Lebanon must show that Hezbollah can change, says Bahrain minister

Diplomatic crisis with Gulf states was triggered by minister's comments about Saudi-led intervention in Yemen

Abdullatif Al Zayani, Bahrain's Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the 17th IISS Manama Dialogue in Manama. AFP
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Lebanon must demonstrate that its powerful Iran-allied Hezbollah movement can change its behaviour to mend a rift with Gulf states, Bahrain's foreign minister has said.

Lebanon is facing a diplomatic crisis with Gulf states, triggered by a minister's critical comments about the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen that prompted Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait to expel Lebanon's senior diplomats and recall their envoys. The UAE recalled its envoy from Beirut and called on all citizens to return from Lebanon.

Concerned about Hezbollah's growing influence, Gulf states – traditional aid donors to Lebanon – have been withholding support to the country, which is facing an economic crisis.

"We [can] extend support and try to find solutions in the future, but once it is demonstrated that Hezbollah can be changing its behaviour," Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani told the IISS Manama Dialogue security forum in Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia, locked in a regional rivalry with Iran, has said its measures last month against Lebanon, including an import ban, were not only in response to the minister's remarks, but were also to demonstrate unease over Hezbollah's domination of Lebanese politics.

Lebanon's Information Minister George Kordahi said his remarks were made in an interview before he joined the Cabinet and has refused to apologise or step down.

Hezbollah's leadership has supported him in the diplomatic row and rejected calls for his resignation.

Updated: November 21, 2021, 7:53 AM