Crisis with Lebanon rooted in Hezbollah dominance: Saudi minister

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Saturday that the latest crisis with Lebanon stems from a Lebanese political setup that reinforces the dominance of the Iranian-backed armed group Hezbollah and continues to allow endemic instability.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries expelled Lebanese envoys in a diplomatic dispute that risks exacerbating Lebanon’s economic crisis, following critical comments about the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen by Lebanon’s Information Minister. , George Kordahi.

“I think the problem is much broader than the current situation,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told Reuters in a telephone interview. “I think it is important that the Lebanese government or establishment forges a way forward that liberates Lebanon from the current political structure, which reinforces Hezbollah’s dominance.”

He said that this configuration “is weakening state institutions within Lebanon, in a way that makes Lebanon continue to process in a direction contrary to the interests of the Lebanese people.”

The dispute has sparked calls from some Lebanese politicians for Kordahi’s resignation, while others oppose such a move, which could undermine the government as a whole.

“We do not have an opinion on the government in Lebanon. We do not have an opinion on whether it stays or goes, this depends on the Lebanese people,” said the minister, speaking from Rome, where he was attending the G20 summit.

Kordahi has been publicly endorsed by Hezbollah and has refused to apologize or resign for the comments.

Cordial talks

Saudi Arabia has avoided Lebanon for years due to the strong influence in state affairs of the Shiite group Hezbollah, which it accuses of sending fighters to Yemen and Syria.

Iran and Saudi Arabia, the major Shiite and Sunni Muslim powers in the Middle East, have been rivals for years, but this year launched a series of talks in hopes of easing tensions.

Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon carry the coffin of a person who died in the violence in Beirut on Thursday, during his funeral in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon (credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR / REUTERS)

“We have had four rounds of talks so far. The talks are cordial but still in an exploratory vein. We continue to hope they will produce tangible progress … but so far, we have not made enough progress to be optimistic,” Prince Faisal said. .

Asked if there will be another round of talks, the minister said nothing had been scheduled, “but we are open to continuing.”

As part of efforts to ease tensions, Tehran and Riyadh have pledged to end the seven-year conflict in Yemen, where tens of thousands have died and millions are at risk of starvation.

The war has also strained relations between Riyadh and its traditional ally Washington, as US President Joe Biden has made ending the war his top foreign policy priority.

Faced with intense pressure from the United States to end a blockade of Yemeni ports that its Houthi enemies say is an obstacle to ceasefire talks, the kingdom is seeking Washington’s help to bolster its defenses, they said. sources to Reuters.

“So I would not agree with that characterization (of strained relations). I think that when it comes to Yemen, we with the United States are on the same page, we both support a comprehensive ceasefire, we both support a political process to resolve the issue. conflict, “Prince Faisal said.

“I think it is clear that the kingdom is committed to a ceasefire and it is up to the Houthis to decide to sign it and we will not link any discussion about our defensive capabilities to a ceasefire.”

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