Saudi Arabia announced Thursday it was sending back its ambassador to Lebanon, five months after a row erupted over the Riyadh-led military intervention in Yemen.
The foreign ministry “announces the return of the ambassador… to the sisterly Republic of Lebanon,” read a statement carried by Saudi state media.
The return of the ambassador comes “in response to the calls and appeals of the moderate national political forces in Lebanon,” the statement said.
It added that Lebanon has agreed to “stop all political, military and security activities affecting” Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Miqati meanwhile announced that Kuwait will also return its ambassador to Beirut “before the end of the week.”
A diplomatic crisis broke out last October after then-information minister George Kordahi was quoted criticizing the Saudi role in Yemen, where a grinding war has produced what the U.N. describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Kordahi, who has since resigned, said in a television interview recorded prior to his appointment as minister that the Huthi rebels fighting Yemen’s internationally-recognized government were “defending themselves… against an external aggression.”
He said “homes, villages, funerals and weddings were being bombed” by the Saudi-led coalition, and called the war in Yemen “futile.”
The Huthis are backed by Saudi arch-rival Iran, which has significant influence in Lebanon, where it backs the powerful Hizbullah.
In response to the remarks Riyadh recalled its ambassador and ordered the Lebanese envoy to leave the kingdom within 48 hours. Three other Gulf states — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait — sided with Saudi Arabia and expelled Lebanese envoys.
The row, which has also seen Saudi Arabia ban the imports of Lebanese goods, was a blow to a country already in the grip of crippling political and economic crises.
Lebanon had been counting on financial assistance from the Gulf to rescue its economy.
Lebanon welcomed the Saudi announcement.
“We highly value the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s decision to return its ambassador to Lebanon and we stress the fact that Lebanon is proud of its Arab allegiance and is adamant on maintaining the best ties with Gulf nations,” Prime Minister Najib Miqati tweeted.
Lebanon’s Interior Minister Bassam al-Mawlawi also praised the move.
“Once again the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has proven, by the return of its ambassador… that Lebanon is in its heart and conscience and that it will never abandon it,” Mawlawi said.
“We will continue to work on strengthening ties and we will not allow any harm or offense to come its way from now on,” he added.
Saudi Arabia, which wields strong influence over many of the smaller Gulf states, had stepped back from its former ally Lebanon in recent years, angered by the influence of Hizbullah.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan had blamed the row on Hizbullah and Iran’s dominance over Lebanese politics.
“There is no crisis with Lebanon but a crisis in Lebanon because of Iranian dominance,” he told Al-Arabiya television in October.
“Hizbullah’s dominance of the political system in Lebanon worries us,” he had said.