Kuwait and Gulf states discuss next steps to end Lebanon rift

Talks are under way to resume full trade and diplomatic relations but challenges remain

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al Sabah addresses a gathering of Arab foreign minister in Kuwait on Sunday. EPA
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Lebanon has presented its response to an initiative by Arab Gulf states to end an impasse between them.

“We received a response from Lebanon last night, and Kuwait, along with other Gulf countries, will study this reply to determine the next step concerning Lebanon,” Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al Sabah said.

He thanked Beirut for interacting with the demands, which he said was a positive step.

The terms delivered to Beirut on January 22 include setting a time frame for implementing UN Security Council resolutions, among them Resolution 1559, which was adopted in 2004 and calls for the disarmament of non-state militias in Lebanon.

A draft of Lebanon's response letter had expressed respect for UN resolutions "to ensure civil peace and national stability" and said that Lebanon "will not be a launch pad for activities that violates Arab countries".

Relations between Lebanon and Gulf states are at their lowest ebb in decades after comments by a minister last year caused a crisis.

George Kordahi spoke critically of the Saudi-led coalition's support for the Yemeni government in the war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels during a wave of attacks on the kingdom by the group.

The comments by Mr Kordahi, who was then information minister, prompted Saudi Arabia to recall its ambassador from Beirut and ban all Lebanese imports, affecting hundreds of businesses and cutting off the flow of hundreds of millions in foreign currency to Lebanon. Several other Gulf countries followed.

Arab foreign ministers met in Kuwait at the weekend. Sheikh Ahmed said authorities in Kuwait and the Gulf countries will now study Lebanon’s response to determine the next steps.

He visited Beirut earlier this month and presented a set of policy suggestions aimed at rebuilding confidence with the Gulf states.

The initiative's conditions included halting drug smuggling from Lebanon, non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries, and curbing the involvement of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement in other Arab countries, most importantly in Yemen.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib visited Kuwait on Saturday to give his country’s answers to the suggestions.

Before setting off from Beirut, Mr Bouhabib made it clear that Lebanon would not disarm Hezbollah, one of 10 confidence-building measures requested.

Hezbollah has a militia more powerful than Lebanon's army and has backed pro-Iran allies in the region, including in Syria. The group and its allies also exercise major sway over Lebanese state policy.

Updated: January 31, 2022, 10:57 AM