BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Lebanon Ali Asiri said that his country has put in place a contingency plan for the evacuation of its nationals in Lebanon should the need for sudden departure arise, in comments published by a Saudi newspaper Wednesday.
"The security plan took into account all [eventualities], in that the means of travel vary [and include] facilitating departure by air and sea," Asiri told Saudi newspaper Okaz.
The Saudi envoy emphasized that the plan constitutes a qualitative improvement over the situation in 2008, when traveling overland to Damascus was the only option available to Saudi nationals who wished to leave Lebanon due to clashes in Beirut.
Following a meeting with President Michel Sleiman Tuesday, Asiri said that "there is no doubt that the situation at present is good." He emphasized that his country is not calling on its citizens to refrain from traveling to Lebanon or advising those already in Lebanon to leave, but merely taking precautions.
Also Tuesday, Saudi's King Abdullah sent a letter to Sleiman expressing his alarm at the recent security incidents in Lebanon, which the king described as "target[ing] a religious sect considered an important segment of Lebanon's social community," in a likely reference to the shooting of Sunni Sheikh Ahmad Abdul-Wahed and his companion at a Lebanese Army checkpoint Sunday.
King Abdullah went on to urge Sleiman to work toward resolving Lebanon's internal conflicts through his initiative to resuscitate the currently moribund National Dialogue.
The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait have advised their citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon and for those in the country to depart given the tense security situation.
Their travel advisories come in the wake of last week’s clashes in the north of the country that left 11 dead and dozens wounded.
Saudi Arabia has not issued a travel advisory to its citizens.