BEIRUT: The UAE joined other Gulf states in supporting Saudi Arabia’s decision to ban imports of agricultural products from Lebanon which came into effect on Sunday.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said it was “proven” that agricultural imports were used to smuggle narcotics to Saudi Arabia, and that it supported the Kingdom’s measures to ensure the protection of Saudi society from narcotics as part of its efforts to “fight organized crime, and its right to protect its society’s safety.”
Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman on Saturday backed their Gulf neighbor amid silence from Lebanese officials about the source of a pomegranate shipment that was seized on Friday in Dammam and found to be stuffed with millions of Captagon pills.
Lebanese authorities did not undertake any immediate measure in the Port of Beirut or on the frontier crossings with Syria.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun called a security meeting on Monday to address the crisis. It will be attended by caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, and the ministers of defense, agriculture, interior, foreign affairs, finance, and economy, in addition to the heads of security agencies and customs, farmers and exporters.
The meeting will discuss the circumstances of the Saudi decision and the measures to be undertaken to address its repercussions.
Lebanon’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Fawzi Kabbara, asked his country to take security measures to “stop this farce, impose the most severe penalties against the smugglers, strictly control the borders, pursue narcotics factories, and present guarantees to Saudi authorities as soon as possible that such acts will not get repeated in the future.”
He emphasized “the importance of preserving the reputation of Lebanon and the innocent Lebanese and on maintaining the best relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.”
Grand Mufti of Lebanon Sheikh Abdul Latif Darian also voiced his support for the Kingdom’s decision to close its borders due to the “crime of smuggling, rejected and condemned by the Shariah and moral values, which causes serious repercussions and further deterioration of the Lebanese economy.”
Darian appealed to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to “help Lebanon get out of the crisis that the people are passing through, amid the inability to form the new government awaited by the Lebanese.”
He hoped that the Saudi decision would be temporary until matters were sorted out by the Lebanese state which, he said, should take “hasty and firm steps” to prevent any problems with bilateral relations.
In his Sunday sermon, Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi conveyed the outcry from Lebanese farmers and condemned what had happened.
“This shipment is not Lebanese, and no name of a Lebanese farmer of source is mentioned on it,” said the cleric.
Al-Rahi called on the government to undertake a “swift investigation to unveil the perpetrators and smugglers and impose severe penalties on them, and resolve this problem with Saudi Arabia, which is the biggest supporter of the Lebanese farmers who export 80 percent of their products to it.”
He also said he had contacted the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Walid Al-Bukhari, and “we notified him of our condemnation, asking him to transmit it to the Kingdom and hoping that it will take into consideration Lebanon and its honest farmers’ conditions.”
Al-Bukhari said on Sunday that the total quantity of narcotics and psychotropic substances coming from Lebanon that had been seized amounted to more than 600 million Captagon pills and hundreds of kilos of marijuana during the past six years.
“The quantities detected are enough to infest the whole Arab world, not only Saudi Arabia, with narcotics and psychotropic substances,” he added.