- Saudis Urge Citizens to Leave Lebanon as Iran Tension Rises
Saudi Arabia advised its nationals to leave Lebanon, further fueling fears of a heated confrontation with Iran in a country long known for being a battleground for proxy wars in the Middle East.
Saudi citizens were also advised not to travel to Lebanon, the official Saudi Press Agency cited the foreign ministry statement as saying, five days after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri unexpectedly resigned in a speech from Saudi Arabia.
Lebanon is in the cross-hairs of the escalating tension between Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shiite-led Iran, who are on opposite ends of conflicts across the Middle East. Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen launched a missile at the international airport in Riyadh — an attack Saudi officials said could be an Iranian “act of war.” That day, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri — a pro-Saudi politician — abruptly resigned, issuing a statement in Riyadh blaming Iran for meddling in Lebanon’s affairs via its proxy, Hezbollah.
Iran denied supplying Houthi fighters with missiles, and accused Saudi Arabia of trying to escalate tensions.
“The safety net Lebanon had is no longer in place,” Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, said by phone, adding that Lebanon may face the same kind of economic sanctions imposed by a Saudi-led alliance on Qatar since June. “We should expect further escalation from Saudi Arabia against Lebanon.”
After Hariri’s resignation, Saudi Arabia warned the Lebanese government of the dangers of Hezbollah, accusing the group — which is part of the Lebanese government — of being involved in every terrorist attack that threatens the kingdom. It has denied forcing Hariri to resign.
“We won’t accept Lebanon taking part in a war against Saudi Arabia,” State Minister for Gulf affairs Thamer al-Sabhan said in an interview with al-Arabiya television. “The Saudis will take all political measures and more to confront Hezbollah.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said he will make a stopover in Riyadh Thursday night on his way back to Paris from Dubai, to discuss regional issues with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Topics will include the political crisis in Lebanon, wars in Yemen and Syria, and tensions with Iran.
The “stability and security” of Lebanon is France’s priority, Macron said. The president said he had “informal contacts” with Hariri, declining to comment on his decision to resign.
Other Gulf nations are rallying around Saudi Arabia against Iran. Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates minister of state for foreign affairs, called for Iran’s ballistic program to be tackled as “an urgent priority” after the Houthi attack on Riyadh’s airport.
Iran is also central to the Saudi-led embargo on Qatar. The alliance accused it of sponsoring terrorism and cozying up to Iran, charges the Gulf nation has repeatedly denied.
Hariri stepped down at a time when Iran and its allies are widely seen to have won the proxy war against Sunni powers in neighboring Syria. Lebanon, a battleground of proxy wars during its 1975-1990 civil war, has largely avoided the sectarian massacres that ravaged its larger neighbor for more than six years. Even so, the conflict has weighed on Lebanon’s economy, cutting major trade routes and bringing more than 1 million refugees into the country.
The instability has rattled financial markets. Lebanon’s $1.54 billion Eurobonds due 2022 tumbled, sending the yield up 40 basis points to 8.31 percent as of 4:16 pm in London, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said this week that markets are stable and that there was no run on the country’s banks.
In a statement Thursday, Hariri’s Future Movement called for the former prime minister’s return to Lebanon, saying that it would support him regardless of circumstances.
China and EU Seek Partnership: Xi Jinping Proposes Key Trade Alliance
Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his desire for China and the European Union (EU) to become key trade partners and foster trust in supply chains, during a meeting with EU leaders in Beijing.
The talks marked the first in-person summit between the two sides in four years and addressed a range of economic concerns, including data flows and market access.
Xi emphasized China’s commitment to high-quality development and opening up, positioning the EU as a crucial partner in economic and trade cooperation.
He envisioned the EU as a trusted collaborator in industrial and supply chain cooperation, aiming for mutual benefits and win-win results.
The summit delved into longstanding issues, such as efforts by Europe to “de-risk” its supply chains and the EU’s anti-subsidies investigation into Chinese-made electric vehicles.
China criticized the investigation, urging the EU to avoid using it for “trade protectionism.”
Xi called for the elimination of interference between China and the EU, a statement likely directed at the United States, which has taken actions, including enlisting the Netherlands, to curb China’s development of high-end semiconductors.
The EU leaders, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, described their conversation with Xi as “good and candid.”
They discussed the main challenges amid increasing geopolitical frictions, emphasizing a commitment to balanced trade relations and pledging to enhance people-to-people exchanges.
During the meeting, Italy formally informed China of its exit from the Belt and Road Initiative, highlighting ongoing strains between the EU and China.
Xi discussed Belt and Road with EU leaders, expressing a willingness to connect it with the EU’s Global Gateway infrastructure plan.
However, deep issues remain, including Russia’s war in Ukraine, trade imbalances, and Chinese overcapacity exported to Europe.
Jens Eskelund, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, stressed the need to address these issues to foster a positive relationship between Beijing and Brussels.
UAE Commits $30 Billion as COP28 Climate Talks Kick Off in Dubai
Nigeria Eyes BRICS Membership within Two Years as Foreign Minister Emphasizes Strategic Alignment
In a strategic move towards global economic collaboration, Nigeria is aspiring to join the BRICS group of nations within the next two years.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, affirmed that Nigeria is open to aligning itself with groups that demonstrate good intentions, well-meaning goals, and clearly defined objectives.
Tuggar stated, “Nigeria has come of age to decide for itself who her partners should be and where they should be; being multiple aligned is in our best interest.”
He emphasized the need for Nigeria to be part of influential groups like BRICS and the G-20, citing criteria such as population and economy size that position Nigeria as a natural candidate.
BRICS, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, stands as a formidable bloc of emerging market powers.
In a recent move to expand its influence, BRICS invited six additional nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Argentina, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates, to join the group.
Nigeria, as Africa’s largest economy, has been absent from the BRICS alliance, prompting discussions on the potential economic and political advantages the bloc could offer the country.
Analysts have noted that BRICS membership could provide Nigeria with significant leverage on the global stage.
Vice President Kashim Shettima clarified that Nigeria did not apply for BRICS membership after the bloc’s announcement of new members in August.
Shettima emphasized the principled approach of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, highlighting a commitment to consensus building in decisions related to international partnerships.
As Nigeria eyes BRICS membership, the move is seen as a strategic step towards enhancing its global economic and diplomatic influence.
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