Qatar, UAE, Bahrain issue travel warnings for Lebanon
REUTERS & AFP
DUBAI QATAR, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates urged their citizens to stay away from Lebanon, citing security concerns in a country where fighting prompted by sectarian tensions in neighbouring Syria has unsettled areas near a northern port.
The three Gulf states’ foreign ministries urged all those already in Lebanon - a favourite destination for wealthy Gulf tourists - to leave because of the “security situation” in the country, the official news agencies reported.
“The UAE foreign ministry has urged citizens not to travel to Lebanon until the tense security situation there is cleared,” the ministry said in an English-language statement carried on state news agency WAM.
The advice has been issued “to guarantee the safety of its citizens,” senior foreign ministry official Issa Abdullah al Kalbani said in the statement.
Kalbani also called on “citizens currently in Lebanon to leave the country, and in case they have to stay back for any unavoidable reasons, to contact the UAE embassy in Beirut” to give their whereabouts and contact details.
Qatar issued a similar warning due to the “unstable security situation” in Lebanon, QNA reported.
Bahrain asked its citizens not to travel to Lebanon to ensure their “security and safety” as it urged those already there to “immediately leave or stay away from insecure areas,” the official news agency BNA reported.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansur, however, called on the Gulf states “to review these decisions as the situation in Lebanon does not justify them,” Lebanon’s state news agency NNA reported.
Nationals from the UAE, Qatar and all Arab countries were “welcome in Lebanon at any time,” he said.
Heavy fighting has rocked Lebanon’s northern port of Tripoli in the past week. The clashes, mainly between government troops and gunmen in a Sunni Muslim district, have highlighted how violence in Syria can spill into Lebanon, a country that was garrisoned by Syrian troops until 2005.
Tourists from Gulf states form the bulk of the wealthy visitors to Lebanon, whose vital tourism industry has been hit hard by unrest in neighbouring Syria.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon last month warned Saudis to stay away from Lebanon’s border areas, after two Saudi citizens were kidnapped and tortured for eight days, before being freed in a joint Saudi-Lebanese operation.
Israel borders Lebanon to the south and Syria is its eastern neighbour.
There have also been several cases of kidnappings for money in recent years in Lebanon, usually in remote parts of the country.