03 December 2021

Lebanese minister resigns in bid to ease crisis with Saudis

03 December 2021

Lebanon’s information minister has announced his resignation in a bid to ease an unprecedented diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

George Kordahi made the announcement at a press conference in Beirut, weeks after his televised comments critical of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen sparked the crisis.

“After some thinking, I decided the time is suitable to offer something that gets Lebanon out of the crisis,” he said on Friday.

“I hope that this resignation opens the window, or a gap in this wall” for better relations with the Gulf, he added.

Saudi Arabia had recalled its ambassador and banned all Lebanese imports, affecting hundreds of businesses and cutting off hundreds of millions in foreign currency to Lebanon, which is already facing a major economic meltdown.

Mr Kordahi had initially refused to resign over the comments, made before he assumed his cabinet post, prolonging the crisis.

In the televised interview, he said the war in Yemen was futile and called it an aggression by the Saudi-led coalition.

Yemen’s war began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by Houthi rebels, who control much of the country’s north. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war the following year, determined to restore the internationally recognised government and oust the rebels.

On Friday, Mr Kordahi said he was resigning even though he was unconvinced, adding that “Lebanon does not deserve this treatment” from Saudi Arabia.

But 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”.

Lebanon is sinking deeper into the worst economic crisis in its modern history. The meltdown, coupled with multiple other crises, has plunged more than three-quarters of the population of six million, including a million Syrian refugees, into poverty.

The standoff paralysed the government, which has been unable to convene since October 12 amid reports that ministers allied with Hezbollah would resign if Mr Kordahi left.

The government is also embroiled in another crisis triggered when Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group protested against the course of the state’s investigation into the Beirut port explosion last year.

Hezbollah has criticized Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation, saying his probe was politicised, and called on the government to ensure he is removed.

Local media reported there were mediations to trade Mr Bitar’s removal from the investigation with Mr Kordahi’s resignation.

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