Lebanon's Foreign Minister has expressed Beirut's desire to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, but said that Riyadh does not reciprocate this desire, as relations between the two continue to sour.
Speaking in an interview with the Al-Jadeed news channel yesterday, Foreign Minister, Abdullah Bou Habib, stated that "We want rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, but they do not want that." He insisted that he is "ready to visit the kingdom at any time," but that it is not in his hands.
Bou Habib also praised the ongoing talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which were brought up during his Iranian counterpart's recent visit to Lebanon, predicting that the talks "will reflect positively on Lebanon." He expressed his pride that Lebanon is "a platform for everyone, and if an American or Saudi minister comes, everyone is welcome."
Over the past year, Lebanon has been undergoing numerous political and economic crises, including the lack of a stable government, severe shortages of fuel and essential goods and a plummeting currency.
Amid these hardships, Saudi Arabia has been notably absent and has not yet openly offered Beirut assistance, drawing a stark contradiction to the major role it previously played in the coastal country's political scene until only a few years ago.
Relations between the two countries deteriorated sharply last year, however, when Saudi Arabia banned imports from Lebanon due to the busting of numerous attempts to smuggle narcotics into the kingdom through imported goods such as fruit and vegetables.
The kingdom has also harboured major concerns that the Iran-backed Lebanese Shia movement, Hezbollah, is taking over Lebanon's government, leading to Riyadh withdrawing much of its support and assistance in an effort to force Beirut to check Hezbollah's influence and to implement serious reforms.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia expressed its hope that the situation in Lebanon stabilises, but it then also advised its citizens not to travel to the country amid the deteriorating security crisis there.
Beirut still seeks Riyadh's support, however. In September, the Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Jarida, reported that Lebanese Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, had requested to visit Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt in an attempt to shore up more financial assistance from the Arab states. Only Kuwait reportedly responded to the request.