Macron to Return to Lebanon in December

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French President Emmanuel Macron answers reporters after his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun at Beirut International airport, Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. French President Emmanuel Macron returned to Lebanon on Monday, a country in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, for a two-day visit and a schedule packed with political events and talks aimed at charting a way out for the country. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool via AP)

French president Emmanuel Macron will return to Lebanon in December for his third visit to the crisis-hit country since a devastating August explosion in Beirut, the French presidency told French news agency AFP on Tuesday.

Macron, who landed in the Lebanese capital on Monday for a two-day trip, has taken center stage in an international push for long-overdue reforms.

This was his second visit since the August 4 explosion at Beirut’s port killed 190 people, wounded at least 6,500 and laid to waste swathes of the capital.

On Tuesday, Macron said he was ready to organize an international aid conference for Lebanon in October which, if it happens, would be the second such effort to be led by Paris since the August 4 blast.

Speaking to French news outlet Brut, Macron said he would “follow up” on progress made by Lebanese leaders towards enacting reform “in October and then in December.”

“I will personally commit myself to it,” he added, vowing to block aid money donors have pledged to Lebanon if changes are not made.

Beyond a planned aid conference in October, “I will also come back in December,” he said, which his office later confirmed to AFP.

The Beirut explosion compounded Lebanon’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, with a U.N. agency warning on Sunday that more than half of the population risks a food crisis by the end of the year.

The blast caused up to $4.6 billion worth of damage and a blow to economic activity of up to $3.5 billion, according to a World Bank assessment.

On August 9, international donors pledged 252.7 million euros (around $300 million) in emergency aid during a video conference jointly organized by France and the United Nations.

But donors vowed that aid would bypass political leaders, whose corruption and ineptitude is widely blamed for Lebanon’s economic crisis as well as the port blast.

Macron has said it was not his place to “approve” Monday’s designation of Mustafa Adib as prime minister.

But the little-known 48-year-old diplomat “has to be given all the tools to succeed… so he can implement reforms” long demanded by the international community, Macron said on Tuesday.

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