Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Arab League envoy in Beirut to mediate Lebanon-Saudi rift

BEIRUT (NWN) — A top Arab League envoy was in Beirut on Monday to explore ways to resolve an unprecedented diplomatic rift between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia that emerged after Lebanon’s information minister’s comments on Yemen’s civil war .

The minister criticized the war in Yemen that the Saudi-led coalition is fighting against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The Arab League official said his visit was “an initiative to put the crisis on the right track.”

The league’s deputy chief Hossam Zaki told reporters after meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun that he was ready to go to Saudi Arabia but that some concrete steps to mitigate the crisis must first be realized.

“The interests of Lebanon and the Gulf are our goals,” Zaki said, and openly asked what the Lebanese authorities “plan to do to end this crisis.”

Lebanon has said that Information Minister George Kordahi’s comments about Yemen aired in late October do not represent official government views. Zaki later met Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Monday and was also scheduled to meet the country’s parliament speaker.

Mikati’s office quoted the prime minister as saying that Lebanon wanted normal relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab countries to be restored, adding that the Arab League could play a role. Mikati also said that Lebanon would remove all obstacles to restore ties, according to his office.

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The dispute has threatened to destabilize Mikati’s government, formed in September after a 13-month standoff between rival Lebanese groups.

Mikati has urged Kordahi to “do what needs to be done” – an explicit appeal for him to step down but the minister has so far refused to apologize or resign.

Saudi Arabia has withdrawn its ambassador from Beirut and asked the Lebanese envoy to leave the kingdom. It has also banned Lebanon’s imports, undermined the small country’s foreign trade and deprived it of millions of dollars even as it struggles in the midst of an economic downturn.

Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have also pulled their ambassadors from Lebanon, deepening the dispute.

Kordahi, nominated for the government by a party affiliated with the militant Hezbollah group, insisted that Yemen’s Houthis have a right to defend themselves and added that he did not mean to be offended by his comments, which were recorded before he became minister. Had gone.

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