Saudi Arabia gave the Lebanese ambassador to the country 48 hours on Friday to leave. All imports from Lebanon have also been halted, state news agency SDA reported . The Saudi government is responding to statements by Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi, who recently criticized the military intervention in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Houthi rebels.

In an August interview with Al Jazeera , Kordahi called the fight in Yemen “useless” and stated, among other things, that the Iranian-backed Houthis defend themselves against “foreign aggression”. This was met with great dissatisfaction in Riyadh, which has also recalled its ambassador to Lebanon for consultations. Following Saudi Arabia’s lead, Bahrain has also asked the Lebanese ambassador to the country to leave.

According to insiders, Kordahi is under pressure to resign due to the diplomatic conflict. Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s office said he has asked Kordahi to “put the national interest first” and “make the right decision to restore Lebanon’s Arab ties”. Kordahi himself said earlier that he did not want to resign because of the fuss. He responded that the interview before he took office as minister was recorded, so his statements were in a personal capacity.

Tense diplomatic relations

Prime Minister Mikati is keen to strengthen ties with the Arab Gulf states. Diplomatic relations have been tense for years, mainly because of the influence that the Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah exercises in Lebanon. Hezbollah plays a major role in Lebanese politics. The organization is seen by Saudi Arabia and in the west as a terrorist organization, although some countries do distinguish between the military and political branches of the group.

The Saudi measures come at a time of an unprecedented economic crisis in Lebanon. Since the fatal explosion in the port of Beirut last year and the subsequent fall of the government, the country has also been politically paralyzed.