Saudi Arabia warns its nationals to evacuate Lebanon

Saudi Arabia, UAE warn nationals to leave Lebanon in response to hostile positions linked to Hezbollah

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Hezbollah members attend the funeral of Hassan Hussein al Hajj, a leading commander in southern Lebanon, who was killed in Syria, on October 12, 2015

Saudi Arabia warned its citizens on Tuesday to evacuate Lebanon, after the country stopped a $3 billion military funding in response to “hostile” positions connected to Hezbollah. 

Saudi ally the United Arab Emirates also gave the same warning and went even further, reducing its diplomatic representation in Lebanon and banning its nationals from going there. 

In a separate decision on Friday, Saudi Arabia also stopped the remainder of a $1 billion financing package for Lebanese internal security forces.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry in Riyadh issued a statement calling on "all citizens not to travel to Lebanon, for their safety, and asking citizens residing in Lebanon or visiting not to stay unless extremely necessary," the SPA news agency reported.

The kingdom announced the Saudi aid halt on Friday, saying it had noticed "hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the state."

Riyadh was making "a comprehensive review of its relations with the Lebanese republic", an unnamed official said, cited by SPA.

A number of alleged leaders of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah are under sanction by Saudi Arabia.

Hezbollah said in a statement, Saudi Arabia stopped the military aid because of economic pressure from lower oil revenues and the war in Yemen, where it leads an Arab military coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The Hezbollah militant group is fighting in support of Syrian regime and is backed by Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, with whom relations have worsened after demonstrators stormed its embassy and a consulate following the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.  

Lebanon had not joined in on the condemnation of the attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran at the Arab League or the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, a Saudi official said on Friday. 

The official also denounced "political and media campaigns inspired by Hezbollah against Saudi Arabia." as well as the group's "terrorist acts against Arab and Muslim nations."

Last week, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah accused Turkey and Saudi Arabia of dragging the region into war and claimed that "victory" was imminent for his group and its Syrian regime allies.  

Saudi Arabia supports moderate rebels opposed to Syria's regime, and says it is ready to send special forces under a US-led coalition to fight DAESH.