BEIRUT (AP) — Kuwait followed Saudi Arabia and Bahrain by ordering the Lebanese charge d’affaires on Saturday to leave the emirate within two days over comments made by a Lebanese minister regarding the war in Yemen. Kuwait also recalled its ambassador from Beirut.
Later Saturday, the United Arab Emirates’ state-run WAM news agency said on Twitter that it would withdraw its diplomats from Lebanon in solidarity with Saudi Arabia. The tweet also said Emiratis would be ”prevented” from traveling to Lebanon. Travel bans have happened previously to Lebanon over politics in the past.
The moves came as the Arab League chief expressed concerns about the deterioration of ties between Lebanon and wealthy Gulf countries over statements made by Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi.
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib said Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati is in contact with foreign officials who asked him not to think about resigning. The minister added that he is in contact with the Americans to help solve the crisis.
Kordahi has described during a TV program in August the war in Yemen as an aggression by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He added that the war in Yemen is “absurd” and must stop because he is opposed to wars between Arabs.
Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels captured the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north of the country. That forced the internationally recognized government to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, to try to restore the government to power. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
In Beirut, several government officials met Saturday to discuss the crisis that is likely to have major repercussions on Lebanon, which is experiencing the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.
The meeting was briefly attended by the US embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Michaels at the foreign ministry in Beirut, according to Bouhabib.
“They can help in solving these problems,” Bouhabib said about the United States.
Besides evicting Lebanon’s ambassador and recalling its envoy to Beirut, Saudi Arabia also banned all imports from Lebanon, a major blow for the crisis-hit small country, as Saudi Arabia has for decades been a huge market for Lebanese products.
Bouhabib canceled his visit to Glasgow, Scotland, where he was supposed to attend a United Nations climate summit, to deal with the crisis with the oil-rich Gulf nations. He said Mikati will go to Glasgow where he will discuss the crisis with foreign dignitaries.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said in a statement Saturday that Lebanon wants the best relations with Saudi Arabia and its neighbors.
On Friday night, Mikati and Aoun discussed the Saudi decision and asked Kordahi to make the “appropriate decision,” an apparent call for him to resign in hopes it will ease the tension.
Kordahi, a former TV show host, made the comments on a TV program before he was chosen for the post in September. Kordahi is close to the Christian Marada Movement, an ally of the militant Hezbollah group.
Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh told reporters Saturday that it is up to Kordahi to decide whether he will resign or not. He added that Kordahi contacted him and asked whether he should resign, “but I refused because he did not make any mistake. Still I am with any decision he takes.”
In Cairo, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said the crisis caused by Kordahi’s comments has led to a “great setback” to Lebanon’s relationship with the Gulf countries.
He urged Lebanon’s president and prime minister to take “necessary steps” to ease the tension, especially with Saudi Arabia. He did not elaborate which steps should be taken.
Aboul-Gheit also called on Gulf officials to review measures that could have negative consequences on Lebanon’s already battered economy.