Winter at Tantora, but a spring for Saudi cultural diplomacy

      Published on Sunday, 30 December , 2018      291 Views     
Winter at Tantora, but a spring for Saudi cultural diplomacy

  • Government

A year ago, Saudi-Lebanese ties were going through one of the toughest periods in the history of relations between the two countries.



The debacle around the circumstances of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s sudden resignation in Riyadh had fueled doubts about the Kingdom’s intentions for Lebanon.

It appeared to most analysts that two conflicting groups — hawks and doves — were offering advice and attempting to influence the royal court.

Hawks argued for a high-risk/high-reward strategy; they wanted a complete transformation, possibly with new faces to represent Saudi interests, and threatened complete disengagement otherwise.

Doves, while acknowledging the increasing influence of Hezbollah as the war in Syria tilted in the Assad regime’s favor, completely disagreed. They preferred an “if we can’t completely fix it, let’s not risk completely breaking it” approach.

Hawks were proved wrong. Their disengagement approach backfired and the Hariri debacle strengthened foes, weakened friends and pushed away those who were on the fence.

While Iranian agents dig tunnels to wage wars, Saudi Arabia builds bridges of culture.​

Faisal J. Abbas

However, in the past 12 months I believe we have seen a shift in the Saudi approach. Doves such as Royal Court adviser Nizar Al-Alola and Ambassador Walid Bukhari worked tirelessly to implement new instructions relating to Lebanon.

Of course, Saudi Arabia had to move quickly, because every day lost was a day won by regional rivals who were — for the first time — beginning to appeal to some of Lebanon’s Sunni population.

Worries increased again when President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, just as several Arab countries re-opened their embassies in Damascus. 

Yet losing Syria should not mean losing Lebanon as well; if anything was learned from Saudi Arabia’s ill-advised disengagement from Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion, it was that this “all or nothing” approach doesn’t work. Indeed, over the past two years, Riyadh and Baghdad have enjoyed a rapprochement that included the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr visiting the Kingdom for the first time.

I believe the same, if not more, is in the pipeline for Lebanon. We have just seen a pledge by Ambassador Bukhari to consider withdrawing the travel warning to Saudi citizens as soon as a government is formed in Lebanon. This will give Lebanese tourism a welcome boost.

There are also unconfirmed reports of further support that could be considered when a government is formed — perhaps the formation of a strategic council, probably led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman himself. Riyadh could also support the Lebanese central bank with a much-needed deposit or loan.

Lebanon, in return, has much to offer Saudi Arabia and its reform program, but for now I believe the most important aim for Riyadh and all Arab friends of Lebanon is to restore stability to the Switzerland of the Middle East. 

We should remind the Lebanese that Saudi support means hope, prosperity and diversity for all of Lebanon — just as it was under the late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. What a contrast that would be with Iran, which through its Hezbollah agents has hijacked the country, manipulated its demographics and waged proxy wars on behalf of Tehran.

Indeed, while Iranian agents dig tunnels to wage such wars, Saudi Arabia builds bridges of culture.

This was illustrated when nearly 100 Lebanese visitors descended on Al-Ula for the Winter at Tantora festival, at which the Lebanese soprano Majida El Roumi performed in the Kingdom for the first time.

Among those who attended were former presidents and prime ministers, officials, members of the Hariri family, representatives of all sects (including Shiites), beauty queens, singers and prominent journalists and intellectuals, all guests of the Kingdom’s recently appointed Minister of Culture, Prince Badr Al-Farhan.

This was cultural diplomacy at its best — not only were last year’s mishaps forgotten, but between the superb Saudi scenery and Majida’s magical voice, both Saudi and Lebanese guests witnessed at first hand how beautiful it is when two cultures come together.



• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News

Keywords:
Category Government | 2018/12/30 latest update at 7:00 PM
Source : Arab News | Photocredit : Google
292 Views
Comments Add comment



Related Articles

The editorial staff of Saudi Arabia Today would like to give all of its readers from Gulf and Saudi Arabia and the whole world the opportunity to participate actively in the development of the website! If you have something interesting, fun, scandalous - just something worth to be seen from more people. Capture it and share it in the Saudi Arabia Today with a short text.

Do you have information you want to reach our readers?

Send article/s

You can subscribe to our Facebook, Twitter and Google pages or use our RSS feed channel to always read the most important news about Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and the world.


Sponsored Publications



Air Arabia Egypt Launches Direct Flights Between Sohag and Riyadh
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia news

Air Arabia Egypt Launches Direct Flights Between Sohag and Riyadh

Air Arabia Egypt has launched a direct flight from Sohag in Egypt to Saudi Arabia’s capital city, Riyadh. Roundtrip…

Saudi Arabia new rules

Property prices continue to fall in key UAE markets

UAE banks invest Dh87 billion in Saudi Arabia, Egypt

King Salman receives dignitaries in Riyadh King

King Salman receives dignitaries in Riyadh

The Kingdom’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, senior scholars, ministers and a group of citizens called on…

Saudi King Salman reshapes country’s political and security affairs council King

Saudi King Salman reshapes country’s political and security affairs council

Saudi King Salman on Thursday announced a new list of appointees to key positions in the country’s political…

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz has died King

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz has died

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz passed away on Saturday, family members and Saudi media said on Twitter.…

Bahraini crown prince meets Saudi officials in Riyadh King

Bahraini crown prince meets Saudi officials in Riyadh

Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa held talks with Saudi officials in Riyadh this week. His visit…

GULF TV

Popular in GULF TV

PIRELLI “DREAMING” – THE CAL 2019 making of Full Version | Fashion Channel

1836 Views

A photographic tale of the aspirations of four women and their determination to achieve their goals, each one…

Latest videos in GULF TV

Events

Lifestyle

Culture

Sport

Science & Technology

Government