Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on Middle Eastern nations to maintain stability just as tensions were suddenly growing between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
“The stability of the region is very important and we all have to protect it … I am talking to all the parties in the region to preserve it,” Sisi said in an interview with CNBC over the weekend that aired Tuesday morning.
On Saturday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri shocked the political establishment in Beirut by announcing his resignation. The leader said he was stepping down amid concerns of a potential assassination plot against him. Speaking from Riyadh, Hariri criticized Iran, and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, for igniting conflict in the region.
Following the CNBC interview, Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia sharply escalated rhetoric in the region by declaring that Lebanon had — figuratively at least — declared “war” against it because of aggression from Hezbollah.
Saudi Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan said the government of Lebanon “would be dealt with as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia,” Reuters reported.
When asked whether the time had come for Egypt to consider its own measures against Hezbollah, Al-Sisi replied, “The subject is not about taking on or not taking on, the subject is about the status of the fragile stability in the region in light of the unrest facing the region.”
“The region cannot support more turmoil,” he said.
On Monday night U.S. East Coast time, President Donald Trump tweeted encouragement to Saudi Arabia, saying the Kingdom’s leaders know “exactly what they are doing.”
King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman over the weekend launched a broad roundup of fellow royals and government officials in what they have termed a crackdown on corruption. Analysts who follow Saudi Arabia closely have characterized those arrests as a consolidation of power around Bin Salman.
Among those taken into custody is Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a billionaire investor and prominent figure in Western media.
Egypt’s Sisi told CNBC that countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Somalia would all be vulnerable to an escalation of turmoil, and therefore Cairo would not look to impose any measures against Hezbollah.
The United States has for years classified Iran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
In July, Trump described Hezbollah as a “menace” to Lebanon and the wider region during a meeting with then Prime Minister, Saad al-Hariri. The president also vowed Washington would continue to support the Lebanese army.
In taking office last year, Lebanon’s Hariri had successfully grouped together almost every main party in the country — including Hezbollah. Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, became president as part of the political deal in what was viewed as a victory for Iran.