Lebanon looks to mend damaged ties with Saudi Arabia

Friday 19/02/2016
Bond with Saudi Arabia is crucial to Lebanon’s interests

BEIRUT - Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri urged Saudi Arabia not to abandon Lebanon on Monday, after Riyadh suspended a $3 billion aid package to the Lebanese army last week.

Hariri, a Saudi-backed politician and Lebanon's most influential Sunni leader, called on King Salman "not to forgo Lebanon and to continue to support and embrace it".

He was speaking in a televised address.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese government said it was necessary to fix ties with Saudi Arabia after Riyadh last week suspended a $3 billion aid package to the Lebanese army, and tasked Prime Minister Tammam Salam with making contacts to that end.

Saudi Arabia suspended the aid in response to Beirut's failure to condemn attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

The Lebanese national unity government groups both allies and enemies of Saudi Arabia, including the Iranian-backed Shiite group Hezbollah.

Salam, speaking in a televised news conference, said the cabinet statement had been passed unanimously. In response to a question on the attacks last month, he said "we strongly condemn" the attack on the Saudi embassy.

"The cabinet deems it necessary to fix relations between Lebanon and its brothers, and to remove any flaws that may have emerged in recent times," the statement said.

It said Salam's contacts should "pave the way for a Gulf tour ... with this aim".

The statement said Lebanon would not forget Saudi Arabia's sponsorship of the peace agreement that ended Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war, its role in rebuilding the country, and its support for Lebanon's "financial, economic, military and security institutions".

"Likewise it will not forget that the kingdom, and the rest of the Gulf Arab states ... embraced and continue to (embrace) hundreds of thousands of Lebanese of all sects", the statement said.

The Gulf is a crucial source of employment for Lebanese.