Bahrain to resume diplomatic relations with Lebanon

FILE PHOTO: A shop owner assembles table flags from different Arab countries, Saudi Arabia (L) Bahrain (C) and Lebanon (R) at his store in central Baghdad on 4 March 2009. (Photo by SABAH ARAR / AFP)

Bahrain said Saturday it would restore full diplomatic relations with Lebanon after a year and a half, following a row over the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

Bahrain and other Gulf countries followed Saudi Arabia in recalling their diplomats towards the end of 2021 after a Lebanese minister criticized Riyadh’s military intervention in the war in Yemen.

Manama — a staunch ally of Riyadh — also called on its citizens in Lebanon to leave the country.

But the tiny Gulf kingdom said Saturday that it was bringing an end to the impasse, a move welcomed by Beirut.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain has decided to restore diplomatic representation” at the ambassador level in Lebanon, the Bahraini foreign ministry said, adding that this would “strengthen the fraternal relations between the two countries”.

Lebanon’s prime minister Najib Mikati said the country “appreciated this decision and welcomes it”.

A diplomatic crisis erupted in October 2021 after the then-information minister was quoted criticizing the Saudi role in Yemen, where a grinding war has produced what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

George Kordahi, who has since resigned, said in a television interview that the Huthi rebels fighting Yemen’s internationally recognized government were “defending themselves… against an external aggression”.

In response, Riyadh recalled its ambassador and ordered Lebanon’s envoy to leave the kingdom. Its Gulf allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait followed suit, expelling Lebanon’s envoys.

Saudi Arabia returned its envoy to Lebanon in April last year.

The Bahraini decision comes the day after the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia against a backdrop of unexpected rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran, brokered by Beijing.

The warming of relations between the region’s two great rivals has paved the way for a major diplomatic reshuffle in the Arab world.

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