Lebanon PM says minister's criticism of Saudi is not gov't position

Saudi and Lebanese relations were tested when former Lebanese foreign minister Cherbel Wehbe made comments about how Gulf states were to blame for the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Leading businessman Najib Mikati gestures at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 26, 2021. (photo credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR/REUTERS)
Leading businessman Najib Mikati gestures at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 26, 2021.
(photo credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR/REUTERS)

Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati said late on Tuesday that comments made by a member of his cabinet who criticized the Saudi military intervention in Yemen did not reflect the cabinet’s position.

"Lebanon is keen on having the best relations with Saudi Arabia and condemns any interference in its internal affairs", Mikati said.

Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi said late on Tuesday that comments he made around the Yemen war, which started circulating on social media on Tuesday, were made in an August interview before he joined Mikati's cabinet.

Saudi and Lebanese relations were tested earlier this year when former Lebanese foreign minister Cherbel Wehbe made comments in a television interview about how Gulf states were to blame for the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Wehbe resigned over the comments in May.

In April, Saudi Arabia banned the imports of fruit and vegetables from Lebanon claiming shipments were used for drug smuggling. The ban weighed heavily on a Lebanese economy struggling with the worst financial crises in modern times.

Al-Soudah, Asir Region, Saudi Arabia (credit: marviikad, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)Al-Soudah, Asir Region, Saudi Arabia (credit: marviikad, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Late on Tuesday, Interior Minister Bassem Mawlawi also made a statement, after the controversy over Kordahi’s comments, emphasizing the strong relations between the two countries followed by a statement by the foreign minister, who also supported Saudi ties.

The Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council said in a statement on Wednesday he rejected Kordahi’s comments adding they reflected little understanding and superficial reading of the events in Yemen.

Gulf monarchies, who have traditionally channeled funds into Lebanon, have been loathe to come to its rescue amidst its economic meltdown so far, alarmed by the rising influence of the Iran-backed Shi’ite Hezbollah group.