Saudi, UAE warn against travel to Lebanon
23 February, 2016
The Saudi foreign ministry issued a statement calling on “all citizens not to travel to Lebanon, for their safety, and asking citizens residing in Lebanon or visiting not to stay unless extremely necessary,” the official SPA news agency reported.
The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, also announced on Tuesday that it was banning its citizens from traveling to Lebanon and reducing its diplomatic mission there, according to state news agency WAM.
“The Foreign and International Cooperation Ministry announced that it had raised its warning situation on traveling to Lebanon to banning travel there ... (It) also decided to reduce the members of its diplomatic mission in Beirut to its furthest extent,” the ministry said in a statement said.
The news comes after Riyadh cut $4 billion in military aid to Lebanon over Beirut’s failure to back the Sunni kingdom in its spat with Shiite powerhouse Iran, the leading backer of Hezbollah.
In a news conference on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Assiri also urged Beirut to hold on its “Arabness” during a press conference.
While Saudi has issued several previous warnings about security in Lebanon, this statement comes at a sensitive time in the two countries’ diplomatic relationship.
Alleged leaders of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah are under sanction by Saudi Arabia.
The Shiite militant group is fighting in support of Syria’s regime and is backed by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, with whom relations have worsened this year.
Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran last month after demonstrators stormed its embassy and a consulate following the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.
Syria’s war has exacerbated political rivalries within Lebanon, which has been without a president for almost two years because of fierce disagreements between Hezbollah and its rivals.
(With Reuters and AFP)