Arab League Praises “Positive” Talks with Lebanon on GCC Dispute | Arab League News


Beirut, Lebanon – Talks with Lebanese officials to resolve a diplomatic gap with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have been “positive,” says Arab League undersecretary-general Hossam Zaki.

Zaki’s Arab League delegation arrived in Beirut on Monday to hear the Lebanese point of view in a first step towards resolving the crisis triggered by comments from Lebanon’s information minister who criticized the Saudi-led coalition’s war on Yemen.

“We came to see if there is a possibility to unite the different perspectives,” he told reporters this morning.

He said he was willing to travel to Saudi Arabia to help resolve the crisis if necessary, and wants to find an “appropriate way out” of the gap that suits the interests of the Lebanese and Gulf countries.

So far, the delegation has met with President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

President Aoun said in a statement that he welcomed the Arab League’s attempts to rekindle ties with Saudi Arabia through dialogue.

He called for the separation of official positions of the Lebanese government from those of individuals or political parties, “especially because they were not issued from a position of authority.”

The Arab League delegation will also meet with spokesman Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib later on Monday.

Mikati has repeatedly called for improved relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, while Aoun and Bouhabib have called for a direct dialogue.

Qatar has offered to send its foreign minister to mediate and help resolve the crisis.

A diplomatic dispute between Lebanon and several Gulf countries erupted in October after video footage of an August interview in which Information Minister George Kordahi made critical remarks about the coalition-led war circulated online. by Saudi Arabia against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The former game show host said the Iranian-aligned Houthis are “defending themselves … against external aggression.”

In response, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain withdrew their envoys from Beirut and expelled their Lebanese ambassadors.

Saudi Arabia also banned all imports from Lebanon, hitting what experts say is about 6 percent of the liquidity-strapped country’s total exports and increasing a previous partial ban.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have asked their citizens to leave the country, while Yemen has also withdrawn its envoy from Beirut.

Kordahi has refused to resign and insists his comments were his personal opinion and made before taking office.

Saudi Arabia has distanced itself from Lebanon in recent years, often criticizing it for the growing influence of Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanese politics. Kordahi was appointed by the Marada Movement, a Christian party closely allied with Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah, which Saudi Arabia considers a “terrorist” organization, backs the Houthis in Yemen and has praised Kordahi for his comments.

“[Hezbollah] it made Lebanon a stage and a launching pad to implement projects by countries that do not want the best for Lebanon and its brother people, ”read a Saudi statement issued on October 29.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah undersecretary-general Naim Qassem last week asked Saudi Arabia to apologize for what he said was “aggression” on Lebanon, which had liquidity problems. Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah will address the issue for the first time in a speech later this week.

Relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were already strained, with the latter imposing an indefinite ban on Lebanese agricultural products in April after foiling an amphetamine attempt on the fruit.

In May, Lebanon’s then acting Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe resigned after hinting that the Gulf countries were behind the rise of ISIL (ISIS) in a heated discussion with Saudi lobbyist Salman al-Ansari on Alhurra TV.

The diplomatic crisis has also intensified the existing political paralysis and tensions between the parties in Lebanon. The cabinet has not met in nearly a month, already divided by disputes over the Beirut blast investigation led by Judge Tarek Bitar.


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