Following Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE have summoned their ambassadors from Beirut, over a diplomatic row provoked by Lebanese minister’s criticism of Riyadh’s on-going military intervention in Yemen.
On Friday, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expelled the Lebanese ambassador who was ordered to leave within 48 hours and recalled its own envoy to Beirut, Waleed Bukhari. Riyadh also banned all imports from Lebanon, which will add further pressure on the already crisis-hit country and its deteriorating economy.
Saudi Arabia has also banned all imports from Lebanon and given the Lebanese ambassador 48 hours to leave the kingdom after footage emerged earlier this week of a minister criticizing the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s war in Yemen, state news agency SPA reported.
Saudi Arabia also banned its citizens from travelling to Lebanon and recalled its ambassador.
“The Kingdom’s government regrets the outcomes of the relations with the Lebanese Republic due to the Lebanese authorities ignoring facts, and their continued failure to take corrective measures,” the statement carried by SPA on Friday read.
Hours later, the Kingdom of Bahrain ordered the Lebanese ambassador to leave the country within two days for the same reason, Bahrain’s foreign ministry said.
Ties between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were already strained, but they soured further on Tuesday after footage began circulating online of Information Minister George Kordahi making critical remarks about the Saudi-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. He said the televised interview was recorded more than a month before he was appointed minister.
Footage from August, aired this week showed Lebanon’s Information Minister George Kordahi, who was appointed to the position at the time, describing the war against Yemen as one of aggression by the Saudi-led coalition, branding the conflict as “futile” and said the Houthis were acting in “self-defense.”
The Lebanese government has distanced itself from Kordashi’s comments, although Mohammad Raad the head of the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, the political wing of Hezbollah accused the Saudis of seeking revenge over their failing war effort in Yemen.
“Today, we are facing a crisis created by one of the regional countries that launched a cruel war against another Arab country and lost it,” he was quoted as saying by Lebanon’s Al-Ahed news website.
“The country that lost the war now intends to avenge its defeat against Lebanon since Lebanon stood by the oppressed nation that has been under invasion for eight years and whose country has been destroyed amid attempts by some parties to make it surrender.”
Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE have followed Riyadh in solidarity, however fellow Gulf nations, Oman and Qatar have both called for restraint, while the Arab League urged the Gulf countries “to reflect on the measures proposed to be taken… in order to avoid further negative effects on the collapsing Lebanese economy.”
In a show of support, officials in the Houthi-led government in Sanaa have called for banning imports from Saudi Arabia in response to the kingdom’s move against Lebanon. The spokesman for the Houthi movement, Mohammad Abdulsalam meanwhile, in a message to the Lebanese people said “Do not be intimidated by what the Saudi regime is doing”