Europe must take action as Lebanon collapses, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said,
‘’Lebanon is falling apart. Economically speaking the crisis is gigantic, the financial situation is deteriorating. This is not the moment to continue quarrelling politically and we will continue putting pressure on the political parties to make their behaviour change,’’ declared EU’s foreign afairs chief Josep Borrell on Monday after a meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers.
During the meeting, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian briefed the Foreign Affairs Council about the situation in Lebanon where political parties continue to e gage in a big confrontation. The country’s financial crisis has intensified after Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri publicly repudiated President Michel Aoun, saying the latter wanted to dictate cabinet membership and grant veto powers on policy to his political allies.
Aoun is an ally of the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.
After the latest of more than a dozen meetings with the president to form a new cabinet, Hariri called Aoun’s demands “unacceptable”. Hariri’s televised announcement dashed hopes for an end to five months of political deadlock between the two and a reversal of the country’s financial meltdown.
Lebanon has been without a government since shortly after the August 4 explosion that destroyed the port of Beirut and devastated downtown areas of the capital, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands.
France has spearheaded international efforts to rescue Lebanon, a former French protectorate, by trying to use Paris’ historical influence to persuade squabbling politicians to adopt a reform roadmap and form a new government to unlock financial international aid.
“It’s up to the Lebanese authorities to take their destiny in hand knowing that the international community is looking with concern,” the French Foreign Minister said said. “There is still time to act today, but tomorrow will be too late,” he said on Monday. He said that Europe ‘’must take action’’ as Lebanon collapses.
Diplomatic sources said France was ready to discuss pressuring the Lebanese authorities and looking for possible sanctions, at EU or national level, on senior Lebanese officials.
‘’This is not the moment to continue quarrelling politically and we will continue putting pressure on the political parties to make their behaviour change. And if it does not change we will have to see what to do,’’ Josep Borrell told reporters after the EU Foreign Affairs Council.
He said that French Foreign Minister Le Drian ‘’has been asking us, the External Action Service, to present a new report, explaining what else can be done, apart from putting political pressure.’’ ‘’Everyday the situation in Lebanon is becoming worse. The country can fall apart and it is our responsibility to try to prevent it from happening,’’ Borrell added.
In an op-ed, Michel Touman, deputy editor-in-chief of Lebanese daily L’Orient Le Jour writes that the Lebanese institutional crisis ‘’plays into the hands of Hezbollah. Hezbollah, through its direct involvement in the regional strategy of the Iranian IRGC and in the various armed conflicts in the Middle East, has itself internationalized the Lebanese crisis.’’