Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Visits Lebanon to End Gulf Standoff | News from politics


Kuwaiti minister says Lebanon should not interfere in Gulf countries’ affairs to improve ties.

Gulf Arab states are trying to mend a standoff with Lebanon, Kuwait’s foreign minister said during a visit, the first by a senior Gulf official since the spat erupted last year.

“This visit is one of several international efforts to restore confidence in Lebanon,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah said on Saturday after talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the start of a two-day trip.

“We are taking steps now to build trust… which will not happen overnight,” he told reporters, urging the Lebanese authorities to take “practical and concrete measures” that could strengthen ties.

The minister said his visit was also a show of solidarity with the Lebanese people and the move had been coordinated with other Gulf countries.

In October, Saudi Arabia and its allies severed diplomatic ties with Lebanon after then-Information Minister Georges Kordahi circulated comments criticizing a Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

Kuwait recalled its ambassador from Beirut and also asked Beirut’s chargé d’affaires to leave the emirate.

Lebanon “should avoid interfering in the internal affairs of Arab states in general, but particularly in the internal affairs of the Gulf, and should not be a launching pad for verbal or actual attacks” if it hopes to improve ties, the Sheikh said Ahmed.

The Kuwaiti official said he had handed over the demands to Mikati and his Lebanese counterpart, Abdallah Bouhabib, and “now the brothers in Lebanon should study them and know how to deal with these matters and move forward.” He refused to elaborate on the demands.

Last month, Kordahi resigned to ease the standoff, and French President Emmanuel Macron said Paris and Riyadh had agreed to work fully to restore diplomatic ties.

Tensions between Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia continued to mount in the weeks following Kordahi’s resignation. The crisis is rooted in Saudi Arabia’s uneasiness about Iran‘s increasing influence in the region, including in Lebanon, once a traditional Saudi ally and recipient of financial aid from the oil-rich kingdom.

In late December, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman gave a speech calling on the Lebanese to “end the terrorist Hezbollah’s control of Lebanon.”

In early January, Iran-backed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah launched a verbal attack on the kingdom, accusing Riyadh of spreading “extremist Islamic ideology”.

The Gulf dispute had exacerbated an already dire economic situation in Lebanon, which is gripped by a financial crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the world’s worst in modern times.

More than 300,000 Lebanese live in the Arab Gulf States, which, according to the think tank Gulf Labor Markets and Migration, represent an important economic lifeline.

Lebanese governments have long declared an official policy of distancing themselves from wars in the Middle East, even as Hezbollah is embroiled in regional conflicts and sends fighters into Syria to aid President Bashar al-Assad.

Sheikh Ahmed said distancing must be “in word and deed.”

On Sunday he is expected to meet President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, both political allies of Hezbollah.

Aoun and Mikati have called for dialogue with Saudi Arabia to resolve the diplomatic crisis.


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