CAIRO (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has summoned its ambassador in Germany home for consultations over comments allegedly made by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel during a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.
The Saudi ministry said the government would deliver a protest note to Germany's ambassador in Riyadh over what it said were "outrageous and unjustified" comments by Gabriel.
It did not single out the remarks it was referring to. The German foreign ministry quoted Gabriel on its website as telling his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil "Germany stands firmly by Lebanon's side". He reportedly added: "Another trouble spot is the last thing that people in the Middle East need now."
The controversy revolves around the unexpected resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri while on a visit to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4.
"Such remarks provoke the surprise and disapproval of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which considers them as aimless and based on false information that would not help bring about stability in the region," the Saudi ministry said.
The statement in English carried by state news agency SPA said Saudi Arabia believed Gabriel's comments: "would not represent the position of the friendly government of the Federal Republic of Germany, considered by the Kingdom as a reliable partner in the fight against terrorism and extremism."
"Accordingly, the Kingdom has decided to summon its ambassador to Germany for consultation and would hand over Germany's ambassador to the Kingdom a protest note refuting such outrageous and unjustified statements," the ministry said, according to SPA.
Hariri's abrupt resignation and continued stay in Saudi Arabia had raised concern over Lebanon's stability.
Hariri has since left Saudi Arabia with his family and arrived in Paris on Saturday morning ahead of talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, in what was seen as a possible way out of the crisis.
In a message posted on his Twitter account before his flight, Hariri said: "To say I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie. I am on the way to the airport Mr. Sigmar Gabriel."
(Reporting by Mohamed El-Sherif, writing by Sami Aboudi, Editing by Sandra Maler; Editing by Hugh Lawson)