Lebanese minister whose comments sparked Saudi dispute resigns to ease spat

George Kordahi's resignation to pave the way for a possible resolution of a diplomatic spat between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.



AP
AP

By Reuters, AP

Published: Fri 3 Dec 2021, 12:48 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Dec 2021, 8:35 PM

Lebnaon's information minister George Kordahi resigned on Friday saying he decided to put national interest ahead of personal interest, in a bid to ease a diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia sparked by comments he made on the Yemen conflict.

Kordahi said he resigned ahead of President Emmanuel Macron's visit to Riyadh hoping that during the visit Macron would help ease the crisis with Lebanon.

The sources said Kordahi’s resignation aimed to open the door for negotiations by Macron to resolve the dispute during a planned visit to Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Critical comments by Kordahi on the Saudi-led war in Yemen led Saudi Arabia in late October to expel Lebanon’s envoy to the kingdom, recall its ambassador and ban all imports from Lebanon, dealing a new blow to the country’s ailing economy.

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Other Gulf states that are historical allies of Lebanon, including the UAE and Kuwait, took similar punitive diplomatic measures.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said last month that the kingdom’s decision to cut ties was driven by Iran-backed Hezbollah’s growing grip on Lebanon and that dealing with Lebanon’s Hezbollah-backed government “is not productive and not helpful”.

Hezbollah had backed Kordahi’s decision not to resign, saying that Riyadh had contrived the crisis and Lebanon should not bow to foreign dictates.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati welcomed Kordahi’s resignation, saying it was necessary and “could open the door for tackling the problem with the brothers in the kingdom and the Gulf nations."

The standoff with Saudi Arabia, a traditional backer of the small Mediterranean country, has further paralysed Lebanon's government, which has been unable to convene since October 12 amid reports that ministers allied with Hezbollah would resign if Kordahi goes.

Lebanon’s government is embroiled in another crisis triggered when the country's Iran-backed militant Hezbollah group protested the course of the state’s investigation into the massive Beirut port explosion last year.

Hezbollah has criticised Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation, saying his probe was politicized, and called on the government to ensure his removal. Local media reported there were mediations to trade Bitar’s removal from the probe with Kordahi’s resignation.

Kordahi’s resignation comes ahead of Macron's visit to Riyadh on Saturday. Macron backs Mikati’s government and has taken the lead among the international community in helping the small Mideast country, a former French protectorate.

“I understood that the French want my resignation before Macron visits Riyadh, which would help, maybe in opening the way for dialogue,” Kordahi said.

After accepting Kordahi’s resignation, Mikati said called on his Cabinet to convene and end the deadlock that has paralysed the government for weeks.


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