(Dubai) The United Arab Emirates on Saturday recalled its diplomats in Beirut, the fourth Arab Gulf monarchy that retaliated against Lebanon after a Lebanese minister criticized Saudi Arabia’s intervention in the war in Yemen.
Posted on October 30, 2021
This grave crisis comes as the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has been banking on possible financial aid from wealthy Gulf monarchies to revive the economy of the completely collapsed country.
Mr Mikati distanced himself from statements made by Information Minister George Kordahi, who was appointed to the government by a Christian party allied with the pro-Iranian movement Hezbollah, a heavyweight in Lebanese politics, and implicitly called for his resignation .
For experts, the crisis goes beyond the minister’s words and reflects a struggle for influence between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, for which Lebanon is paying a heavy price.
After Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, in “solidarity” with Saudi Arabia, announced the withdrawal of their diplomats from Lebanon. They also banned Emirati citizens from traveling to Lebanon.
On the same day, Kuwait announced the recall of its ambassador to Lebanon and the departure of the Lebanese chargé d’affaires within 48 hours.
He justified his decision with the Lebanese government’s “failure to respond to the unacceptable and reprehensible statements made against Saudi Arabia and the rest (six countries) of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).”
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese work in the countries of the GCC – Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.
Qatar condemned Mr Kordahi’s “irresponsible” remarks but took no retaliatory action, merely urging the Lebanese government to act “to resolve the disagreements between them.” [pays] Brothers “.
At odds for three years, Qatar and Saudi Arabia resumed earlier in the year. Among other things, Riyadh had criticized Doha for moving closer to Shiite Iran, the great rival of Sunni Saudi Arabia.
And Oman urged the different parties to work to “avoid escalation and resolve differences through dialogue.”
In an Aug. 5 television program aired on Monday, Mr Kordahi, who was not yet a minister, called “absurd” the intervention in the war in Yemen by the Riyadh-led military coalition, which has opposed power and rebels since 2014. He said the insurgents were defending themselves “against external aggression”.
This coalition, which intervened in Yemen in 2015 and also includes the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, supports power against the rebels backed by Iran, which has consistently denied accusations of supplying arms to the Houthis.
The leader of the GCC, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was the first to recall its ambassador to Lebanon on Friday, deciding on the expulsion of the Lebanese ambassador. He also decided to stop all Lebanese imports.
“There is no crisis with Lebanon, there is a crisis in Lebanon because of Iranian hegemony,” Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan told Al-Arabiya TV on Saturday. “Hezbollah’s dominance of Lebanon’s political system worries us. »
Bahrain also decided to expel the Lebanese ambassador.
Following the outcry, Mr Kordahi stressed that his comments reflected his “personal opinions” prior to his appointment as information minister. But he refused to apologize.
Mikati said he deeply regrets Riyadh’s decision and said Kordahi’s comments “in no way reflect the government’s position”.
But Hezbollah, Iran’s staunch ally, said it opposed any resignation.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, said he was “eager to have the best relations with sister country Saudi Arabia” and criticized those “causing crises between the two countries”.
In May, the Lebanese foreign minister of the previous government, Charbel Wehbé, was forced to resign after he called the Gulf states “Bedouins” and accused them of links to the jihadist group “Islamic State”.
After a crisis cell formed by Mr Mikati met in Beirut in the presence of US Embassy Number Two Richard Michaels, Education Secretary Abbas Halabi said he had “good hopes” of a settlement to the crisis in the Gulf monarchies.