(Photo credit: SPA)
The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Walid al-Bukhari, on 1 November drew the ire of Sunni Arab tribes in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley, who accused him of being “disrespectful.”
Videos circulating on social media show the attendees at a ceremony for Bukhari, which was scheduled in the town of Faour in the central Bekaa, calling on Riyadh to appoint a new ambassador in his place after he broke with customs and left mere minutes into his visit.
“The dignity of the sheikhs and clans in Lebanon is more important than a state employee in Saudi Arabia. We are addressing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman to expel Bukhari from Lebanon. We do not want any ambassador to visit us,” an Arab tribe leader says in one of the many videos posted to social media.
In another video, the attendees explain what happened, saying: “the visit was scheduled for five in the afternoon, but it was delayed until half past six, and [soon after arriving] the ambassador’s convoy withdrew.”
Sources close to the Saudi embassy told Lebanon’s MTV news that Bukhari left the scheduled meeting due to “security concerns,” a claim the ambassador reiterated on Twitter.
“I cut short my scheduled visit to the town of Faour for security reasons, and I thank the people of Faour, with its sheikhs, dignitaries, municipalities, mayors and youth, for their generous understanding and for issuing a statement clarifying the truth of what happened,” Bukhari said.
قطعت زيارتي المقررة لبلدة الفاعور لأسباب أمنية، و أشكر أهالي الفاعور بشيوخها ووجهائها وبلدياتها ومخاتيرها وشبابها على كريم تفهمهم وإصدارهم بيانًا يوضح حقيقة ما حصل.
— Waleed A. Bukhari (@bukhariwaleeed) November 1, 2022
According to the sources that spoke with MTV, “as soon as the ambassador arrived at the site, the embassy’s security team decided to leave after information about security problems.”
Bukhari returned to Lebanon earlier this year after Beirut apologized for comments made by former information minister George Kordahi.
Tensions between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia reached an all-time high last year after Kordahi criticized the Saudi-led aggression on Yemen, prompting the kingdom and its Gulf allies to launch a diplomatic and economic war on the crisis-hit nation.
Following his return, Bukhari reportedly tried to influence the outcome of this year’s elections to benefit Saudi and US-backed figures.