Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar urged their citizens to leave Lebanon after kidnapping threats were made against them following the abduction of a Lebanese man in Syria.
The Saudi ambassador in Beirut and U.A.E. Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Juma Mubarak Al Jenaibi said their country’s nationals should leave immediately, as did Qatar. The call came after the Meqdad clan, an extended family that belongs mostly to Lebanon’s Muslim Shiite community, kidnapped 20 Syrians in retaliation for the abduction of one of its members in Syria, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation reported, citing a family spokesman. The clan also seized a Turkish national in Lebanon and the spokesman, who wasn’t named, threatened to capture Saudis and Qataris, LBC said.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have supported rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, where fighting has taken on an increasingly sectarian character. Many rebels are Sunni Muslims, while the government is dominated by members of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
“The alert was issued after the U.A.E. Embassy in Beirut received information about U.A.E. nationals being targeted and because of the difficult and sensitive circumstances in Lebanon,” Al Jenaibi said, according to U.A.E. state-run news agency WAM.
Brent oil for September settlement rose after the Saudi announcement to a three-month intraday high of $116.72 a barrel. Futures gained $2.22, or 1.9 percent, to end the session at $116.25 a barrel in New York.
“This news event is moving the oil market,” said Rich Ilczyszyn, chief market strategist and founder of Iitrader.com in Chicago. “It’s increasing geopolitical risk and raising worries about supplies.”
The Middle East was responsible for 33 percent of global oil production last year and held 79 percent of proven reserves, according to BP Plc (BP/)’s Statistical Review of World Energy, released in June. Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest oil producer, pumping 11.2 million barrels a day in 2011, according to the BP review.
“There are no political motivations behind this procedure,” Ali Asiri, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, told Arabiya. “The developments and declared threats were the reasons behind calling on our citizens to leave Lebanon.”
People protesting the kidnappings cut access to Beirut international airport by burning tires, Al Jadeed television reported. Security was reinforced at the Saudi, Turkish and Qatari embassies, according to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp.
Lebanon’s official news agency reported that an Air France (AF) flight with 174 passengers on board changed its itinerary and landed in Amman, the Jordanian capital, instead of Beirut because of the demonstrations on the airport road.
Lebanon is a popular destination for Gulf residents in the summer. Some 191 people were killed in fighting in Syria today, Arabiya television reported, citing the activist Local Coordination Committees.