Saudi, Iran ambassadors' warm Beirut hug signals thaw in tensions

Saudi ambassador to Beirut hosted a dinner, which included the Iranian ambassador, Syria's chargé d'affaires and the Lebanese FM. France's special envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian who was in Beirut at the time was reportedly absent.

Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore diplomatic ties and reopen embassies following a China-brokered deal [Getty]

Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Boukhari hosted a dinner late on Thursday in Beirut with warm exchanges between Arab and foreign officials, including Iran's ambassador to Beirut Mojtaba Amani, according to local media reports.

Images circulated on social media showed Saudi and Iranian diplomats sharing a warm embrace while the French-language Lebanese daily L'Orient-Le Jour said the two were seated together during the meal, hinting at a massive change in relations between the two arch-rivals. 

The chargé d'affaires of the Syrian embassy in Lebanon was also present at the dinner, the paper said.

Boukhari said it was part of "sustainable diplomacy" through which Riyadh "intends to create an international safety net for Lebanon in cooperation with various countries and international organisations". 

"We share a common responsibility to preserve Lebanon's stability as well as respect for its sovereignty and unity, in accordance with international and Arab resolutions," he added.

Chaleureuse accolade entre les ambassadeurs saoudien et iranien lors d'un dîner à Beyrouth #Liban #Iran #ArabieSaoudite

— L'Orient-Le Jour (@LOrientLeJour) June 23, 2023

It came three months after Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore diplomatic ties and reopen embassies following a China-brokered deal.

Saudi Arabia severed its relations with Iran in 2016 after its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad were attacked by protesters after the execution of Shia cleric Nimr Al-Nimr by Riyadh.

Diplomatic relations between Gulf countries and the Syrian regime have also seen a thaw, with Saudi Arabia inviting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to attend the Arab League summit in Jeddah in May.

Saudi Arabia also normalised its relations with Damascus after Arab states agreed to fully reinstate Syria's membership in the Arab League, 12 years after its suspension due to the repression of protests against the regime.

Meanwhile, Iranian ambassador Amani tweeted on Thursday that he was "optimistic about the current developments" adding that he hoped "that an atmosphere of reconciliation and convergence of relations between all countries in the region will prevail soon, for the benefit and well-being of our nation and our peoples".

Caretaker Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdallah Bou Habib, who was also present at the dinner, said in a speech that "the invitation is a tribute to Lebanon".

He emphasised that the relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, both at the official and popular level, were longstanding and deeply rooted.

Local reports highlighted that France's special envoy to Lebanon, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is currently visiting Beirut, was absent from the dinner.

magnifier linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram