RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Friday said it was recalling its ambassador to Lebanon and giving Beirut’s envoy 48 hours to leave Riyadh, after “insulting” remarks made by a Lebanese minister on the Yemen war.
Saudi Arabia ordered the “recall of the ambassador in Lebanon for consultations, and the departure of Lebanon’s ambassador to the kingdom within 48 hours”, over the “insulting” remarks made this week by Lebanon’s information minister, the foreign ministry said.
The wealthy Gulf kingdom also “decided to halt all Lebanese imports”, citing the “security of the kingdom and its people”, a statement added.
The regional heavyweight’s decision, accompanied by an imports halt, is a further blow for Lebanon, which is in the midst of an economic crisis that the World Bank has said is likely to rank among the planet’s worst since the mid-19th century.
Riyadh deplored the deterioration of relations with Lebanon and said “further measures” will be taken against Beirut, without elaborating.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati reacted quickly, saying he “regretted” the Saudi move.
“We are deeply sorry for the kingdom’s decision and hope that it will reconsider. As for us, we will continue to work to solve what needs to be solved,” he said.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia announced it was suspending fruit and vegetable imports from Lebanon, saying shipments were being used for drug smuggling and accusing Beirut of inaction.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday had summoned Lebanon’s ambassadors over Information Minister George Kordahi’s criticism of the Riyadh-led military coalition fighting rebels in Yemen.