Saudi Arabia ends efforts to mediate in Lebanon

January 20, 2011, Thursday/ 17:41:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH AP

Saudi Arabia has abandoned efforts to mediate in Lebanon's political crisis, removing a key US ally from talks to ease tensions after Hezbollah toppled the government in Beirut last week.

In an interview on Wednesday with the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said the Saudi king has decided he is “withdrawing his hand” from Lebanon. Asked about the situation in Lebanon, al-Faisal said: “It's dangerous, particularly if it reaches separatism or the division of Lebanon. This would mean the end of Lebanon as a model of peaceful coexistence between religions and ethnicities and different factions.”

Saudi Arabia has played a key role in mediating previous political crises in Lebanon. It helped end the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990. Faisal was in Ankara for an official visit on Jan. 13, when Hezbollah toppled Lebanon's Western-backed government by having 11 of its ministers serving in the Cabinet resign. At the time, both Faisal and his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu, warned about the prospect of political instability posing a “great danger” for Lebanon and the region.

On Jan. 11, Lebanese politicians said Saudi Arabia and Syria had failed to forge a deal to curb political tensions in Lebanon over a UN-backed tribunal set up to try the killers of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, with Hezbollah minister Mohammad Fneish blaming the United States for obstructing attempts by Riyadh and Damascus to find a solution.

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