Lebanon discusses restoring Gulf ties with Kuwait

Lebanon discusses restoring Gulf ties with Kuwait
Gulf states used to be big investors and allies of Lebanon until last year, when they abruptly cut ties over Iran's growing influence in the country.
2 min read
20 March, 2022
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has been trying to mend Lebanon's broken ties with several Gulf states [ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty]

In a phone call with Kuwait's foreign minister, Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, the Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati discussed  efforts to return Lebanese-Gulf relations to normal, Mikati's office said in a statement on Saturday.

In January, Sheikh Ahmad visited Lebanon as part of "international efforts to restore trust with Lebanon", and delivered a set of trust-building demands to Lebanese authorities, without elaborating on what these demands were.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were for a long time strong allies of Lebanon, and invested billions of dollars in the country between 2006 and 2008 to fund reconstruction following its 2006 war with Israel. 

Between 2003 and 2015, 76 percent of foreign direct investment in Lebanon came from the Gulf states. 

But Lebanon has recently been diplomatically ostracised by several Gulf states aligned with Saudi Arabia.

Tensions with the Saudi kingdom erupted in October after Lebanon's then-Information Minister George Kordahi criticised the Saudi-led coalition's war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Following Kordahi's comments, Saudi Arabia severed its diplomatic relations with Beirut in October and recalled its ambassador - a move seen as a rejection of Hezbollah's growing power in Beirut.

Saudi Arabia has long seen the rising influence of Iran-backed groups in the region, including Hezbollah, with concern. 

Several Gulf states - including the UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain - followed suit, recalling their envoys from Beirut and expelling their Lebanese ambassadors. 

In early December, French President Emmanuel Macron mediated a call between Mikati and Saudi Crown Prince Mohamad Bin Salman, in an unsuccessful bid to end the diplomatic dispute.

Lebanon is in the midst of a colossal financial crisis and desperately needs the support of regional powers. The World Bank says the financial crisis could be one of the three most severe the world has witnessed since the mid-19th century.

Diplomatic isolation from Gulf states further crippled the Lebanese economy in recent months.

Last spring, Saudi Arabia also decided to suspend agricultural imports from Lebanon after Saudi customs seized over 5 million pills of the amphetamine drug Captagon hidden in a shipment of pomegranates coming from Lebanon.