Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said today that Lebanon had been “hijacked” by Hezbollah and could only flourish if the group disarmed.
“Lebanon will only survive or prosper if you disarm Hezbollah,” Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told a conference in Italy. “As long as you have an armed militia, you will not have peace in Lebanon.”
Al-Jubeir said the situation in Lebanon was “tragic” and accused Iran of fomenting unrest across the Middle East.
“Since 1979, the Iranians have literally got away with murder in our region, and this has to stop,” he said.
A month ago, Saad Hariri resigned as Lebanese prime minister while he was in Saudi Arabia, triggering a political crisis in Beirut and thrusting Lebanon onto the front line of the regional rivalry.
Saudi Arabia denied coercing its long-time ally to quit, and Hariri has now returned to Beirut and indicated that he might withdraw his resignation. However his children remain in Saudi Arabia and no details have been given about when they are expected to be reunited with their parents
Saudi Arabia fears that Hezbollah and Iran are trying to take control of its neighbour Yemen, by supporting Houthi forces against a Riyadh-led military coalition.
Hezbollah denies fighting in Yemen, sending weapons to the Houthis, or firing rockets at Saudi Arabia from Yemeni territory. Al-Jubeir rejected this and said his country would not back down in the conflict.
“The Houthis cannot be allowed to take over a country,” he said.
Al-Jubeir said his country only had bad relations with two nations – Iran and North Korea. He said Riyadh did not have relations with Israel, which shares Saudi worries over Iran, because it was waiting for a Palestinian peace deal.
He said everyone knew what a solution would look like to the decades-old conflict. “It is not rocket science,” he said, adding that he was waiting for the United States to put forward a new proposal.
Al-Jubeir said he expected an eventual deal would set the borders of a Palestinian state on the lines prevailing before the 1967 war, when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
However, he said adjustments could be made for settlers:
Seventy per cent of the settlers who are on the Green Line remain in Israel, and the other 30 per cent – you offer them compensation and work out housing, and they can move to Israel.