Lebanon’s foreign minister quits over anti-Saudi remarks

Published May 20, 2021
LEBANESE Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe (right)) presenting his resignation to President Michel Aoun at the Baabda presidential palace.—AFP
LEBANESE Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe (right)) presenting his resignation to President Michel Aoun at the Baabda presidential palace.—AFP

BEIRUT: Lebanon foreign minister Charbel Wehbe stepped down on Wednesday and was swiftly replaced after comments he made irked Saudi Arabia, as cash-strapped Beirut scrambles to avoid a diplomatic fallout with the wealthy Gulf state.

Wehbe said in a televised debate on Monday that the Islamic State (IS) group’s rise in the region had been engineered by Gulf states, prompting Lebanese ambassadors in several countries to be summoned.

Lebanon’s leaders have since tried to put out the fire and the 67-year-old announced in a brief statement after meeting President Michel Aoun that he had asked “to be relieved of his duties”.

Hours later, Aoun appointed defence minister Zeina Akar as Wehbe’s replacement, the presidency said in a statement.

President Aoun asked Akar — who is also deputy prime minister — “to proceed with her duties as acting foreign minister” as well as her original portfolio.

The Gulf’s relations with Lebanon have become frostier over the rising political influence of the Shia group Hezbollah but Beirut is seeking fresh financial support from its former allies.

After his altercation with a Saudi guest on Al-Hurra TV on Monday, Wehbe stormed off the set saying he would not be “insulted by a Bedouin”.

His exit will likely go down as the most remarkable point of a tenure during which he was Lebanon’s active foreign minister only for seven days.

Wehbe served for the last 282 days as part of a caretaker government that resigned en masse following a devastating explosion in Beirut port last August. Lebanon is witnessing unprecedented poverty and cannot guarantee power supply past the month of June.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2021

Opinion

A decade of change & stagnation
Updated 20 Sep 2021

A decade of change & stagnation

Over a decade, three more women out of 100 aged between 19 and 39 have acquired college degrees, compared to only two more men.
All about life
Updated 20 Sep 2021

All about life

There is no shortage of issues on which the Single National Curriculum has stirred controversy.
‘Honourable men’
20 Sep 2021

‘Honourable men’

Is it ambition to support our athletes only after they bring us glory?
Concerns of proxy wars
Updated 19 Sep 2021

Concerns of proxy wars

A lobby in the US favours a plan for proxy warfare so that America can sustain its global influence.

Editorial

20 Sep 2021

Banking for women

AS the old adage goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. How far the new State Bank initiative —...
Off the red list
Updated 20 Sep 2021

Off the red list

There are aspects of coronavirus management, especially by developed nations towards those less so, that smack of discrimination.
20 Sep 2021

Exciting frontiers

HISTORY was made on Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral. It was not the launch of the first, or...
Talking to the Taliban
Updated 19 Sep 2021

Talking to the Taliban

PRIME Minister Imran Khan has announced that he has started a dialogue with the Taliban for the formation of a...
New Zealand’s departure
Updated 19 Sep 2021

New Zealand’s departure

THERE was chaos and despair when New Zealand decided to call off their tour of Pakistan barely minutes before the...
19 Sep 2021

Crucial polio campaign

THE national vaccination campaign that kicked off in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday is being described by experts as...