Dubai: The UAE and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday took measures against Lebanon following Saudi disapproval of Hezbollah’s hostile positions towards the kingdom.
Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia issued advisories restricting travel to the country, and the UAE reduced the number of its diplomats in Beirut.
The Saudi foreign ministry issued a statement calling on “all citizens not to travel to Lebanon, for their safety, and asking citizens residing in Lebanon or visiting not to stay unless extremely necessary,” the official SPA news agency reported.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation banned travel to Lebanon starting Tuesday, elevating an earlier advisory.
The move comes after Riyadh halted a $3 billion (Dh11.01 billion) programme funding military supplies to Beirut in response to hostile positions linked to Hezbollah and Lebanon’s refusal to side with Saudi Arabia on regional issues, particularly in its conflict with Iran.
Announcing the aid halt on Friday, an official said the kingdom had noticed “hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the state”.
Riyadh was making “a comprehensive review of its relations with the Lebanese republic”, the unnamed official was quoted by SPA as saying.
Hezbollah leaders are under sanctions by Saudi Arabia.
The militant group is fighting in support of the Syrian regime and is backed by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, with whom relations have worsened this year.
Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran last month after demonstrators stormed its embassy and a consulate following the Saudi execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric.
Syria’s war has exacerbated political rivalries within Lebanon, which has been without a president for almost two years because of fierce disagreements between Hezbollah and its rivals.
The Saudi official quoted on Friday said Lebanon had not joined condemnation of the attacks on its diplomatic missions in Iran, either at the Arab League or the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
The official also denounced “political and media campaigns inspired by Hezbollah against Saudi Arabia”, as well as the group’s “terrorist acts against Arab and Muslim nations”.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah last week accused Turkey and Saudi Arabia of dragging the region into war and said “victory” was imminent for his group and its Syrian regime allies.
Saudi Arabia supports rebels opposed to Syria’s government, and says it is ready to send special forces under a US-led coalition to fight the Islamic State group.
On Friday Saudi Arabia also stopped the remainder of a $1 billion financing package for Lebanese internal security forces, in a separate decision.
The $3 billion deal funded military equipment provided by France and was to ship vehicles, helicopters, drones, artillery and other equipment to Lebanon.