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Bahrain to restore diplomatic relations with Lebanon

Relations broke off in 2021 after a senior Lebanese politician criticised Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen
Delegates attend the Arab foreign ministers preparatory meeting ahead of the 32nd Arab League Summit in Jeddah on 17 May 2023 (AFP)

Bahrain and Lebanon are to restore diplomatic relations after a year-and-a-half break prompted by a spat over the conflict in Yemen.

Bahrain and other Gulf countries followed Saudi Arabia in recalling their diplomats towards the end of 2021 after a Lebanese minister criticised Riyadh's military intervention in the war in Yemen.

Manama, a staunch ally of Riyadh, also called on its citizens in Lebanon to leave the country.

The tiny Gulf kingdom said on Saturday that it was bringing an end to the impasse, a move welcomed by Beirut.

"The Kingdom of Bahrain has decided to restore diplomatic representation" at ambassador level in Lebanon, the Bahraini foreign ministry said, adding that this would "strengthen the fraternal relations between the two countries".

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Lebanon's prime minister, Najib Mikati, said the country "appreciated this decision and welcomes it".

A diplomatic crisis erupted in October 2021 after Lebanon's then-information minister was quoted criticising the Saudi role in Yemen, where a grinding war produced what the UN described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. 

George Kordahi, who has since resigned, said in a television interview that the Houthi rebels fighting Yemen's internationally recognised government were "defending themselves... against an external aggression".

In response, Riyadh recalled its ambassador and ordered Lebanon's envoy to leave the kingdom.

Its Gulf allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait followed suit, expelling Lebanon's envoys.

Saudi Arabia returned its envoy to Lebanon in April last year.

The Bahraini decision comes the day after an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia, held against a backdrop of unexpected rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran, brokered by Beijing.

The warming of relations between the region's two great rivals has paved the way for a major diplomatic reshuffle in the Arab world.

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