RIYADH — Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Beirut said Thursday that Hezbollah was a threat to Arab security after the leader of the Iran-backed Lebanese movement branded King Salman a “terrorist.”
The latest exchange of insults follows a crisis between Lebanon and Gulf Arab states over the war in Yemen, and Saudi accusations that Hezbollah was meddling in the conflict.
“Riyadh hopes that the political parties will give priority to the supreme interest of Lebanon… and end Hezbollah’s terrorist hegemony over every aspect of the state,” ambassador Waleed Bukhari said in a statement to AFP.
“Hezbollah’s terrorist activities and regional military behavior threaten Arab national security,” he added.
Bukhari’s statement comes after Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shiite terror group, described King Salman as a “terrorist” and accused Saudi Arabia of exporting Islamic extremism in a televised speech earlier this week.
Accusations have flown between the two sides since a Saudi-led coalition intervened to prop up Yemen’s government against Iran-backed rebels in 2015, in a conflict that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives according to the United Nations.
Last month, Hezbollah dismissed Riyadh’s claims it was aiding attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
In late October, Riyadh suspended diplomatic ties with Lebanon after the airing of statements by the then-Lebanese information minister criticizing the military intervention in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister later said that Hezbollah’s dominance in Lebanon, and not just the minister’s comments, had prompted the Sunni kingdom to cut ties.
Since the coalition’s intervention in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has regularly accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with weapons and Hezbollah of training the insurgents.
Tehran denies the charges, and Hezbollah has previously denied sending fighters or weapons to Yemen.