Saudi Arabia has summoned its ambassador to Lebanon for consultation and asked the Lebanese ambassador to the kingdom to leave within 48 hours, the Saudi state news agency SPA reported on Friday.
The kingdom also imposed a blanket ban on all imports from Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia’s decision comes days after comments made by Lebanon’s information minister that were critical of the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen put fresh strains on Gulf-Lebanese relations.
The comments by George Kordahi in an interview he said was recorded on 5 August, nearly a month before he took office, circulated heavily on social media on Tuesday. He has said he would not resign over the incident.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati sought to avert the diplomatic fallout and said the comments made in an online show affiliated to Qatar’s Al Jazeera network did not reflect the cabinet’s position.
Mikati has been hoping to improve ties with Gulf Arab states which have been strained for years because of the influence wielded in Beirut by the Iran-backed Shia group Hezbollah.
“The control of the terrorist Hezbollah on the decision-making of the Lebanese state made Lebanon an arena for implementing projects for countries that don’t wish Lebanon and its people well,” the statement carried by SPA said.
There was no immediate comment by the Lebanese government on the expulsion of its ambassador or the ban on imports.
In April, Saudi Arabia banned all fruit and vegetable imports from Lebanon blaming an increase in drug smuggling.
The ban added to the economic woes of Lebanon, already in the throes of one of the modern times’ deepest financial crises.
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