Saudi Arabia expels Lebanese envoy over Yemen war criticism
By Idris Okuduci
BEIRUT (AA): Saudi Arabia on Friday recalled its ambassador to Lebanon for consultations and asked the Lebanese ambassador to leave the kingdom within 48 hours, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Saudi Arabia also banned all imports from Lebanon until further notice after Lebanese Information Minister George Kurdahi criticized the Saudi-led war in Yemen against the fighters of Ansarallah [Houthi] movement.
Bahrain followed Saudi Arabia and asked the Lebanese ambassador to leave the country within 48 hours on Saturday amid criticism about Saudi Arabia regarding the Yemeni war.
Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said Lebanese Ambassador Milad Hanna Nemmour was asked to leave because of the unacceptable and negative attitudes and statements by a Lebanese official.
Kurdahi had made a statement against Riyadh in a televised interview said to be recorded before he took the position in the new Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Asked if he “thinks that the Houthis, like Hezbollah, are defending their land as an armed organization,” Kurdahi said: “Of course they are defending themselves … My personal opinion is that this war in Yemen needs to end. Houses, buildings, villages and cities are being attacked by fighter jets.”
A Saudi Foreign Ministry statement carried by the SPA said Hezbollah has damaged Riyadh-Beirut relations, and the “terrorist” group influences the decisions of the Lebanese state.
To avert the crisis, Mikati said Kurdahi made the statement before taking charge as the information minister and it does not reflect the government’s position.
He added that the remarks in no way demonstrate Lebanon’s policy with Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia.
“We have always expressed our rejection of any mistreatment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we have called for correcting the flaws in the relations between the two brotherly countries,” Mikati said in his statement.
Mikati late Friday called on his information minister to make an appropriate decision by considering the national interests concerning the latest row with Saudi Arabia.
Yemen has been engulfed by violence and instability since 2014, when Iran-aligned Houthi rebels captured much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa.
A Saudi-led coalition aimed at reinstating the Yemeni government has worsened the situation and caused one of the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crises.
*Writing by Merve Berker in Ankara
[Lebanon Map by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)/ Creative Commons]
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