'I refuse Lebanese involvement in regional conflicts', says Saad Hariri

Country's prime minister said Hezbollah was violating the government's commitment to neutrality

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Lebanon is committed to not getting involved in regional conflicts or the affairs of other nations but the policy has been disregarded by Hezbollah, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Monday as he arrived in the UAE.

"I want to emphasise as head of the government [that] I refuse any form of Lebanese involvement in the conflicts around us," Mr Hariri told Wam.

"Moreover, I stress that the Lebanese government refuses to intervene or participate in activities of any organisation that is hostile to the Arabian Gulf countries."

The long-held policy was reaffirmed in 2017 when Mr Hariri agreed to return as prime minister after a shock resignation in Saudi Arabia.

However, Hezbollah has regularly been criticised for its disregard of the policy. It has been a major backer of President Bashar Al Assad in the Syrian civil war and there are reports that it also sent advisers to Yemen.

"The Lebanese government has taken a decision to dissociate itself from external conflicts and interference in the internal affairs of the Arab countries," Mr Hariri said.

"However, this decision is regrettably violated, not by the government but by a political side represented in the government."

But Mr Hariri, a long-time critic of Hezbollah, said that the Iranian-backed group was not just a Lebanese issue but a “component of a regional system.”

"Lebanon is an integral part of the Arab world and its stability is governed by the overall stability and security of the Arab world, especially in political and economic spheres," he said.


The UAE-Lebanon investment conference


Mr Hariri said an attack on the world's largest crude oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia on September 17, which the US has blamed on Iran, was "a reckless step that put the Arabian Gulf and regional peace on the brink of explosion and led to a rise in the level of tension in the region".

But he said Lebanon was banking on the “wisdom of the leadership in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” that has “not been dragged into provocative attempts made by the other side".

Mr Hariri is leading a delegation of senior ministers that will take part in the UAE-Lebanon Investment Forum in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

He is seeking to drum up regional support as Lebanon faces an economic crisis. The country has been under strain for years as growth ground to a halt after the start of the Syrian war in 2011.

Debt ratings agencies have downgraded the country's bonds in recent months while businesses have reported that they are running short of US dollars – vital for a country where both Lebanese Lira and the dollar can be used interchangeably.