President Michel Aoun on Wednesday signed a decree appointing caretaker Defense Minister Zeina Akar as acting Foreign Minister, hours after the resignation of caretaker Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe over remarks that sparked a diplomatic storm with the Gulf countries.
Aoun asked Akar — who is also deputy prime minister — “to proceed with her duties as acting foreign minister” as well as her original portfolio.
Wehbe said in a televised debate on Monday that the Islamic State group’s rise in the region had been engineered by Gulf states, prompting Lebanese ambassadors in several countries to be summoned.
Lebanon’s leaders have since tried to put out the fire and the 67-year-old announced in a brief statement after meeting Aoun that he had asked “to be relieved of his duties.”
The Gulf’s relations with Lebanon have become frostier over the rising political influence of Iran-backed Hizbullah but Lebanon is seeking fresh financial support from its former allies.
Lebanon defaulted on its debt last year, is witnessing unprecedented poverty and cannot guarantee power supply past the month of June.
After his altercation with a Saudi guest on Al-Hurra TV on Monday, Wehbe stormed off the set saying he would not be “insulted by a Bedouin.”
His exit will likely go down as the most remarkable point of a tenure during which he was Lebanon’s active foreign minister only for seven days.
Wehbe served for the last 282 days as part of a caretaker government that resigned en masse following a devastating explosion in Beirut port last August.
He was appointed to the post following the previous resignation of Nassif Hitti.