Lebanon’s Information Minister George Kordahi said on Wednesday his country “cannot remain subject to blackmail” in response to calls for his resignation after his statements about Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s involvement in the Yemen war.
“I am now part of an integrate government, and I cannot take a decision alone, it must be the government’s [decision] as a whole… I place the interests of Lebanon above all interests. And we cannot be in Lebanon exposed to blackmail by anyone, not by countries, or ambassadors or individuals,” Kordahi said in a press conference.
“They are trying to dictate who must stay in the government and who must go. Are we not a sovereign country? Why does this happen only in Lebanon?”
Kordahi had said that Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis were defending themselves and described the war in Yemen as “futile.”
His comments angered Gulf countries, and led to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait to summon their Lebanese envoys in protest over Kordahi’s statements.
Kordahi stressed that his comments, which were made during an August 5 interview on an online show affiliated with Qatar’s Al Jazeera network, were his “personal opinions” and did not oblige the government because he wasn’t a cabinet member at the time.
“Whoever wants to characterize my stance as one against Saudi Arabia, that accusation is rejected. I have never attacked or insulted Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding: “As for the UAE, I consider it my second home.”
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati, trying to avert diplomatic fallout, said that Kordahi’s statements had nothing to do with government’s policy.
Mikati added in a statement: “[Kordahi’s statements] are rejected and do not express the government’s stance at all, especially with regard to the Yemeni issue and Lebanon’s relations with its Arab brothers, particularly Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Countries.”
“The Prime Minister and the government are keen to built the best ties with Saudi Arabia and condemn any interference in its internal affair by any party.”