Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. (Photo credit: AP/Bilal Hussein)
In response to Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s scathing critique of Riyadh during a 3 January speech, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has denounced the comments as unrepresentative of Lebanon’s national stance and antagonistic to its national interests.
Mikati said the comments made by Nasrallah “about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia do not reflect the position of the Lebanese government and the broader segment of the Lebanese people. It is not in Lebanon’s interest to offend any Arab country, especially the Gulf states.”
“While we call for Hezbollah to be part of the diverse Lebanese situation and of Lebanese affiliation, its leadership contradicts this trend with positions that harm the Lebanese first and Lebanon’s relations with its brothers second,” Mikati said.
Mikati’s comments were made in response to Nasrallah implying that the Saudi king was a terrorist for having exported the ISIS ideology to the world.
“For God’s sake,” Mikati said, “have mercy on Lebanon and the Lebanese people and stop the hateful sectarian and political rhetoric.”
While Mikati’s political party, the Azm movement, was part of the electoral bloc allied with Hezbollah after 2005, the Prime Minister has vowed to restore relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries upon assuming his role in September 2021.
At the time, Mikati said he would restore relations with the Gulf nations and ask them for financial assistance in tandem with attempting a successful outcome of IMF negotiations.
In September 2021, Mikati said in comments to Al-Sharq News that “we can only have excellent relations with Arab countries, and we will ask for support from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to put an end to Lebanon’s freefall.”
Last month, Mikati held meetings with Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi and a number of Lebanese businessmen and representatives in an attempt to restore Gulf confidence in Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have accused Lebanon of harboring terrorism due to the presence of Hezbollah and of drug smuggling, despite the fact that the smuggling of illegal drugs such as Captagon were proven to have been sourced from Saudi Arabia.
In response, Hezbollah parliamentary members have criticized Mikati’s comments.
Hezbollah MP Ibrahim al-Mossawi said to Mikati that “flattering Saudi Arabia insults you,” while MP Hassan Fadlallah criticized Mikati for “trying to appease those who offend Lebanon.”