Saudis will support Lebanon ‘all the way’: finance minister

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Kalin/File Photo

January 23, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia will support Lebanon “all the way” to protect its stability, the Saudi finance minister said, after the kingdom’s rival Qatar announced it would buy $500 million U.S. dollar bonds issued by Beirut to support the Lebanese economy.

Lebanon has one of the world’s highest levels of public debt as a proportion of national output and its economy is stagnant. International lenders are seeking urgent reforms before releasing billions of dollars in investment, but Lebanon still has no government more than eight months after an election.

Qatar, which is locked in a bitter diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, said on Monday it would invest $500 million in Lebanese government bonds to support the country’s economy.

Asked if Riyadh was prepared to make a similar commitment, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told CNBC: “Saudi Arabia has been, and continues to be, a very important catalyst of stability in Lebanon.”

“We are interested to see stability in Lebanon and we will support Lebanon all, all the way,” he said in the interview, of which a transcript was made available on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia has been a long-standing supporter of Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri, who has Saudi citizenship.

However relations with Lebanon are seen as less strong after Hariri was summoned to Riyadh a year ago, briefly detained and compelled to resign as prime minister until France intervened to free him.

Saudi Arabia denied holding him hostage.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017 over accusations that Doha supports terrorism and is cosying up to their arch foe Iran, charges Qatar denies.

(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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