Saudi Arabia issues travel warning for Lebanon following suspension of military aid

Published February 23rd, 2016 - 05:30 GMT
Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, gives a press interview at his ministry in the capital Riyadh on February 18, 2016. (AFP/Fayez Nureldine)
Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, gives a press interview at his ministry in the capital Riyadh on February 18, 2016. (AFP/Fayez Nureldine)

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates Tuesday issued travel warnings against Lebanon, moves likely to be viewed as an escalation in Lebanese-Gulf ties following Riyadh's decision to suspend a massive aid package last week.

The UAE will also reduce its diplomatic staff in Lebanon to a bare minimum, the country's official news agency WAM said on Twitter, citing its foreign ministry.

Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry cited safety concerns over its travel warning, whereas the UAE did not provide a reason.

"The ministry asks all citizens not to travel to Lebanon for their own safety, and asks (Saudi) residents of Lebanon or visitors to leave, and not to remain there unless absolutely necessary," the kingdom's official SPA news agency said.

Lebanon had witnessed a wave of suicide attacks and car bombs claimed by extremist groups between mid 2013 and the beginning of 2014. However the situation has remained relatively stable over the past two years with the exception of an ISIS attack in November that left 47 dead in the southern Beirut suburb of Burj al-Barajneh.

The moves by the Gulf countries follow Riyadh's announcement Friday it was suspending $4 billion worth of military aid to Lebanon over stances by Lebanese officials that were not "brotherly".

It was a reference to Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil's refusal to endorse an Arab League statement last month condemning Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which caused much controversy between rival political camps in Lebanon.

The Gulf Cooperation Council in a statement Saturday said it backed Saudi Arabia's decision to halt the aid.

The Lebanese Cabinet convened for five hours Monday in a bid to appeal to Saudi Arabia of its commitment to Arab consensus.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam, who has urged Riyadh to reconsider its decision to halt the grants, announced that he would head a ministerial delegation to visit Gulf countries following the Cabinet meeting.


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