DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The island kingdom of Bahrain on Tuesday urged all its citizens in Lebanon to leave immediately as a diplomatic crisis escalates between Gulf Arab states and cash-strapped Lebanon.
Bahrain’s foreign ministry ordered all Bahrainis to leave Lebanon “due to the tense situation there, which requires caution,” days after the United Arab Emirates did the same. The ministry also warned its citizens not to travel to Lebanon “permanently … in order to prevent exposure to any risks.”
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Kuwait have all withdrawn their ambassadors from Beirut over televised remarks critical of the war in Yemen made by Lebanon’s game show host-turned-information minister. The internationally recognized government of Yemen followed suit on Tuesday, with its foreign ministry lambasting the comments as “reprehensible" and a “deviation from the Arab position in support of the just Yemeni cause.” It said it would recall its ambassador for “consultations.”
The comments by the minister, George Kordahi, ricocheted around the internet over the past week, infuriating the Gulf Arab region and triggering a series of punitive steps that further isolate Lebanon and threaten to split its new coalition government, now tasked with halting the country’s economic tailspin.
A Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign in Yemen in 2015, after Yemen's rebels swept into the capital, Sanaa, and has been battling the Iran-backed Shiite Houthis for control of the country since.
Along with pulling out their envoys, the four wealthy sheikhdoms expelled Lebanon’s ambassadors from their countries. Saudi Arabia also banned all Lebanese imports, a major blow to the tiny country in desperate need of foreign currency.