French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived in Lebanon for his second visit since a massive explosion in the capital’s port earlier this month rocked the country and renewed persistent calls for political change.
His arrival in Beirut on Monday evening for a two-day visit came hours after Lebanese leaders appointed diplomat Mustapha Adib as the new prime minister-designate, instructing him to form a government following the resignation of the previous administration following the explosion of August 4.
The explosion that ravaged Beirut killed at least 190 people, injured thousands and caused extensive damage that left hundreds of thousands of people homeless.
Macron has been in direct contact with Lebanese officials since his first visit two days after the explosion, urging ossified politicians to reach a political deal to go through sweeping reforms and end decades of corruption and mismanagement, which have led the country to its deepest ever. economic crisis.
On Monday, the French president was greeted by his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Aoun, at Beirut airport. He is also due to visit legendary Lebanese singer Fairouz later Monday.
Macron addressed the Lebanese in an Arabic tweet saying he had returned as promised to “work together to create the conditions for reconstruction and stability.”
During his visit, Macron is expected to push politicians to adopt the reforms international donors have demanded before unlocking financial support.
Western countries see the resumption of stalled negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as power and financial sector reforms, as key conditions for providing large-scale financial assistance.
Senior Lebanese officials said Macron’s mediation was essential to reaching agreement on a new prime minister in the 48 hours before a deadlock was broken and consensus emerged on the former Adib. ambassador to Germany.
“The opportunity for our country is small and the mission that I have accepted is based on the fact that all political forces recognize it,” said Adib, who got the support of almost Lebanese. all main parties to the consultations organized by Aoun.
He called for the formation of a government of competent specialists in record time, an immediate start of reforms and an agreement with the IMF. In the past, forming governments often took months.
The World Bank estimated on Monday that the explosion caused between $ 3.2 billion and $ 4.6 billion in physical damage, mainly to the transport sector, housing and cultural sites, and resulted in an additional loss of 2.9 to $ 3.2 billion on economic output.
The organization estimated Lebanon’s immediate needs until the end of 2020 at $ 605 million to $ 760 million, including for cash assistance, housing and business support.
Like his predecessor Hassan Diab, who was appointed by a narrower margin by the country’s establishment following unprecedented anti-government protests that toppled a government last year, Adib, 48, is little known to the public.
Analysts said Diab was unable to push reforms forward due to the high-level political interference that is common in Lebanon, a country where important decisions are traditionally made between the handful of ruling sect leaders rather than governments. .
“We know there are political forces behind these governments that don’t necessarily align with the governments they appoint, and that makes it difficult to have an agenda and solutions to these complex issues,” said Mike. Azar, a senior financial adviser, at Al Jazeera.
He noted that Diab’s government had faltered because it didn’t have a clear plan on how to tackle the country’s challenges, and included a “hodgepodge of different people with different views”, which led to chronic dysfunction.
Macron is also in Beirut for the centenary of the creation of Greater Lebanon, declared by colonial France in 1920, after the First World War. Lebanon gained its independence from France in 1943.