Saudi Arabia calls on Lebanon to step up economic reform

Saudi foreign minister says tackling ‘regional interference and loss of state sovereignty’ should also be prioritised

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said Lebanon must show it is taking the initiative to save itself from economic ruin (File pic/AFP)

By MEE and agencies

Published date: 20 February 2022 12:41 UTC

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has called on Lebanon to show that it is serious about reform in order to secure support from the international community as it continues to nurse its ailing economy.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said Lebanon must show it is taking the initiative to save itself from economic ruin.

“Lebanon first needs to be actively saving itself… We need a stronger signal from the Lebanese body politic that they are going to step up,” said Prince Faisal.

He added that tackling “regional interference and loss of state sovereignty” should also be prioritised, alongside stabilising the economy and addressing corruption.

“If there is a true initiative to reform the economic structure, reform the governance structure, reform the way the economy is managed, then I think you can call on the regional states to offer all kinds of support,” Prince Faisal said, mentioning technical and economic support as well as developmental aid.

He said a “short-term panacea” would not help Lebanon, which went into financial meltdown in 2019 under the weight of huge public debts, slicing more than 90 percent off the local currency’s value and plunging a majority of the population into poverty.

List of terms

The Saudi foreign minister’s comments come after diplomatic relations between Beirut and its Gulf neighbours hit an all-time low last year, following remarks by Lebanon’s Information Minister George Kordahi criticising the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen.

In response, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states expelled Lebanese ambassadors and recalled their own.

Riyadh also began an immediate halt of all imports from the cash-strapped country.

Kordahi, the former host of the Arabic version of the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? appeared on the show Parliament of the People, broadcast by Al Jazeera, during which he was asked about his views on the war in Yemen.

In the interview, taped before he became minister, he said Houthi rebels fighting the coalition were acting in self-defence and “weren’t attacking anyone,” before calling the conflict in Yemen “absurd”.

Kordahi eventually resigned in December, saying he had quit ahead of a visit by French President Emanuel Macron to Riyadh in a bid to ease tensions with Saudi Arabia.

Kuwait last month presented Beirut with a list of terms for thawing relations between Lebanon and the Gulf states.

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Middle East Eye

Middle East Eye

Your eye on the ground. Independent Middle East and North Africa news