In a television interview on Monday, Wehbe appeared to blame the Gulf countries for the rise of the armed group ISIL (ISIS) in the Levant region.
“These countries of love, friendship and brotherhood, they brought us the Islamic State,” he told Alhurra, without naming the countries.
Wehbe made the comment during a verbal duel with a Saudi guest on the show, who accused Lebanese President Michel Aoun of “ceding” his country to the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, backed by Riyadh rival Tehran. .
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry strongly condemned Wehbe’s “insulting” remarks, saying they were “inconsistent with the simplest diplomatic standards.”
The ministry “summoned the Lebanese ambassador to express the rejection and denunciation of the kingdom” of his remarks, said the statement released by the official Saudi press agency.
The ambassador received an official “letter of protest,” the statement added.
The UAE Foreign Ministry also summoned the Lebanese ambassador to the country and handed him an official protest note.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has strongly denounced the derogatory and racist statements made by the acting Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charbel Wehbe, against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other states of the GCC (Council of Gulf Cooperation), ”the United Arab Emirates’ official news agency (WAM) reported on Tuesday.
Wehbe apologized on Tuesday, saying he did not want to offend “brother Arab countries”.
In a separate statement, Nayef al-Hajraf, secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), called for an official apology from Wehbe to the Gulf states for his “unacceptable” remarks.
Faced with a crippling economic crisis, the Lebanese government has also acted quickly to distance itself from comments that angered Riyadh, once one of Beirut’s main backers.
Aoun said the comments were Wehbe’s “personal opinion” and did not reflect the state’s position, as he praised “brotherly” ties with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
Outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he had asked Wehbe for an explanation, adding that his country was keen to maintain the “best relationship” with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
Saad Hariri, the prime minister designate who owes much of his family fortune to Saudi support, also criticized Wehbe, saying his remarks were “not up to diplomatic standards.”
Saudi Arabia last month announced it was suspending imports of fruits and vegetables from Lebanon, saying the shipments were used for drug trafficking and accusing Beirut of inaction.
This decision was a blow to Lebanon, which is facing its worst economic crisis since the civil war of 1975-1990.