According to Press TV, Tillerson’s remarks come amid growing questions about the premier’s sudden resignation last Saturday from Saudi Arabia where he was spending a supposedly routine trip.
“If he’s going to step down, as I understand it, he needs to go back to Lebanon to make that official,” Tillerson said en route from Chinese capital Beijing to Danang on Friday, nearly a week after an anxious Hariri appeared on live TV to announce his intention to quit his job.
“I‘m hopeful that if that is still his intent to leave that he’ll do that so that the government of Lebanon can function properly,” Tillerson added.
Although the Lebanese PM insisted in his resignation statement that the post was no longer tenable for him due to what he called intervention by the Lebanese resistant movement Hezbollah and Iran, many people, including Lebanese officials, think he had been forced to do so.
Two anonymous US officials familiar with the situation have also told Reuters that the Saudis had indeed “encouraged” Hariri to leave office.
Tillerson, however, said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had assured him during a recent meeting that Hariri made the decision by himself.
In a new article published by The Independent on Thursday, renowned English journalist Robert Fisk claimed he had information that the resignation “is not all it seems,” specially since people, who know the PM, say his statement seemed forced and did not fit his style of speaking.
Citing his sources, Fisk claims that Hariri was invited to Riyadh on Friday, while he was holding a cabinet meeting in Beirut. He was told over the phone that King Salman of Saudi Arabia wanted to see him, even though they had met a few days earlier.
Unaware of the fate that awaited him in Riyadh, Hariri had even scheduled meetings with officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Beirut on Monday.
Once his jet touched down, Hariri found himself surrounded by policemen who came aboard his plane and confiscated his phone and those of his bodyguards, Fisk wrote.
The journalist wrote that the resignation statement shared a lot of similarities with recent speeches by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and US President Donald Trump, where they made similar claims against Iran and Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, Saudi officials claimed on Friday that a Saudi citizen had been kidnapped in Lebanon.
This is while Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates had urged all of their citizens to leave Lebanon.