Lebanon crisis

France frustrated with Lebanon leaders, vows to ‘increase pressure’ on politicians

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France announced a new approach Monday towards Lebanon and dealing with its ruling elite that is seen as corrupt and continues to block the formation of a new government seven months after Saad Hariri was designated as prime minister.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Lebanon twice after the Beirut blast last August. During his second trip, he laid out a French-led initiative to help Lebanon form a new government and begin recovering from its unprecedented financial, economic and social crises.

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In January, he said he would visit the crisis-hit country for the third time. But a lack of progress and political bickering among the country’s leaders has seen no progress made.

“After seven months of blockage, the time has come to increase the pressure for this to happen,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

France’s top diplomat Jean Yves-Le Drian informed Lebanon’s top three leaders, including Hariri, the president and parliament speaker, of the new French approach.

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

“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,” it added.

France has been reportedly studying its first round of sanctions on Lebanese officials responsible for blocking the new government. It has discussed this with allies in the region and international partners.

Monday’s statement from Paris stressed that the deliberate obstructions to ending the crisis in Lebanon, “in particular on the part of certain actors of the Lebanese political system with unreasonable demands dating from another era, must cease immediately.”

The United States has already imposed sanctions on several Lebanese officials for their alleged participation in acts of corruption and for their close ties to Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic movement, talks during an interview with Reuters in Lebanon. (File Photo: Reuters)
Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic movement, talks during an interview with Reuters in Lebanon. (File Photo: Reuters)

But the failure to muster support from Europe to levy sanctions on the ruling elite in Lebanon has not had the desired effect of forcing a change of behavior.

The State Department has not yet responded to a request for comment on France’s latest position on Lebanon.

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