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Foreign minister blaming Gulf states for ISIS was ‘his personal opinion’, says Lebanese president

Speaking on Tuesday, President Michel Aoun talked of the “the depth of the brotherly relationship between Lebanon and the Gulf countries,” notably Saudi Arabia, and sought to repair any damage done by caretaker Foreign Minister Wehbe. 

The president’s remarks followed a volley of criticism aimed at the foreign minister, who, in an interview with regional network Alhurra on Monday evening, blamed the Gulf nations for the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS). 

“Those countries of love, friendship, and fraternity, they got us Islamic State and planted it in the plains of Nineveh and Anbar and Palmyra,” Wehbe said. When asked whether he was implying that the Gulf States had funded the terrorist movement, the foreign minister remarked: “Who funded them then, was it me?” 

Prior to the president’s response, Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri had already expressed his opposition to Wehbe’s comments, adding that it would not be wise to further damage foreign relations at a time when Lebanon was facing an internal struggle, including political deadlock, Covid-19, and economic ruin. “As if the crises that the country is drowning in and the boycott it is suffering from is not enough,” Hariri’s office said in a statement.

The Gulf states have not come to the aid of Lebanon, with Saudi Arabia even imposing a ban on Lebanese fruit and vegetable imports in April, after custom officers found more than 5.3 million Captagon pills, a type of amphetamine, hidden in pomegranate shipments.

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