Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati is due to visit Saudi Arabia in the next two weeks, a first trip by a Lebanese premier to the Arab powerhouse in almost four years following an unprecedented rupture in relations.

The last visit was in 2018 by then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who in 2021 stepped down nearly nine months after he was tasked with forming the country’s government.

One of Lebanon’s biggest benefactors, Saudi Arabia’s ties with Beirut had been progressively deteriorating over the past decade, a split fueled by Iran-backed Hezbollah’s growing influence in the country. This came to head in 2017 when Hariri, once Saudi Arabia’s main ally in Lebanon , resigned in a televised statement from Riyadh. Lebanese politicians said he was forced to take the decision after being detained in the kingdom. Hariri and Saudi Arabia denied those claims.

The tensions culminated in a break in relations in October following Lebanese information minister George Kordahi’s open criticism of the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen. The comments were made before Kordahi took office, but Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states withdrew their envoys from Beirut after recordings of the criticism resurfaced. The minister subsequently resigned.

Lebanon has for more than two years been suffering from a financial crisis the World Bank says is one of the world’s worst since the nineteenth century. The Levantine country’s woes have been further exacerbated by political wrangling, corruption and disputes over a delicate power-sharing system.

Ties with Riyadh seem to be on the mend, however. Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies Kuwait and Yemen have said they’ll reinstate their ambassadors in Beirut. The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon also hosted a Ramadan iftar banquet, which was attended by Lebanese leaders and former officials.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/18/middleeast