'Iranian aggression' slammed during emergency Arab League meeting

Arab ministers slam 'Iranian aggression' during emergency meeting in Cairo
3 min read
19 November, 2017
Arab foreign ministers slammed Iran and its allies during an emergency Arab League meeting in Cairo on Sunday, as regional tensions continue to simmer.
The emergency meeting was requested by Saudi Arabia [Getty]

Saudi Arabia and other Arab foreign ministers held an emergency meeting in Cairo on Sunday to discuss ways to confront Iran and its Lebanese ally Hizballah, who the Arab allies accuse of interfering in their internal affairs.

Regional tensions have continued to simmer in recent weeks between Saudi Arabia and Iran over Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's unprecedented resignation, as well as an escalation in Yemen’s conflict.

Hariri, a long-time Saudi ally, controversially resigned on 4 November from Riyadh. Hariri cited fears of assassination and accused Iran and Hizballah of spreading strife in the Arab world.

Hizballah, both a military force and a political movement, is part of a Lebanese government made up of rival factions, and an ally of Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Aoun has accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage. Senior Lebanese politicians close to Hariri also said he was coerced into resigning. Saudi Arabia and Hariri both deny those accusations.

During the emergency Arab foreign ministers meeting, Bahrain's foreign minister said that Lebanon is under the "total control" of the Iran-backed Hizballah movement.

"The Lebanese Republic, in spite of our relations with it as a brotherly Arab nation... is under the total control of this terrorist party," said Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, referring to the powerful Shia movement.

"Iran's biggest arm in the region at the moment is the terrorist Hezbollah arm," Sheikh Khalid charged.

He called on countries such as Lebanon "where Hizballah is a partner in government to carry their responsibility".

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister warned Riyadh will not stand idly by in face of Iran "aggression" in the region.

The Arab foreign ministers met in Cairo at the request of Saudi Arabia, although Lebanon's foreign minister skipped the meeting.

"This morning, a decision was taken that Lebanon would be presented by Antoine Azzam, the permanent representative to the Arab League," a Lebanese foreign ministry source said.

"Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil will not be present." 

Bassil is a part of President Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, which is a political ally of Hizballah.

Iran has slammed the mounting accusations from its Arab neighbours, denying interference in the region.

"Unfortunately countries like the Saudi regime are pursuing divisions and creating differences and because of this they don’t see any results other than divisions," Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iranian state media.

The meeting of Arab ministers was called by Saudi Arabia after a missile fired from Yemen by Houthi rebels was intercepted near Riyadh earlier this month.

Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman later alleged Iran was guilty of "direct military aggression" against the kingdom, accusing Tehran of supplying the Houthi rebels with ballistic missiles.

Saudi Arabia's southern neighbour Yemen has been torn apart by a war between the Saudi-backed government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Houthi rebels backed by Iran.

A Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015 to prop up Hadi's government after the rebels seized the capital Sanaa.

However, the coalition has received widespread criticism  for the intervention which has so far killed more than 10,000.