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Lebanon's information minister resigns after sparking crisis with Gulf

Lebanon’s Information Minister, George Kordahi, confirmed his resignation at a news conference

Lebanon's Information Minister, George Kordahi, confirmed his resignation at a news conference today.

"The interests of my country and my people and supporters are above my personal interest. Lebanon is more important than George Kordahi, and the Lebanese interests are more important than a ministerial role," he said.

Kordahi, a former TV presenter who secured his ministerial position in September, sparked a diplomatic crisis in October after criticising the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

The televised comments were made during his appearance on a show "Parliament of the People" where he said Yemen's Houthi were defending themselves and weren't attacking anyone, he also labelled the conflict "absurd".

While Kordahi initially refused to apologise saying that the show had been recorded before he was appointed information minister, his resignation comes after mounting political and economic pressure from the Gulf region.

Countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain swiftly responded by recalling their ambassadors and expelling Lebanese envoys. Riyadh also implemented a ban on all Lebanese imports, marking another blow to Beirut's crippled economy. Exports to Saudi Arabia are a crucial source of income for Lebanon, amounting to around $240 million each year.

READ: Kordahi: Open to any solution for Lebanon's sake

Relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were already under strain after Riyadh implemented an indefinite ban in April on fruit and vegetable imports from Lebanon, citing an increase in drug smuggling.

Senior officials in Lebanon will likely hope that Kordahi's resignation tempers the diplomatic crisis. It also coincides with French President Emmanuel Macron's two-day visit to the Gulf where he is set to address the fall-out.

A high ranking official told AFP that before embarking on his visit, Macron warned Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati "'If you want me to talk about Lebanon when I'm there, you've got to give me something."

During the news conference, Kordahi alluded to this meeting when he said: "I understood from Mikati…that the French want my resignation to take place ahead of his [Macron's] visit."

Macron confirmed today that he plans to hold talks in Saudi Arabia aimed at easing the tensions. "My wish is both economically and politically, to be able to re-engage all the Gulf countries in the relationship with Lebanon, to help them get out of this."

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