The meeting comes at a time of "great tensions" between Lebanon and the region's governments. For the local Church, it is "very important" to understand "the fate" of workers, who should be protected because they "have nothing to do with political tensions." At least 50,000 Lebanese live and work in the Gulf States.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi is expected to meet tomorrow morning with the Ambassadors of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) the status of Lebanese expatriates in the Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar).
The cardinal invited the diplomats to Bkerké, see of the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate, as part of routine meetings that he holds with the representatives of regional and international powers.
The audience is "very important" because it comes at a time of "great tensions" between Lebanon and the Gulf countries, Patriarchate sources said.
In fact, as relations deteriorate, the region’s governments have threatened to expel Lebanese nationals and block their bank accounts.
Recently, Saudi Arabia halted US$ 4 billion in assistance to the Lebanese army and security forces, and GCC states labelled Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.
Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates jailed three Lebanese for setting up a group affiliated with the Lebanese Shia movement. After serving a six-month sentence, they will be expelled.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah is the main cause of disagreement. The Saudis and the Gulf States loathe the Shia armed group, whose influence has grown in Lebanon over the past few decades.
Backed by Iran, the group has come to the rescue of Syrian President Assad in his fight against the al-Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda) and the Islamic State (IS) group, inflicting major defeats on them.
Last month, the Arab League declared the Lebanese Shia group as terrorist, following an earlier decision by the Gulf monarchies for the group’s alleged interference in Yemen and Iraq.
At a critical time for diplomatic, government and economic relations, Cardinal Rahi decided to intervene in person to discuss “the conditions of Lebanese in the Arab Gulf”, and to “ask about their fate”. In his view, expatriates “should be protected because they have nothing to do with the political tensions.”
Some 50,000 Lebanese nationals live in the Gulf States, providing remittances that are vital to the country’s economy.
Discussions are also expected to touch on Lebanon’s ongoing presidential saga. Under the country’s constitution, the office is reserved for a Christian, but for the past two years, the Lebanese parliament has failed to elect a new president.