France increases international pressure on Lebanon

“The solution for ending Lebanon’s crisis requires the creation of a competent government that is ready to work seriously and for the common good on implementing reforms that everyone acknowledges,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
Tuesday 30/03/2021
French European and Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during a joint press conference in Paris, France March 11, 2021. (REUTERS)
French European and Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during a joint press conference in Paris, France March 11, 2021. (REUTERS)

PARIS – The French government said Monday that “the time has come” to increase international pressure on Lebanon’s deeply divided political class to form a viable government for the crisis-wracked nation.

“The solution for ending Lebanon’s crisis requires the creation of a competent government that is ready to work seriously and for the common good on implementing reforms that everyone acknowledges,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“After seven months of blockage, the time has come to increase the pressure for this to happen,” it said.

It added that Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had spoken with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun as well as parliament president Nabih Berri and prime minister-designate Saad Hariri after they again failed to break the political deadlock.

“He reminded them that all of Lebanon’s political parties bore all the responsibility for this impasse,” the ministry said.

Last week talks between Aoun and Hariri on the formation of a new Cabinet broke down.

Le Drian is also asking European counterparts to join the push for action.

Last year French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a road map to break the political stalemate in the former French protectorate. Macron has been pressing Lebanese politicians to form a Cabinet made up of non-partisan specialists that can work on urgent reforms to extract Lebanon from a financial crisis worsened by the Aug. 4 explosion that devastated Beirut.

Those efforts have led to nowhere as Lebanon’s politicians continue to bicker about the shape and size of a new Cabinet while the country is mired in the worst economic crisis in its modern history — a situation exacerbated by pandemic restrictions.

The Lebanese economy is in free-fall, with parliament approving Monday an emergency funding package simply to keep the lights on after one of the country’s largest power plants ran out of fuel.

More than half the population lives in poverty, according to the United Nations, and protests flared again this month by a population fed up with a ruling elite lambasted as inefficient and corrupt.

“In this context, the deliberate obstructions to ending the crisis, in particular on the part of certain actors of the Lebanese political system with unreasonable demands dating from another era, must cease immediately,” the French ministry said.

Berri warned on Monday Lebanon would sink like the Titanic if it could not form a government as he opened a session to approve emergency funds to literally keep the lights on for two more months.

“The whole country is in danger, the whole country is the Titanic,” Berri said. “It’s time we all woke up because in the end, if the ship sinks, there’ll be no one left.”