Children among 12 killed in car explosion in Yemen
Lebanon’s FM sees possible breakthrough in diplomatic feud sparked by pro-Houthi minister
BEIRUT: Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib expressed his optimism on Saturday that the diplomatic crisis triggered by the country’s Information Minister will soon be resolved.
George Kordahi’s statement – that the Houthis in Yemen were only defending themselves – did not suit Saudi Arabia as well as the legitimate government of Yemen and its allies, which have been fighting the Iranian-backed militia since 2015. .
The militia captured the capital of Yemen, Sana’a, and other provinces from the UN-recognized government in 2014, prompting Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to organize a coalition to contain the threat. Since then, the Houthis have launched ballistic missiles, rockets and armed drones against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia.
As the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement defended Kordahi, the crisis worsened on Saturday as Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors from Lebanon in solidarity with Saudi Arabia. They also ordered Lebanese ambassadors to leave their country within 48 hours.
Habib’s committee, tasked by Prime Minister Najib Mikati with resolving the crisis, failed to come out of the scandal during the closed-door meeting it held on Saturday, apparently over objections from the Marada movement, to which Kordahi is affiliated.
Richard Michaels, deputy head of the US mission in Lebanon, joined the meeting at Bou Habib’s request but left the meeting half an hour later.
Mikati had asked Kordahi to step down on Friday night, but the leader of the Marada movement, Suleiman Frangieh, objected.
“If I were to serve my personal and political interests, I would encourage Kordahi to resign as he offered to resign from the Baabda Palace and the Maronite Patriarchate, but I refused because my conscience does not allow me to ask this of a minister who was not mistaken, but simply gave his opinion in a free country before being appointed, ”he declared.
Frangieh added, “We have the firm conviction that we want excellent relations with Arab countries. Our position regarding Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries is clear. “
He refused to “sacrifice” Kordahi for anyone, saying that if the minister resigns or is sacked, the movement will not appoint a replacement.
Nonetheless, Habib spoke of a possible breakthrough in the coming hours. He also underlined the participation of the United States in the resolution of the crisis.
“It was I who invited the American diplomat to join the meeting because the Americans can help ask Saudi Arabia to find a way out,” he said.
Habib called Frangieh’s comments “political views that have nothing to do with our meeting, and we are technically working to resolve the crisis.”
US State Department spokesman Samuel Warberg told Lebanese TV station Al-Jadeed: “The United States urges Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and countries in the region to communicate with the Lebanese government.
He said the US government was working with the international community to gain support from the Lebanese government. “We are waiting to see transparency and accountability from the government,” he added.
“Add oil to the fire”
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed “deep concern and regret at the rapid deterioration of Lebanese-Gulf relations, especially at a time when efforts have been made to reestablish positive ties in order to ‘help Lebanon overcome the challenges it faces ”.
He said the Lebanese should have handled the crisis caused by Kordahi’s comments “with more caution, instead of adding fuel to the fire”.
Lebanese officials tried to contain the diplomatic crisis, amid Hezbollah’s insistence that Kordahi not resign under the pretext of “preserving Lebanese sovereignty and national dignity,” according to a party statement. This position was reiterated by a number of Hezbollah lawmakers on Saturday.
“Hezbollah and the Amal movement could resign their government ministers if Kordahi does,” Al Markazia news agency reported.
Former Lebanese Prime Ministers Fouad Siniora, Saad Hariri and Tammam Salam denounced “Kordahi’s positions which violate Arab, diplomatic and moral principles and norms”.
They demanded that he present his resignation immediately, as his ministerial post now constituted “a threat to Lebanese-Arab relations and to the interests of Lebanon”.
They underlined the policy of dissociation which they had adopted and warned against “joining the axis led by Iran in the region”.
They said Hezbollah has intervened and played a destructive role since its involvement in Arab crises and wars, not to mention its involvement in the Iran-led war in Yemen against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
Hariri criticized “the irresponsible ideas in the name of sovereignty which lead Lebanon to an unprecedented Arab isolation, for which the Lebanese people are paying the price”.
He said: “The responsibility, in the first place, in this regard lies with Hezbollah and its declared hostility towards the Arabs and the Arab Gulf States. “
Hariri said, “You want a state endowed with sovereignty and national dignity, so pull the Iranian wing out of Lebanon, end arrogant policies and stop threatening the Lebanese with an army that outnumbers the Iranian army.” State and its security and military institutions.
Kataeb party leader Samy Gemayel said Kordahi’s comments were “proof” of how the country’s political forces “surrendered” to Hezbollah, allowing him to take over the presidency, the government and parliament.
The diplomatic crisis between Lebanon and the Arab Gulf states coincides with a crisis related to Lebanese exports to the Gulf, after the Saudi Foreign Ministry said the Kingdom had banned all Lebanese imports.
According to statistics from the Lebanese Association of Agriculture, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries import 173,300 tonnes, or 55.4 percent of Lebanon’s total vegetable and fruit exports.
This means that Lebanon will lose $ 92 million per year under this ban, which equates to $ 250,000 per day.
Lebanese economic bodies criticized “the misfortunes that hit Lebanon unexpectedly, at a time when the Lebanese are suffering in various aspects of their lives and were waiting for a government initiative to get Lebanon out of the abyss, not to ruin Lebanese relations with the Gulf States which have been a strategic economic lever for Lebanon over the years.