According to diplomatic sources in Egypt, a Saudi bid to suspend Lebanon from the Arab league was blocked by Cairo.
The Saudi proposal led by Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir was for Lebanon to be booted out of the pan-Arab body for failing to endorse Riyadh’s policy against Hizballah, the sources said.
Hizballah’s role in the Lebanese government has resulted in crisis between Riyadh and Beirut. Saudi Arabia has accused the powerful Lebanese group of arming the Yemen rebels.
However, Egypt has a different take on Hizballah and Syria’s policy and instead proposed a de-escalation initiative. The initiative calls for ending media attacks from both sides, ending Hizballah’s backing for Houthi rebels in Yemen, and guaranteeing the security of Gulf Arab citizens in Lebanon.
In return, Saudi Arabia would roll back its recent escalation against Lebanon and “safeguard its fragile composition”, according to the sources, in reference to Lebanon’s delicate political configuration.
Meanwhile, Iran rejected statement by Arab league foreign ministers and said that it was ‘full of lies’ and a product of Saudi’s ‘pressure and propaganda’.
State media quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as calling on Saudi Arabia to stop its “barbaric attacks” on Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been at war with Tehran-backed rebels since March 2015. He also called on Saudi Arabia to drop its boycott of the Gulf Arab nation of Qatar.
Arab league foreign ministers meeting slammed Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hizballah, accusing them of destabilizing the region.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Christian ally of Hizballah, also rejected the Arab League statement, which had accused the militant group of terrorism and of supporting “terrorist groups” across the region.
He added that Lebanon has faced Israeli ‘aggression’ for decades and had the right to defend itself.
Hizballah, the only Lebanese group to retain its arms after the 1975-1990 civil war, forced Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000. It continues to portray itself as Lebanon’s first line of defense, while the political wing of the movement is part of the coalition government.
Aoun said Lebanon rejects any accusation that its government “is a partner in terrorist attacks”.