Germany, Saudi Arabia mend ties after Lebanon row

Germany, Saudi Arabia mend ties after Lebanon row
Saudi Arabia fumed over Berlin's criticism following Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri's allegedly forced resignation 10 months ago.
2 min read
26 September, 2018
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir [File photo: Getty]

Germany and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday agreed to return ambassadors some 10 months after the kingdom fumed over criticism about its role in Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia, which has increasingly challenged Western governments who speak out on its record, in November recalled its ambassador from Berlin following the eyebrow-raising resignation of Saad Hariri as Lebanon's prime minister while visiting Riyadh.

Sigmar Gabriel, who was then Germany's foreign minister, said that Lebanon's neighbours should let the recovering country decide its own fate, angering Saudi Arabia which like Hariri denied that he was coerced.

Gabriel's successor Heiko Maas, meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly, voiced regret and said the two countries would send back ambassadors.

"In recent months our relations have witnessed misunderstandings which stand in sharp contrast to our otherwise strong and strategic ties with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and we sincerely regret this," Maas told reporters.

"We should have been clearer in our communication and engagement in order to avoid such misunderstandings."

Jubeir, speaking next to Maas, invited him to visit and affirmed "deep strategic ties" with Germany.

"The kingdom and Germany play a leading role in bolstering international security and stability and the global economy," Jubeir said.

Saudi Arabia, which has especially close ties with US President Donald Trump, has increasingly made clear it would not tolerate reprimands.

Last month Riyadh expelled the ambassador of Canada and froze all new trade after Ottawa denounced a crackdown on activists in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia similarly pulled its ambassador from Sweden in 2015 over human rights criticism.

Hariri, who eventually returned to Lebanon and reversed his resignation, also holds Saudi and French nationality.

The episode was seen as the latest chapter in Saudi Arabia's intensifying feud with regional rival Iran after Hariri improved ties with longtime rival Hizballah, a militant Shia movement backed by Tehran.