Photo: Monika Flueckiger / World Economic Forum

Premier Najib Mikati calls upon Kurdahi to prioritize “national interest”

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati called on Information Minister George Kurdahi to “prioritize national interest” following a diplomatic rift with Gulf countries over a statement he previously made.

“I repeat calls for the information minister to listen to his conscience and put circumstances into consideration and take the stance he should take,” said Mikati in a public speech, following a meeting with President Aoun earlier this morning.

During the meeting, Mikati and Aoun agreed on a road map to fix the diplomatic rift with Gulf countries. The rift was sparked by Kurdahi voicing critical comments on the Saudi Arabia-led intervention in Yemen, calling the war in Yemen “absurd” and saying the Houthi rebels have a right to defend themselves against Saudi aggression.

“I did not wrong anyone. I did not attack anyone. Why should I apologise?” said Kurdahi. “I stated my position with love as a human who feels Arab suffering.”

“I am against Arab-Arab wars … accusing me of hostility to Saudi Arabia is rejected.”

Mikati stopped short of asking Kurdahi to resign, with the information minister previously ruling out resignation as a solution to the issue. He reiterated that the remarks were made as personal views before he took on the role of minister.

Since then, Saudi Arabia, alongside the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, and Yemen have all recalled their envoys from Lebanon. Saudi Arabia also banned all imports from Lebanon, UAE banned citizens from traveling to the country, and Bahrain has urged all its citizens to return as soon as possible given the situation.

Kurdahi has been supported by Hezbollah throughout the spat, and Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said the comments were a “symptom” of the group’s grip on the country. 

The spat with Gulf countries poses a new challenge for the government, who only assumed office recently after the country spent a full 13 months in the care of Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab.