DUBAI, – A senior United Arab Emirates official (UAE) said Lebanon was paying the price of deteriorating ties with wealthy Gulf Arab states as it struggles to cope with a deep economic crisis.
Gulf states have long channelled funds into Lebanon’s fragile economy but they are alarmed by the rising influence of Hezbollah, a powerful group backed by their arch-rival Iran, and appear loath to help ease Beirut’s worst financial crisis in decades.
Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, told broadcaster CNBC on Wednesday that Lebanon’s “economic meltdown is very worrying” but that the UAE would only consider offering financial support in concert with other states.
“If we see some of our friends, major powers interested in Lebanon, working in a plan, we will consider that. But up to now, what we are really seeing here, is a deterioration of Lebanon’s Arab relations and Gulf relations over the past 10 years. Lebanon is partly paying the price for that right now.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States was prepared to support Lebanon if it carries out reforms and operates in a way that is not “beholden to” the armed Shi’ite movement Hezbollah, which helped form the current government.
Lebanon’s financial crisis is rooted in decades of state corruption and waste.
“We’ve seen an accumulation of problems in Lebanon and we’ve seen also a dictation of the political discourse by Hezbollah which really has an army within the state,” Gargash said.
He said the UAE repeatedly warned Beirut about deteriorating ties with the Gulf: “If you burn these bridges it’ll be very difficult for you to use the huge reservoir of goodwill and the huge reservoir of financial support that Lebanon needs.”