Lebanon agrees on exit strategy from diplomatic conflict with Gulf states

Prime Minister Najib Mikati accepts crisis exit “roadmap” with Saudi Arabia following Minister’s remarks

Lebanese leaders on Thursday agreed on a “road map” to end the diplomatic conflict with Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states prompted by a minister’s comments on the war in Yemen.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati met with President Michel Aoun, the Lebanese presidency’s Twitter account publishing that they had discussed “ways out of the current crisis”.

Details on the exit plan were not immediately provided.

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Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi sparked the conflict with an interview recorded in August and broadcast last week. In the interview, Kordahi said the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen “were defending themselves … against external aggression.”

The comments received an angry response from Riyadh. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Saudis expelled the Lebanese ambassador, banned all imports from Lebanon and recalled his envoy from Beirut for consultations.

Kuwait and Bahrain have taken similar steps and the United Arab Emirates recalled their diplomats from Beirut.

Bahrain on Tuesday urged its Lebanese citizens to leave immediately, after the UAE made a similar appeal.

The United States on Wednesday called on Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies to restore relations with Lebanon.

“Our position is that diplomatic channels must remain open if we are to seek to improve the humanitarian conditions of the Lebanese people,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Lebanon is suffering from an economic crisis which, according to the World Bank, is expected to be among the worst financial crises in the world since the mid-19th century.

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