Riyadh lifts 'politically motivated' Lebanon travel ban for Saudi holidaymakers

Riyadh lifts 'politically motivated' Lebanon travel ban for Saudi holidaymakers
Saudi Arabia announced the withdrawal of a three-year-long travel warning against Lebanon on Wednesday.
2 min read
13 February, 2019
Saudi Ambassador Bukhari said he lifted the warning as Lebanon's security situation had improved [AFP]

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday withdrew a travel warning which urged its citizens not to travel to Lebanon. 

The move will allow Saudi tourists to visit Lebanon, a popular destination in the summer and skiing season, after years of avoiding the small Mediterranean country. 

The kingdom advised its citizens not to travel to Lebanon and those already in the country to leave in September 2016 due to security concerns, but the move was widely seen as politically motivated and a step to pressue Hizballah.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari announced the cancellation of the warning after a meeting between between Saudi royal court envoy Nizar al-Aloula and Lebanese President Saad al-Hariri on Wednesday.

The ambassador said the decision to lift the warning was made after he received assurance from Lebanon that the security situation had improved.

The trabel ban was imposed after Lebanon rejected an Arab League call to designate powerful group Hizballah, which plays a central role in Lebanese politics, a terrorist organisation, and voted against the suspension of Syria from the League.

Separately, The United States on Wednesday delivered a $16 million order of laser-guided missiles to the Lebanese military.

Since 2005 the military has been supported by more than $2.3 billion from the United States, which aims to bolster the Lebanese armed forces as the "sole, legitimate defender" of the country where Hizballah has a massive presence.

Hizballah’s direct role in government expanded in January with the establishment of a new government by Hariri in which the group holds several ministerial posts.

The influence of Hizballah in Lebanon is a source of tension with Saudi Arabia, which deems the Iran-backed group a terrorist organisation.