In the absence of Lebanese political progress, France pushes aid meeting

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PARIS (Reuters) – President Emmanuel Macron will seek to revive a French initiative on Lebanon when he hosts a conference on international aid on Wednesday, but with feuds from the country’s political class, hopes of a breakthrough appear slim .

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron visits the devastated site of the explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon, August 6, 2020. Thibault Camus / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

Four months after a massive explosion that killed more than 200 people and destroyed parts of the capital, Lebanon is no closer to forming a credible government to overhaul the bankrupt state despite French efforts to convince politicians to ” introduce partial reforms to deal with the emergency.

France, the United States and other donors who have repeatedly come to Lebanon’s aid since the 1975-90 civil war are losing patience with its politicians, many of whom were familiar faces in charge during the raid. of the country in the economic crisis.

“There will be a lot of difficult messages about the severity of the crisis and how Lebanon cannot prevent reform measures,” a diplomatic source said at the conference. “But it will be light on real commitments. “

Co-organized with the United Nations, several heads of state and government will attend the video conference.

Macron, a natural ally given that Lebanon is a former French colony, has invested a lot of political capital in an attempt to break the deadlock, vowing not to abandon the Lebanese.

He is due to visit French troops operating as part of a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon around December 20, diplomats said.

Having seen the deadlines for forming a government pass and political negotiations stalled, Macron chose to hold an aid conference to take stock of the situation.

However, officials have made it clear that Lebanon will not be bailed out without reforms and that any aid will only serve to help recovery. A similar conference in August raised nearly 253 million euros ($ 298 million) in pledges.

A fund managed by the World Bank will also be created in the coming weeks to channel humanitarian aid through United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations.

“When there is no Plan B, France always holds a conference,” said a Western diplomat, adding that the situation in Lebanon was unlikely to change until a new US administration was firmly in place. square.

Reporting by John Irish; Edited by Cynthia Osterman

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