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France lending a hand in crisis between Saudi Arabia, Lebanon

Kingdom doesn’t like Lebanon’s ties to Iran via Hezbollah

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In this photo released by Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greets French President Emmanuel Macron, left, upon his arrival in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.
In this photo released by Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greets French President Emmanuel Macron, left, upon his arrival in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP) Photo Gallery

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — France’s president and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince held a joint phone call with Lebanon’s prime minister during Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the kingdom Saturday, in a significant gesture amid an unprecedented crisis between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

During the calls with Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Macron said France and Saudi Arabia expressed their commitment to Lebanon, despite Saudi Arabia’s uneasiness with Iran’s sway over the small Mediterranean country.

Macron did not say whether punitive measures targeting Lebanon by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations will be revoked. The kingdom withdrew its ambassador from Lebanon last month, with several Gulf states taking similar action to protest their frustration with Iran-backed Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanese politics. Riyadh also banned imports from Lebanon.

The Lebanese information minister whose comments sparked the crisis resigned Friday, paving the way for the French leader to start dialogue with Saudi Arabia. Minister George Kordahi had criticized the Saudi-led war in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Kordahi, backed by Hezbollah, had refused to resign for weeks, prolonging the crisis that affected hundreds of Lebanese businesses.

Hezbollah has been blamed for the recent paralysis that has plagued the Lebanese government following the group’s disapproval over the course of the investigation into a deadly blast at Beirut’s main port last year. Hezbollah has demanded the lead judge in the investigation be removed.

Macron said during the call that he and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman relayed “a clear message Saudi Arabia and France want to be fully committed.”

“We want to commit ourselves to supporting the Lebanese people and therefore do everything possible to ensure that trade and economic reopening can take place,” Macron said.

It was the first call between Mikati, who took office in September, and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, a traditional ally of Lebanon.

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