Friday, June 24, 2022

Lebanon PM due to visit Saudi Arabia after four years

The Prime Minister of Lebanon, Najib Mikati, is set to visit Saudi Arabia anytime within the next two weeks, the first trip by a Lebanese PM to the Arab powerhouse after almost four years following a clash in relations.

The last visit by then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri was in 2018, who stepped down in 2021 after nine months of not being able to form the country’s government.

The relations between Saudi Arabia and Beirut have deteriorated progressively over the last ten years, one of Lebanon’s most prominent benefactors, which is a split caused by Iran-backed Hezbollah’s rising influence in the country.

This came to light in 2017 when Hariri, once Saudi Arabia’s main partner in Lebanon, resigned during a televised statement from Riyadh. Lebanese politicians later said that he was forced to take this decision after he was detained in the kingdom. Both Hariri and Saudi Arabia rejected these claims.

In October, the tensions rose in a break in relations after Lebanese information minister George Kordahi’s open condemnation of the Saudi-led coalition’s war held in Yemen.

These comments were made before Kordahi took power, but Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States drew back their envoys from Beirut after recordings of the criticism resurfaced. The minister then resigned.

For more than two years now, Lebanon has been suffering from a financial crisis, says the World Bank, while adding that it is one of the world’s worst crisis since the 19th century.

Corruption, political wrangling, and conflicts over a delicate power-sharing system aggravated the Levantine country’s woes.

However, relations with Riyadh appear to be on the mend. Saudi Arabia and its Arab partners Kuwait and Yemen have said they will re-instate their representatives in Beirut. The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon also hosted a Ramadan iftar banquet, which Lebanese leaders and former officials attended.

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