for Sheikh Saad to return."

"By the way, there is no alternative to him," he added.

Source: Reuters