Crisis deepens as Saudi Arabia expels Lebanese ambassador over Yemen row

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Lebanon LebanonSaudi Arabia has expelled Lebanese ambassador and given an ultimatum of 48 hours to leave the country. The decision was taken on Friday after Lebanon’s information minister made “insulting” comments about Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, sparking an outrage in kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Kingdom has also imposed ban on all imports from Lebanon. Soon after kingdom’s decision, Bahrain and Kuwait have also followed suit and expelled the Lebanese ambassador.

The crisis has raised concerns in Arab League over deteriorating relations between Lebanon and Gulf countries. The League has urged Gulf nations “to reflect on the measures proposed to be taken… in order to avoid further negative effects on the collapsing Lebanese economy.”

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Earlier this week an interview that was recorded in August was released of Lebanon’s Information Minister George Kordahi in which he appeared to call Saudi Arabia aggressor in the war in Yemen. The interview was from the time when Kordahi wasn’t a minister. He had called the conflict “futile” and that Houthis were acting in “self defence”. A Saudi-led military coalition, of mostly Sunni Muslim Arab states, has been fighting the Houthi Shia Muslim rebel movement in Yemen for the past seven years.

Lebanese government has said that Kordahi’s comments do not reflect government’s sentiments. Relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia have been witnessing worsening past few years. Lebanon’s Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah, which also backs the Houthi rebels in Yemen, has increased influence in Lebanon.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati of Lebanon said in a phone call with Kordahi on Friday evening, asking him to put the national interest first and “take the right decision to fix Arab relations with Lebanon.” Mikati also said in a statement, “We also appeal brotherly Arab leaders to work and help to overcome this crisis in order to preserve Arab cohesion.”

Deterioration comes at a time when Lebanon is struggling with a deepening economic crisis and political chaos. Fuel shortages have led to increased inflation and frequent blackouts leaving population sickened in poverty.

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