Mikati Faces Another Diplomatic Spat, This Time with the Bahraini Government

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati ordered an investigation into the holding of a press conference last week in Beirut by al-Wifaq, the main Bahraini opposition group, which has angered the kingdom’s rulers.


His office assured Bahrain of its determination to maintain good relations with the government. Bahrain outlawed the party in 2016 and transferred its assets to the state treasury.


In a statement Sunday evening, Mikati "strongly denounced any attack on Bahrain" and said that he "rejects that Lebanon is used as a platform to offend the kingdom". He also stressed that he was opposed to "any interference in the internal affairs" of the Gulf monarchy.


The Lebanese prime minister called for "the immediate opening of an investigation into what happened," and called for "preventing the repetition" of such incidents, stressing that Lebanon "refuses to harm the brotherly Arab countries and especially the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”


The Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced Sunday the holding in Beirut of a press conference by what it called "hostile personnel designated on supporting and sponsoring terrorism lists" and addressed a protest note to the Lebanese government and the Arab League. The statement also called on the Lebanese government to prohibit events "that aim to offend the Kingdom of Bahrain, and are inconsistent with the most basic diplomatic norms and the brotherly relations between the two people.".


Bahrain's main Shiite opposition group, which has close ties with Hezbollah, held a press conference in the southern Beirut suburbs on Thursday to release its annual report on human rights violations in the kingdom, according to our sister publication L’Orient-Le Jour.


The report claims that the small kingdom had made more than 20,000 arbitrary arrests since the crushing of the revolt that occurred in 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring.


Immediate investigation


For its part, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi announced the ministry’s security services have "immediately launched an investigation into the circumstances of the holding of a press conference, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain said included hostile elements with the aim of offending it.


The Interior Minister also underlined that he "refuses that Lebanon constitutes a platform to export the attacks against its brother Arab countries" and "denounces any interference in the affairs of the GCC countries."


Hezbollah maintains good relations with several Shiite movements in the region, including al-Wifaq and the Houthi rebels of Yemen, enemies of Saudi Arabia, who have a television station in the southern suburbs of Beirut.


This new incident with a Gulf country comes about as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman toured the countries of the peninsula to prepare for the upcoming GCC summit to be held in Riyadh on Tuesday.


In a statement following their visit to Bahrain on Friday, Riyadh and Manama stressed the need for Lebanon not to be "the starting point for terrorist acts or acts protecting terrorist systems and groups that aim to undermine the security and stability of the region, like the terrorist group Hezbollah."


This reference to Lebanon is similar to one made in a statement issued by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after a meeting between the Saudi crown prince and his Emirati counterpart.