Riyadh angered over Lebanese minister's pro-Houthi comments

Saudi Arabia outrage over Lebanon minister's claims Houthis defending against 'external aggression'
3 min read
27 October, 2021
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have called on a Lebanese minister to apologise over comments he had made on the Yemen war.
George Kurdahi says he has nothing to apologise for [AFP/Getty]

Lebanese minister is under fire for past comments made about Houthi militias in Yemen, with Saudi Arabia calling for an apology.

Information Minister George Kurdahi criticised the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign in Yemen, and said Iranian-backed Houthi rebels were merely defending themselves "in the face of external aggression against Yemen for years".

Kurdahi, who was a former television presenter at Saudi-owned MBC, has come under fire for defending Iran's allies, such as the Syrian regime, in the past.

Saudi sources told Lebanon’s MTV on Wednesday that Kurdahi's sacking would resolve the diplomatic crisis.

The Yemeni government on Wednesday also denounced Kurdahi’s comments

Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak said on Twitter that the Yemeni embassy in Beirut had presented "a letter of condemnation" to the Lebanese foreign ministry.

Mubarak said Kurdahi's statement contradicted Lebanon's and the official Arab stance on the Yemen war, which started in 2014. 

Kurdahi said the comments were made in August, before he was appointed to the cabinet, but denied any wrongdoing and said he will not apologise.

"I did not (mean to) take a stand in what I said about the Yemen war, I said it in a friendly manner as I am against Arab-Arab conflicts. I have never attacked Saudi Arabia or the (United Arab) Emirates and I consider them to be my second country," Kurdahi said during a press conference Wednesday.

He said he cannot take the decision to resign by himself and refuses to be "given instructions", amid calls for him to step down.

Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh, who Kurdahi is affiliated to, also came to the former TV host's defence saying that the comments were made before he was made minister and has since respected all Arab nations.

"Everyone has their political opinion and this is a country of freedom and diversity," said Frangieh.

Former Lebanese Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe quit his post under pressure in May after lashing out at Saudi Arabia during a televised interview.

He had accused Riyadh and other Gulf states of helping the Islamic State group rise in the region, highlighted the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal al-Khashoggi in Turkey, and referred to the Saudis as "bedouin", in a manner intended as an insult.

Gulf states' relations with Lebanon have become frostier over the rising political influence of Shia paramilitary group Hezbollah. Many members of the current government are also viewed as aligned to the Iranian axis in the region.

Beirut is seeking fresh financial support from its former allies.

Ties between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia have been tense, with Riyadh having publicly distanced itself almost entirely from Lebanese affairs.

This is in opposition to what it sees as rising influence from Iran-backed Hezbollah in the country’s politics.