Citizens of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) can finally resume their trips to Lebanon nearly two years after urging its citizens to avoid travel to the country.
On Monday, amid Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's visit to Abu Dhabi, the UAE's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation announced that Emiratis would be allowed to visit Lebanon starting October 8th.
The move was applauded by Lebanese officials, particularly in light of Lebanon's ongoing economic woes. "First, this step will lead to the return of Emirati tourists, and secondly it will encourage the return of UAE investments, which in turn will increase tourism spending," Lebanese Minister of Tourism, Avedis Guidanian, said in a statement.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have both regularly expressed concern over the political climate in Lebanon, which is bordered by war-torn Syria and whose government includes Iran-backed Hezbollah group.
In November 2017, the UAE urged its citizens to avoid traveling to Lebanon over concerns of "instability." Several members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) had warned their citizens against visiting the Mediterranean country at the time, following a series of events that saw PM Hariri temporarily resign from office. In April 2019, Lebanon was listed among the countries Emiratis are banned from visiting "due to political reasons," according to Gulf News.
The ban was withdrawn during PM Hariri's visit to Abu Dhabi this week.
The Lebanese delegation to Abu Dhabi sought support for its ailing economy, with hopes of persuading the UAE to inject cash into Banque Du Liban.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan received PM Hariri on Monday and assured him of the UAE's support. However, it remains unclear whether Lebanon will see a cash injection from the UAE government into its central bank.
"The Crown Prince stressed during the meeting that the UAE ... is keen on supporting its relationships with Lebanon on different levels, and stands by it in all that preserves its security and stability, and fulfills the aspirations of its people for development," state news agency WAM reported.
PM Hariri also urged Emirati companies to invest in Lebanon's infrastructure and its private sectors in general. "We are here to strengthen the partnership between the Emirati and the Lebanese private sectors. We hope for Emirati companies to invest in the gas, electricity and telecommunications sectors," Annahar quotes him as saying.
Lebanon is currently reeling under massive financial debt, estimated at around $86 billion or more than 150 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
While Lebanese officials have attempted to alleviate concerns over dollar liquidity and vowed to implement the necessary reforms, the country faces an alarming loss of confidence among foreign investors and depositors, according to Reuters.