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Lebanon minister quits in effort to ease Saudi spat

December 3, 2021

Lebanon's information minister has announced his resignation in a bid to ease a diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia. George Kordahi's comments that were critical of Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen sparked the crisis.

Lebanon's Information Minister George Kordahi speaks to journalists
Kordahi had said the war in Yemen was futile and called it an aggression by the Saudi-led coalitionImage: Bilal Hussein/AP Photo/picture alliance

Lebanon's Information Minister George Kordahi told media that he intended to step down, weeks after televised comments he made that were critical of Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen. 

The remark sparked a diplomatic crisis as Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador and banned all  imports from Lebanon, which is in the middle of economic meltdown.

What did the minister say?

"After some thinking, I decided the time is suitable to offer something that gets Lebanon out of the crisis," Kordahi said Friday. "I hope that this resignation opens the window, or a gap in this wall'' for better relations with the Gulf, he added.

Kordahi had said he remained unconvinced about resigning due to Saudi pressure, adding that "Lebanon does not deserve this treatment."

However, he said he had decided to step down "based on new developments" and because he refused to be "the reason for harming Lebanon and Lebanese in the Gulf and other places."

Kordahi said he had resigned before the French President Emmanuel Macron visited Riyadh, in the hope this would help ease the crisis.

Why is there a diplomatic crisis?

In his comments, Kordahi had said the war in Yemen was futile and that it amounted to an act of aggression by the Saudi-led coalition.

Saudi Arabia responded by recalling its ambassador and banning all Lebanese imports, which totaled some $240 million for 2020. 

Houthi 'government': War won't stop until Saudis quit Yemen

The response hit hundreds of businesses and cut the flow of vital foreign currency to Lebanon. Kordahi had initially refused to resign over the comments, which were made before he became a member of the Cabinet.

This remained the case even as Prime Minister Najib Mikati had asked him to put "national interest" first.

Riyadh had said the comments were a symptom of Iran-backed Hezbollah's grip on Lebanon.

The war in Yemen started with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who are in control of much of the country's north.

The Saudi-led coalition entered the war the next year, with the objective of ousting the rebels and restoring the country's internationally-recognized government.

rc/rt (AFP, AP)