Lebanon News

Riyadh appoints Bukhari as new ambassador to Lebanon

Head of the Saudi mission in Lebanon Walid Bukhari arrives at the Parliament in Beirut, Wednesday, May 23, 2018. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Walid Bukhari, current Saudi charge d’affaires in Lebanon, has been appointed ambassador, a source from the Saudi Embassy told The Daily Star Monday.

The source confirmed that an appointment order had been issued by Riyadh, meaning Saudi Arabia will soon have its first full ambassador to Lebanon since March, when Walid al-Yaacoub was pulled from the role after less than three months on the job.

“Minister Plenipotentiary Charge d’Affaires in Lebanon Walid Bukhari was assigned as the new ambassador, but there are still the normal formalities that have to be done,” the source told The Daily Star. “This is a sign of Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s keenness on Lebanon’s stability and their fondness for the country,” the source said.

Since taking over from Yaacoub as the top Saudi envoy, Bukhari has hosted a number of events with Lebanese residents and politicians from across the political spectrum.

“This is another example of Riyadh being on equal distance from all sides, while being close to everyone. All sects and sides in Lebanon are involved in these events, without exception,” the source said.

In June, Bukhari led an embassy initiative aimed at raising awareness on the dangers of drugs, which saw a number of Harley-Davidson riders take a motorcycle tour to the Chouf on the occasion of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Bukhari has also hosted multiple community gatherings at the embassy and across the country.

Bukhari had served as acting head of mission between the time former Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri’s term ended in August 2016 and Yaacoub’s appointment.

Yaacoub was appointed to Beirut in September 2017 after presenting his credentials to President Michel Aoun in January. His appointment came during Thamer al-Sabhan’s tenure as Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs. Sabhan is a firebrand critic of Hezbollah and has since been removed from the kingdom’s Lebanon file. The ambassador’s appointment also followed Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation announcement from Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4. He withdrew the decision on Dec. 5 after the Lebanese government promised to fully commit to a dissociation policy.

In late March, Aoun said the relationship between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia was back to normal and “nothing would disturb this.”

During a meeting with a delegation from the Lebanese-Saudi Business Council at Baabda Palace in March, Aoun said: “It’s true that an incident took place, but we [are both over it],” in an apparent reference to Hariri’s resignation crisis. Aoun said that bilateral relations had become “very, very natural ... this applies to the Gulf brothers in general.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 18, 2018, on page 2.

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