RIYADH -Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Beirut said Thursday that Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement was a threat to Arab security but defended relations with Lebanon, describing them as “too deep to be affected.”
The latest tensions follow a crisis between Lebanon and Gulf Arab states over the war in Yemen and Saudi accusations that Hezbollah was meddling in the conflict.
“Riyadh hopes that the political parties will give priority to the supreme interest of Lebanon … and end Hezbollah’s terrorist hegemony over every aspect of the state,” Ambassador Waleed Bukhari said in a statement.
“Hezbollah’s terrorist activities and regional military behaviour threaten Arab national security,” he added.
Despite Hezbollah tensions, Bukhari said that “the kingdom’s relations with Lebanon are too deep to be affected with irresponsible and absurd statements,” Saudi media reported, citing the ambassador.
Bukhari’s statement comes after Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shia movement, described King Salman as a “terrorist” and in a televised speech earlier this week, accused Saudi Arabia of exporting Islamic extremism.
Accusations have flown between the two sides since a Saudi-led coalition intervened to prop up Yemen’s government against Iran-backed militias in 2015, in a conflict that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives according to the United Nations.
Last month, Hezbollah dismissed Riyadh’s claims that it was aiding attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
In late October, Riyadh suspended diplomatic ties with Lebanon after the airing of statements by the then-Lebanese information minister criticising the military intervention in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister later said that Hezbollah’s dominance in Lebanon and not simply the minister’s comments had prompted the Sunni kingdom to cut ties.
Since the coalition’s intervention in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has regularly accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with weapons and Hezbollah of training the insurgents.
Tehran denies the charges and Hezbollah has previously denied sending fighters or weapons to Yemen.