ABU DHABI (Dispatches) – The United Arab Emirates has lifted a ban on its citizens visiting Lebanon as the Beirut government sought UAE help in steering the heavily indebted economy out of deep crisis.
Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, leading a delegation to Abu Dhabi seeking support, had told Reuters 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 traveling 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 Syria that is fighting against foreign-backed terrorists.
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 vowed 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 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 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.