Search
Search

Foreign Relations

Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister quits amid fallout over Saudi slur

Caretaker Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbi requested that President Michel Aoun relieve him of his duties amid the fallout from comments he made accusing Gulf allies of enabling the rise of the Islamic State. (Credit: Dalati & Nohra)

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister asked to step down Wednesday after comments he made irked Saudi Arabia, as cash-strapped Beirut scrambled to avoid further souring ties with the wealthy Gulf states.

Charbel Wehbi said in a televised debate on Monday that the Islamic State group’s rise in the region had been engineered by Gulf states, prompting Lebanese ambassadors in several countries to be summoned.

Lebanon’s leaders have since tried to put out the fire, and the 67-year-old announced in a brief statement after meeting President Michel Aoun that he had asked “to be relieved of his duties.”

Hours later, Aoun appointed caretaker Defense Minister Zeina Akar as Wehbi’s replacement, the presidency said in a statement.

Aoun asked Akar — who is also deputy prime minister — “to proceed with her duties as acting foreign minister” as well as her original portfolio. 

The Gulf’s relations with Lebanon have become frostier over the rising political influence of the Shiite group Hezbollah, but Beirut is seeking fresh financial support from its former allies.

Lebanon defaulted on its debt last year, is witnessing unprecedented poverty and cannot guarantee power supply past the month of June.

After an altercation with a Saudi guest on Alhurra TV on Monday, Wehbi stormed off the set, saying he would not be “insulted by a Bedouin.”

His exit will likely go down as the most remarkable moment of a tenure that saw him remain an active foreign minister for only seven days.

The other 282 days were spent as part of a caretaker government that resigned en masse following a devastating explosion at the Beirut port in August.



BEIRUT — Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister asked to step down Wednesday after comments he made irked Saudi Arabia, as cash-strapped Beirut scrambled to avoid further souring ties with the wealthy Gulf states.Charbel Wehbi said in a televised debate on Monday that the Islamic State group’s rise in the region had been engineered by Gulf states, prompting Lebanese ambassadors...