News Analysis: Lebanese experts call for practical solutions to end diplomatic rift with Saudi Arabia

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by Dana Halawi

BEIRUT, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- Lebanese analysts emphasize the need to find practical solutions to end the diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia amid the kingdom's recent escalatory measures against Lebanon over comments by Information Minister George Kordahi criticizing the Saudi-led coalition's involvement in the war of Yemen.

Saudi Arabia's decision to escalate its actions against Lebanon prompted other Gulf countries, including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, to follow suit, putting increasing pressure on the crisis-hit country.

Youssef Diab, a political analyst at Lebanese University, told Xinhua that any possible solution to the rift must start with measures taken by the Lebanese government to reduce "Hezbollah's domineering role in the country's political arena."

Over the past few days, Saudi officials made clear stances of linking their motives behind their recent boycott of Lebanon to the expanding role of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"There is a crisis in Lebanon with the dominance of Iranian proxies over the scene," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told Saudi Arabia's Al-Arabiya television in an interview on Oct. 31.

"This is what worries us and makes dealing with Lebanon pointless for the kingdom and for, I think, the Gulf countries," he added.

Hezbollah's control in Lebanon was recently reflected by the Shiite group's efforts to import Iranian oil to the crisis-hit country without authorization by the state.

"The Lebanese government must start by shrinking Hezbollah's role, then open serious channels of communication with Saudi Arabia over issues of disagreement, otherwise Lebanon will have to face increasing isolation from its Arab surrounding," Diab said.

The Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati reiterated his government's commitment to good relations with Saudi Arabia, and called on Arab partners to put the diplomatic crisis behind them.

He also urged Kordahi to give priority to national interest and resign, while the information minister immediately expressed his refusal to step down.

Makram Rabah, a political analyst at the American University of Beirut, told Xinhua "the rift might not end with the resignation of neither the minister nor the cabinet."

The Lebanese population, severely hit by Lebanon's financial crisis, has previously called upon leaders to adopt a neutral stance in regional conflicts to lead the country out of its economic crisis. This proved to be impossible as Hezbollah has supported Iran in its power struggle with Sunni-led Arab Gulf states in the region, namely through its intervention against Saudi Arabia in Yemen's war.

Rafic Nasrallah, director of the Lebanese International Center for Media and Research, told Xinhua that Hezbollah is required to reverse its intervention in Yemen and stop its support for Houthis if Lebanon anticipates a solution to the diplomatic rift with Saudi Arabia.

"I do not see this happening anytime soon, which leaves us with the need for a third party to intervene and reduce tensions between Lebanon and the Gulf," Nasrallah said. Enditem

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