Explained: The Lebanon-Gulf Cooperation Council crisis

There have been widespread reactions to recent statements by Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi and the resulting Arab isolation of Lebanon.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) withdrew its diplomats from Lebanon, over a Lebanese minister’s criticism of the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.

There have been widespread reactions to recent statements by Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi which resulted in the Arab isolation of Lebanon, especially after Saudi Arabia announced the withdrawal of ambassadors, followed by Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

George Kordahi’s statement

A television interview aired on Monday, October 25, which Kordahi did in early August, just over a month before joining the government, in which he said that the Iran-backed Houthi rebels are “defending themselves … against an external aggression”, adding that “homes, villages, funerals and weddings were being bombed” by the coalition.

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He also called the seven-year war in Yemen “futile” and said it was “time for it to end”.

Gulf states summoned Lebanese ambassadors

The critical remarks angered Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Over the past two days, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors, while the six Gulf Cooperation Council states – which also include Qatar and Oman – have condemned Kordahi’s comments.

Saudi Arabia expelled Lebanon’s envoy and banned all Lebanese imports on Friday, and Bahrain and Kuwait followed suit on Saturday, giving the top Lebanese diplomats 48 hours to exit. The UAE also advised its citizens not to travel to Lebanon.

The diplomatic dispute dealt another blow to Lebanon, which is already in the midst of stifling political and economic crises.

George Kordahi defends comments

Kordahi said in a series of tweets, that his remarks about the war in Yemen were “not biased” and that these were his personal opinions before he became a minister.

“I did not mean, in any way, to offend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the [UAE], for which I have the utmost loyalty and love,” Kordahi adds.

“I put the interests of Lebanon above all,” he said. “And we should not remain prone to blackmail from anyone, not from states, nor embassies, nor individuals.”

The dispute also sparked calls from some senior Lebanese politicians for Kordahi’s resignation, while others opposed such a move that could undermine the government as a whole. “Enough of the disasters,” Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said on Twitter. “Sack this minister who will destroy our relations with the Arab Gulf before it is too late.”

Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen

Yemen has been mired in civil war since September 2014 when the Houthi militia forced the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of the capital Sanaa.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in the 2015 Yemeni conflict to support the internationally recognized government.

Tens of thousands of people – mostly civilians – have died and millions have been displaced, in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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