DUBAI (Reuters) -Bahrain’s foreign minister, Abdullatif Al Zayani, said on Saturday that Lebanon needs to demonstrate that its powerful Iran-allied Hezbollah movement can change its behaviour to mend a rift with Gulf Arab states.
Lebanon is facing a diplomatic crisis with Gulf states, triggered by a minister’s critical comments about the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen that prompted Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait to expel Lebanon’s top diplomats and recall their own envoys.
Concerned about Hezbollah’s growing influence, Gulf states – traditional aid donors to Lebanon – have been withholding support to the country which is suffering a deep economic crisis.
“We (can) extend support and try to find solutions in the future, but once it is demonstrated that Hezbollah can be changing its behaviour,” Zayani told the IISS Manama Dialogue security forum in Bahrain.
Riyadh, locked in a regional rivalry with Iran, has said its measures last month against Lebanon, including an import ban, were not only in response to the minister’s remarks, but were also to demonstrate unease over Hezbollah’s “domination” of Lebanese politics.
Lebanon’s newly appointed information minister George Kordahi said his remarks were made in an interview before he joined the cabinet and has refused to apologise or step down. Hezbollah’s leader has supported him in the diplomatic row and rejected calls for his resignation.
(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous and Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Ros Russell)