UAE says it will withdraw its diplomats from Lebanon

UAE says it will withdraw its diplomats from Lebanon

Oct 30, 2021: Lebanese President Michel Aoun has expressed his intention to restore diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia after the kingdom summoned its ambassador, expelled Beirut’s envoy, and banned Lebanese imports.

Meanwhile, the UAE announced on Saturday it will withdraw its diplomats and called on its nationals not to visit Lebanon.

“The UAE announced the withdrawal of its diplomats from Lebanon in solidarity with the sisterly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. It “also decided to prevent its citizens from travelling to Lebanon”.

In a tweet, President Aoun said Lebanon aspired to maintain good communication with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states.

“We are keen to establish the best relations with the kingdom and strengthen them by signing bilateral agreements,” Aoun said on Saturday.

The comments followed a nearly three-hour meeting by a ministerial crisis management group, in which Education Minister Abbas Halabi said the government could not afford to resign over the diplomatic dispute.

The diplomatic crisis stemmed partly from a televised interview in which Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi criticised the Saudi Arabia-led military intervention in Yemen, saying the Iran-aligned Houthis are “defending themselves … against an external aggression”.

Kordahi, who has the backing of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, said the interview was recorded a month before he was appointed minister. He has so far refused to apologize or resign over the comments. These comments have dealt the worst blow to Saudi-Lebanese relations since Saad al-Hariri’s detention in Riyadh in 2017.

Saudi Arabia on Friday deported Lebanon’s ambassador and banned all Lebanese imports, and Bahrain and Kuwait followed suit, giving senior Lebanese diplomats 48 hours to leave.

Riyadh also banned all goods coming from Lebanon. In April, it imposed a separate ban on fruit and vegetable imports, citing an increase in drug trafficking that Beirut could not contain.

The six-nation GCC also comprising Qatar and Oman condemned Kordahi’s remarks.

Qatar on Saturday dismissed Kordahi’s comments as “irresponsible,” according to a statement from the media office of the Qatari foreign ministry. It also called on the Lebanese government to take urgent measures to rebuild bridges between “brotherly nations”.

The row has spurred calls by some top politicians for Kordahi’s resignation, while others opposed such a move.

Kordahi stepping down would have knock-on effects that could threaten Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s coalition government, tasked with addressing a financial crisis the World Bank considers one of the worst in modern history.

The Arab League has expressed concern over the sharp deterioration in Lebanon-Gulf relations and called on the Gulf states to “consider their proposed measures … so as to avoid further negative effects on the Lebanese economy.”

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