Lebanon FM invites Saudis for talks to ease row: AFP

Lebanon FM invites Saudis for talks to ease row: AFP
Lebanon's foreign minister has called on Riyadh to engage in dialogue to ease an unprecedented diplomatic row between Beirut and the Gulf
2 min read
01 November, 2021
Bou Habib (L) said Lebanon couldn't solve the issue of Hezbollah by itself [AFP/Getty]

Lebanon's foreign minister on Monday called for talks with Saudi Arabia to ease a spiralling diplomatic row sparked by remarks made by the Lebanese information minister on the Yemen war.

"Lebanon invites Saudi Arabia to engage in dialogue to solve all outstanding problems and not just the latest spat, so that the same crisis is not repeated every time," the minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, told AFP.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia gave Lebanon's ambassador 48 hours to leave the country, recalled its envoy from Beirut and suspended all imports from Lebanon.

The Saudi foreign ministry said the measures were taken after "insulting" remarks made by a Lebanese minister on the Yemen war, but also due to the influence of Lebanon's Iran-backed Shia paramilitary group Hezbollah.

In an interview recorded in August and aired last week, Information Minister George Kordahi said Iran-backed Houthi rebels were "defending themselves... against an external aggression," by a Saudi-led military coalition.

His comments sparked angry rebukes from Saudi Arabia and its allies, worsening diplomatic ties that have weakened significantly in recent years over the growing dominance of Hezbollah which is viewed by the kingdom as a terrorist group.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia said dealing with Beirut was "pointless" due to Hezbollah's dominance.

But Bou Habib told AFP on Monday that "problems between friendly and brotherly countries can only be resolved through dialogue, communication and trust, and not through imposition".

Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse Hezbollah of supporting Houthi rebels that seized the Yemeni capital in 2014.

A Saudi-led military coalition that has included the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain intervened to prop up the Yemeni government in 2015.

Lebanon's foreign minister said that Hezbollah's activities in the region and beyond can not be checked by the state.

"A US-Iranian agreement or a deal between Saudi and Iran can help solve this issue but we can't resolve it by ourselves," Bou Habib said.

The diplomatic crisis with the kingdom and its allies is a fresh blow to Lebanon, a country in financial and political turmoil where a fragile government is struggling to secure international aid, namely from wealthy Arab neighbours.

Saudi Arabia is Lebanon's third largest export market, accounting for six percent of the country's exports in 2020, worth around $217 million, according to the chamber of commerce.