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

Who benefits more?
Updated 03 Aug 2021

Who benefits more?

It’s been widely assumed that China was always going to secure the most benefits.
Back to the future
Updated 02 Aug 2021

Back to the future

A civil war next door would pose serious threats to Pakistan’s security and multidimensional challenges.

Editorial

03 Aug 2021

Changing GB’s status

THE government’s plans to accord a provisional provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan are progressing steadily and...
Taliban assault
03 Aug 2021

Taliban assault

Intra-Afghan peace talks should be promoted, but the global community must be ready for the imminent collapse of the Afghan state.
03 Aug 2021

Cancelling Aurat March

THE cancellation of Aurat March Faisalabad is exactly one of those ‘isolated incidents’ which, when viewed...
02 Aug 2021

Row over NCSW

SOME matters are simply too important to play politics on. Protection of women’s rights is one of them....
02 Aug 2021

Mismanaging LNG

PAKISTAN’S purchase of expensive LNG cargoes for the September-October delivery in less than three weeks after...
Against their will
Updated 02 Aug 2021

Against their will

Estimates indicate that some 1,000 girls from minority communities are forcibly converted to Islam every year in Pakistan.