Imports of Lebanese products into Saudi Arabia will be banned indefinitely starting Sunday as they are used for drug smuggling, Riyadh announced, giving Lebanon another blow in the midst of its severe financial crisis.
Saudi authorities recently witnessed “Increase in drug smuggling activities in the Kingdom” through Lebanese products, “Especially in batches of fruit and vegetables”, The country’s interior ministry said Friday, as quoted by the official SPA news agency.
The ban was introduced to stop “Systematic smuggling operations” and protect Saudi citizens from banned substances, the ministry added.
Riyadh only went ahead with the restrictions afterwards “Numerous attempts” to urge Beirut to tackle the drug trafficking problem were met with inertia, he said.
The ban will remain in place as long as the Lebanese authorities “provide sufficient and reliable guarantees” that they take the necessary steps to stop smuggling into Saudi Arabia. The Interior Ministry will also continue to monitor other types of goods arriving from Lebanon to decide if they too should be restricted.
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Following the announcement, Beirut promptly expressed its readiness to work with Riyadh on the matter, with Lebanon’s custodian Interior Minister Mohamed Fahmy calling for “More cooperation” between the security services of the two countries.
Lebanon “It has made enormous efforts to combat drug smuggling”, but nevertheless “Meticulous” Sometimes, the authors still manage to be successful, Fahmy told Reuters.
Custodian Agriculture Minister Abbas Mortada complained about the Saudi ban “Very serious,” not only because of the financial losses on the Lebanese side, but also because it could push other Gulf states to follow suit.
Exports of fruit and vegetables from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia were worth $ 24 million a year, according to Mortada, a significant figure for the country in financial crisis.
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Beirut’s foreign reserves have run out, while the Lebanese pound has lost around 90% of its value since economic woes escalated at the end of 2019.
The situation was further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and a massive explosion of ammonium nitrate stored in the port of Beirut last August, killing 215 people, injuring another 7,500 and inflicting extensive damage to the capital.
The failure of Lebanese politicians to agree on the formation of a new government has also prevented the state from receiving foreign aid.
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