BEIRUT: Pressure is mounting on Lebanese leaders to sack a minister whose comments on the war in Yemen have sparked a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia, even as the minister at the center of the crisis said the government’s resignation was was not an option.
The Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Lebanon, while ordering the envoys from Lebanon to leave. The UAE has banned its citizens from traveling to Lebanon.
The decisions follow remarks that Information Minister George Kordahi gave in a recorded interview before his appointment, saying the Iranian-backed Houthis were defending themselves and the war in Yemen should end, with a video from the interview broadcast last week.
In a televised speech on Sunday, amid the deepening crisis, Kordahi addressed those who had urged him to step down. “Resigning from the government is not an option,” he said.
Lebanon called on US and French officials, asking them to intervene and help them emerge from the crisis provoked by its remarks, which go against the country’s official position on the conflict in Yemen.
King Salman called on Sunday the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to express his appreciation for the measures taken by Kuwait following Kordahi’s statements, reflecting the solidarity of the Cooperation Council countries Gulf, according to the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Lebanon. .
Al-Sabah said that “his country’s measures reflect the unity of the GCC countries and the depth of relations between their peoples,” the embassy added.
King Salman also called on King Hamad of Bahrain and “expressed gratitude for the steps Bahrain has taken regarding the declarations, reflecting the Saudi-Bahrain solidarity and unity of the GCC countries.”
He reiterated “the depth of relations between the two brotherly countries and the solidarity between the GCC countries”.
Lebanese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Fawzi Kabbara announced his return to Beirut on Sunday. He said that “the restoration of Lebanese-Saudi relations would be possible if Lebanon accepts the conditions”.
In his Sunday sermon, the Maronite Patriarch of Lebanon Bechara Al-Rahi called for “decisive action”, suggesting that he wanted Kordahi to step down.
He said: “We hope that President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and all others involved in the affair will take decisive action to save Lebanese relations with the Gulf. The most important achievement that political forces can achieve is not to get drawn into the game of states, especially during this critical phase in the region. “
He also said that Lebanon had opted for a “partnership” to establish peace, moderation and neutrality, and a rule of law protected by “just and equitable” justice.
“The crisis between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in particular, and the Gulf countries in general, has multiple causes and is accumulating and harming the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese,” he warned.
Mikati is in Glasgow for COP26.
According to sources, he is expected to hold “several international and Arab meetings on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the current crisis between Lebanon and the Gulf countries” on the sidelines of the summit.
The Lebanese-Saudi Business Council condemned Kordahi’s statements as well as those of former minister Charbel Wehbe and other officials who they said had harmed the country’s relations with its Arab neighbors, “especially those who harmed us. supported during difficult times – mainly Saudi Arabia. “
He urged that the necessary steps be taken to remove Kordahi who, he said, had caused “an unprecedented rupture” with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, due to “irresponsible statements for which he did not bother to apologize or resign “to maintain Lebanon’s relations. with the Gulf countries and protect national interests.
“Things should go back to how before and Lebanon should be brought back to its Arab and Gulf environment to protect the diaspora in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, as well as the interests of farmers, industrialists, exporters, traders, entrepreneurs and those who need it. today, more than ever, to protect their interests against absurdity and deterioration, ”he said.
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari quoted Gebran Khalil Gebran in a tweet on Sunday: “A sinner would not commit sin without a hidden will. Gebran Khalil Gebran said these words, and they have been heard by the whole world. He is the master of words. He left Lebanon on Saturday.
Former MK Mustafa Alloush, who is vice president of the Future Movement, said the situation would have been different if Kordahi had resigned two days after what happened. “But today, I am sure that damaging Lebanon’s relations with Saudi Arabia was intentional. Hezbollah is continuing its project by increasing hostility with the Arab states, ”he told Arab News.
“But the whole affair has to do with a long history of anti-Saudi statements and positions by Kordahi, former Minister Wehbe and MP Gebran Bassil, as well as the failure to address the issue of smuggling of Captagon from Lebanon to the Kingdom, and Hezbollah’s pursuit of insulting Saudi Arabia and threats to its security.
“Whether Kordahi resigns now or not, it doesn’t matter anymore. The Lebanese government has become a hostage and the proof is that the positions of Mikati and the Lebanese Foreign Ministry were neither decisive nor firm. Mikati was to be firm and order the removal of Kordahi and threaten to dissolve the government.
The Foreign Ministry reiterated in a statement on Sunday that “Lebanon’s great concern (was) to have the best relations with its Gulf and Arab brothers”.
The ministry also referred to the position of the Oman Foreign Ministry calling on everyone to “exercise restraint, avoid escalation and settle the dispute through dialogue and understanding in order to safeguard the supreme interests of states. and peoples and to maintain stability, security and cooperation on the basis of mutual understanding. respect and non-interference in internal affairs.
A committee formed at Mikati’s request to resolve the Kordahi crisis has so far failed to find a solution. He recommended waiting for the results of ongoing international calls.