Najib Mikati says that contacting the Saudi crown prince and the French president is an “important step” towards restoring Gulf relations.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said his call earlier with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron was an “important step” toward restoring relations with the Gulf.
Lebanese Minister of Information George Kordahi resigned Friday to help end a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia over comments he made in October He criticizes Saudi Arabia’s role in the Yemen war. Riyadh recalled its ambassador and banned imports from Lebanon over what it described as “insulting” statements.
The French president, who was in Saudi Arabia for talks with the Saudi crown prince as part of a Gulf tour, told reporters on Saturday that Riyadh was committed to financial re-engagement in the short term.
“So now we’re going to work in a very concrete way to put this together between us,” he said.
Macron said during the call with Mikati, that he conveyed to Mohammed bin Salman “a clear message that Saudi Arabia and France want to adhere to completely.”
“We want to commit ourselves to supporting the Lebanese people and therefore do everything we can to ensure the re-opening of trade and economics,” Macron told reporters in comments before his departure from the kingdom.
“We want too [Lebanese] The government is to be able to operate normally and thus meet as soon as possible, and implement beneficial reforms.”
The French president indicated that France and Saudi Arabia will work together to provide basic humanitarian aid to Lebanon, which is facing economic crises caused by failures in the government and rampant corruption.
Lebanon’s cabinet said in a Facebook statement on Saturday that Mikati stressed his government’s commitment to reforms.
It was another intervention by Macron to try to help Lebanon, a country that was once a French protectorate. It was also the first contact between the Saudi crown prince and the Lebanese prime minister since Mikati took office in September.
Macron said he would call his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Aoun, upon his return to Paris.
Macron led international efforts to resolve the political and economic crisis in Lebanon. But despite devoting much of his capital to the cause for more than a year, he has so far failed to push the country’s feuding politicians to implement economic reforms that would unlock vital foreign aid.
In October, Riyadh expelled Lebanon’s envoy to the kingdom, recalled its ambassador in Beirut, and banned Lebanese imports, after statements by Qardahi, an ally of Hezbollah, which Riyadh considers a “terrorist” organization. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain followed suit.
Kordahi said on Friday when he resigned that he was acting in the interest of his country to help end the conflict. Iran-backed Hezbollah is one of the most powerful players in Lebanese politics.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have long struggled for influence in the region, including in Lebanon, which is in deep economic crisis and desperately needs financial support from regional and international donors.