Saudi and UAE ban citizens from travelling to Lebanon
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have urged their citizens to leave Lebanon or avoid travelling there.
The move on Tuesday came after Riyadh halted $4bn in aid to Lebanese security forces in response to “hostile” positions linked to Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah.
The Saudi foreign ministry issued a statement calling on “all citizens not to travel to Lebanon, for their safety, and asking citizens residing in Lebanon or visiting not to stay unless extremely necessary”.
The statement, run by the official SPA news agency, urged citizens to contact the Saudi Embassy in Beirut.
Announcing the aid halt on Friday, an official said the kingdom had noticed “hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the state”.
The UAE also banned its citizens from travelling to Lebanon and reduced its diplomatic presence in Beirut.
Bahrain also urged citizens against travelling to Lebanon, and called on Bahrainis there already to leave quickly, according to a statement posted to state news.
On Friday, the United Arab Emirates announced “full support” of Saudi’s review of its relations with Lebanon, blaming the country’s “failure to condemn Iran’s aggression” after Saudi Arabia’s embassy was attacked in Tehran in January.
The embassy attack followed the execution of a renowned Shia leader in Saudi Arabia over “terrorism” charges.
“The UAE fully supports the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s decision to halt its aid to the Lebanese army and security forces,” said the UAE’s foreign ministry statement, posted on state media on Tuesday.
“At the same time [the UAE] calls upon Lebanon and its people to restore Lebanon to the Arab Nation where it belongs, away from the Iranian influences adopted by the so-called Hezbollah,” the UAE statement added.
On Monday, Lebanon tried to repair relations and vowed to support Arab countries and maintain its Arab identity.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Tammam Salam said that Lebanon should maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia and that Arab countries must garner a unified response to all obstacles that they face.
“Lebanon will not forget Saudi Arabia’s role … in helping it rebuild the country after the [1975-1990] civil war,” Salam said after a cabinet session.
Former prime minister Saad Hariri also expressed loyalty to the kingdom.
Lebanon’s main political divide pits a Sunni-led coalition against another led by the Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah movement.
Lebanon has seen a series of armed attacks in recent years linked to the conflict in neighbouring Syria.