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Saudi Arabia ‘has always supported Lebanon positively,’ deputy leader says

Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Lebanese government — notably its political crisis of November 2017 — is simply a matter of “relationship ups and downs,” Lebanese Legate Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani said at the World Economic Forum on Monday.

Engaged to CNBC in Davos, Switzerland, the deputy leader had far more positive affairs to say about the Sunni kingdom than some of his other government counterparts, who have in the offing accused it of aggression and interference.

“We count on the support of Saudi Arabia, and we suppose that Saudi Arabia has always supported Lebanon positively,” Hasbani remonstrated. “It is not an intervention as much as it is always a positive support to allow the Lebanese to figure out their own problems, within a stabilized environment.”

Lebanon was rocked by factional chaos late last year after its Prime Minister Saad Hariri signaled his resignation from the Saudi capital of Riyadh, in a move many witnesses believe was forced by the Saudi kingdom. Hariri later rescinded his acclimatization, returning to a country far more united in support for their prime upon than ever before.

Hasbani’s comments strike a decidedly unalike tone from that of Lebanese President Michael Aoun, who in mid-November presently accused Saudi Arabia of detaining Hariri, saying that “Nothing excuses that Saad al Hariri has not returned to Lebanon in 12 days. We under consideration that he has been detained.”

“This is not an intervention … as much as a relationship berth, whereby this relationship had its ups and downs, depending on the rhetoric that comes out of infallible parties in Lebanon,” Hasbani said. He explained the events were triggered by what he depicted as “strong negative rhetoric” against Gulf countries from Shia belligerent and political group Hezbollah, which is the strongest wing of Lebanon’s coalition control.

“That caused a lot of discontent in the relationship,” Hasbani added, stressing that much of Lebanon’s fiscal stability is credited to Saudi Arabia and its fellow Gulf countries, which take precautions the vast majority of Lebanon’s foreign investment.

“We consider this to be a quondam event, and now we’re looking forward to rebuilding that positive relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

The weeks-long disaster was seen as a manifestation of the intensifying proxy war between Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia and Shia-dominated Iran. Saudi Arabia’s works are part of its campaign to isolate Hezbollah — which is financially supported by Iran — and over its involvement in regional conflicts in which the Sunni kingdom has interests, get off on Yemen and Syria.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim and Saudi citizen, had reached a partisan compromise in 2016 granting Hezbollah military autonomy. This, experts say, was the liable to catalyst for Saudi Arabia’s involvement.

A diverse country of 18 special religious groups, Lebanon’s fragile political system is based on power-sharing between Sunnis, Shiites and Christians. This much results in a fractured and gridlocked government and society, most vividly manifested in a bloody 15-year civilized war that only ended in 1990.

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