Get our newsletter delivered directly to your inbox
I have already subscribed | Do not show this message again
Your email has been successfully registered.
Saudi Arabia has banned all imports from Lebanon, giving the Lebanese ambassador 48 hours to leave the country after footage emerged earlier this week of the informaton minister criticising the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s war in Yemen, according to state news agency SPA.
Saudi Arabia similarly prohinited 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.
Ties between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were already strained, yet they worsened 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 a month before he was appointed minister.
Kordahi stated the Iran-aligned Houthis are “defending themselves … against an external aggression."
The former celebrity TV presenter similarly remarked that the long-running war was “futile," calling for its end, which offended the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces.
Kordahi said his comments were a personal opinion and were made before he joined the government, and thus refuses to be blackmailed by any entity.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Friday evening he “regretted” the Saudi moves.
“We also appeal brotherly Arab leaders to work and help to overcome this crisis in order to preserve Arab cohesion,” Mikati said.
Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain summoned their ambassadors to Lebanon in response to the comments, while the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – comprising Qatar and Oman – rejected Kordahi’s remarks.
There were similar calls from pro-Saudi leaders for Kordahi to be removed from the government.
The Saudis are losing their genocidal war on Yemen, so they are taking out their frustration on Lebanon after Lebanon’s information minister lightly criticized their war. pic.twitter.com/s1Jq8AN38f
Lebanese authorities, including Prime Minister Mikati and President Michel Aoun, dismissed Kordahi’s comments, saying they do not reflect the Lebanese government’s position.
“It is true that we disassociate from conflicts, but we don’t disassociate ourselves from any position that is in solidarity with Saudi Arabia or the Gulf countries,” Mikati said in a press statement earlier this week.
The Lebanese information minister’s remarks were the latest in a series of controversies between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia over the past year.
Saudi Arabia designated Hezbollah’s financial institution Al-Qard Al-Hassan as a “terrorist entity” on Wednesday, and has imposed an indefinite ban on Lebanese produce and agricultural products since April after preventing an attempt to smuggle over five million illegal amphetamine Captagon pills hidden in a shipment of pomegranates inside Jeddah Port.
Saudi Arabia’s statement on Friday also said Lebanon has failed to “take the measures demanded by the Kingdom to stop the export of the scourge of drugs from Lebanese exports to the Kingdom."
In May, Lebanon’s then-caretaker Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe resigned after insinuating that Gulf countries were behind the rise of ISIL (ISIS) in a heated argument with Saudi lobbyist Salman al-Ansari on Alhurra TV.