UAE lifts travel ban as Lebanon seeks backing for ailing economy

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has said he is hoping the UAE will inject cash into Lebanon’s central bank.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is seen as his advisor Nadim Al Mulla speaks with Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori, UAE''s economy minister, at the UAE-Lebanon Investment Forum in Abu Dhabi
Lebanese officials described Monday's talks as positive while Abu Dhabi stressed its support for Lebanon [Satish Kumar/Reuters]

The United Arab Emirates lifted a ban on its citizens visiting Lebanon on Monday as the Beirut government sought UAE help in steering the heavily indebted economy out of a deep crisis.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri, leading a delegation to Abu Dhabi seeking support, had told Reuters News Agency he was hoping the UAE would inject cash into its central bank.

Before the lifting of the travel ban was announced, Hariri said he was “optimistic” after visiting the UAE and meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.


He said the UAE would announce any support initiative that may come. “The atmosphere is good,” Hariri said on Twitter.

The UAE barred its citizens from travelling to Lebanon in 2016.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have both voiced frequent concern over the political situation in Lebanon, which is located next to war-torn Syria and is home to the heavily armed Hezbollah group backed by the two Gulf states’ main adversary, Iran.

Lebanon is now seeking a cash injection for its central bank and investments in food, infrastructure, oil and gas, and renewable energy.

Faced with one of the world’s highest debt burdens, low growth and crumbling infrastructure, Beirut has promised to implement long-delayed reforms. It is also seeking to reverse a sharp loss of confidence among foreign investors and depositors who are turning away from the Lebanese pound.

While no deal was formally announced, Lebanese officials portrayed Monday’s high-stakes talks as positive while Abu Dhabi stressed its support for Lebanon. In response, dollar bonds issued by heavily indebted Lebanon rose.


A Lebanese government source said Hariri would remain in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday for follow-up meetings.

Crown Prince Mohammed “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,” the state news agency WAM reported.

When asked earlier on Monday whether Lebanon would receive an injection of cash into its central bank from the UAE, Hariri said: “We are working on everything … Yes, we are hoping, we will work on it.”

The bank has been drawing down its foreign exchange reserves to repay the state’s maturing dollar-denominated debt, and said last week it was prepared to do more.

Central bank Governor Riad Salameh, also attending the conference, said it was continuing to provide dollars to local financial markets. He added that Lebanon has “numerous possibilities” as it looks for assistance, but it anticipates support from the UAE.

Source: Reuters