Saudi Arabia says it will lift travel warning for Lebanon

FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-HarirI is seen at a meeting in the governmental palace in Beirut, Lebanon, February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia will lift its warning against citizens traveling to Lebanon, its ambassador to Beirut said on Wednesday as a visiting envoy from the kingdom met top Lebanese officials.

“Given that the previous security reasons have ended and based on reassurances from the Lebanese government to Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia then is lifting its travel warning for its citizens,” Waleed Bukhari said on al-Jadeed television.

Riyadh has repeatedly issued warnings against travel to Lebanon since January 2011, citing the power there of the Hezbollah movement which is backed by its main regional rival Iran.

A fall in visitors from Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies has hit Lebanon’s tourism industry, once a mainstay of the economy, adding to the Mediterranean country’s woes in recent years.

The two countries have discussed setting up a joint committee to reinforce bilateral relations, Bukhari said in a broadcast statement after the visiting Saudi envoy, Nizar al-Aloula, met Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and other Lebanese leaders.

Hariri, whose family historically had strong ties with Riyadh, last week announced the formation of a new Lebanese coalition government that includes Hezbollah.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Beirut earlier this week, holding meetings with Hariri, President Michel Aoun and other political leaders.

Reporting by Angus McDowall and Ellen Francis; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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