Saudi Arabia and Kuwait announce sending ambassadors to Lebanon for the first time since a row broke out last year over the Riyadh-led military intervention in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have announced a return of their ambassadors to Lebanon in a sign of improving ties that hit rock bottom last year when the kingdom and other Gulf states withdrew their envoys.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry said on Thursday its ambassador returned in response to calls by "moderate" Lebanese political forces and after remarks by Prime Minister Najib Mikati regarding "ending all political, military and security activities" that affect Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
The Saudi statement on the state news agency SPA stressed the importance of Lebanon "returning to its Arab depth".
Kuwait's Foreign Ministry issued a similar statement. Mikati's office said Kuwait's envoy would return before the end of the week.
Mikati, in a Twitter post welcoming the move, said Lebanon was "proud of its Arab affiliation and upholds the best relations with Gulf states", describing them as pillars of support.
Saudi Arabia and fellow wealthy Gulf states were once major donors to Lebanon but relations have been strained for years by the growing influence of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.
The Gulf rift has added to the difficulties facing Lebanon as it struggles with a financial crisis that the World Bank has described as one of the sharpest depressions ever recorded.
IMF announced on Thursday a conditional agreement to provide Lebanon with $3 billion in aid to help it emerge from a severe economic crisis, following months of negotiations.
#Statement | The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of #Saudi Arabia announces the return of the Ambassador of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to the brotherly Republic of #Lebanon. pic.twitter.com/4s5W7iqsAb— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) April 7, 2022
Concerns over Hezbollah
Souring ties had hit new lows last October after a former Lebanese government minister criticised the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen –– a conflict widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Hezbollah supports Tehran in its regional struggle for influence with US-allied Gulf Arab states, which say the group has aided Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.
Hezbollah's military power is 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.