Paris Meeting Urges ‘Credible Reforms, Reformist Govt.’ in Lebanon

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A Lebanon support meeting held Wednesday in Paris has urged the crisis-hit country to endorse a “bundle of sustainable, comprehensive and credible economic reforms.”

In a draft closing statement, the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG) also called on Lebanese authorities to “approve a credible state budget for 2020 within weeks from the formation of the new government.”

Speaking after the meeting, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said any international financial support for Lebanon hinges on the formation of what he called a “reformist government.”

“The only standard should be this government’s effectiveness in terms of the reforms awaited by the people. Only this approach will allow all the participants in this meeting and others to mobilize in order to offer Lebanon all the support it needs,” Le Drian said.

Speaking earlier in the day prior to the meeting, the minister said that Lebanese authorities must “take into account the call of the street.”

He urged Lebanese authorities to “form a government rapidly because any delay will aggravate the situation.”

The secretary general of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry Hani Chemaitelly, who represented Lebanon at the meeting along with other mid-level officials, meanwhile told LBCI television that the atmosphere at the meeting was positive and that the ISG “sent a clear message on being committed to helping and embracing Lebanon.”

The TV network for its part reported that Chemaitelly held bilateral talks in Paris with Le Drian, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker, director of the Middle East and North Africa department at the French foreign ministry, Christophe Farnaud, and his counterpart at the French foreign ministry.

The ISG was created in 2013 by then U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to help Lebanon deal with the fallout of the war in neighboring Syria. It gathers agencies of the U.N., the European Union, Arab League, United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, Italy and Britain.

Lebanon has been gripped by unprecedented cross-sectarian protests since October denouncing perceived government mismanagement and corruption.

Lebanon is also grappling with a free-falling economy, and an escalating liquidity crisis. The dollar exchange rate in the parallel market has shot up from the pegged rate of 1,507 pounds to the greenback to around 2,250.

Banks have meanwhile imposed restrictions on withdrawals and transfers.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri stepped down two weeks into the revolt, but a deeply divided political class has failed to reach agreement on a new head of government. Hariri remains caretaker premier.

SourceNaharnet

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