Seeking to break Lebanon’s deadlock, France confirmed that it is hosting a meeting on Monday over the country’s socio-economic situation.
French diplomat Pierre Duquesne expressed his concern over Lebanon’s “slow” reform ahead of an anticipated meeting in Paris this week to discuss Beirut’s political impasse, AFP reported on Friday.
“It’s really slow,” Pierre Duquesne, a French diplomat coordinating international support for Lebanon, told reporters in Beirut.
The concerns centred on crises-hit Lebanon’s inability to receive a much-needed bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as it grapples with its worst economic downfall in decades.
The IMF agreed in principle last year on a $3 billion aid package over a four-year period on the condition that Lebanon impliments reform. Some of the demands included the approval of the 2022 budget and the restructuring of the banking sector.
“There is no other solution than the IMF to provide capital, credibility and confidence… and to reduce inequality,” Duquesne said.
With the Lebanese currency losing more than 90% of its value to the US dollar, Lebanon’s central bank agreed to devalue its exchange rate for the first time in 25 years. Under the update, the new official rate is 15,000 pounds per US dollar.
Lebanon’s dire situation has worsened over the previous years, especially in light of the Covid-19 outbreak and the 2020 Beirut Port blast, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions to occur globally.
Beirut ended 2022 with a power vacuum and an absence of reform that further highlighted its pre-existing divide as well as layers of corruption revealed by watchdogs.
Seeking to break Lebanon’s deadlock, France confirmed that it is hosting a meeting on Monday on the country’s socio-economic situation. Diplomats from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Egypt will be among those at the table of discussions.
The meeting was confirmed by French foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre on Thursday following speculations over the discussions.
“This approach will be the subject of a follow-up meeting with the French, US, Saudi, Qatari and Egyptian administrations on Monday to continue coordinating with our partners and find ways to move forward,” Legendre said.
However, it remains unclear whether Lebanese diplomats will be in attendance, and the level of delegations attending the meeting is still unknown.
Previous Lebanese reports said the meeting follows “preliminary contact” over Beirut’s worsening situation.
The report suggested the meetings will likely result in a roadmap for Lebanese political parties, and will include regional states, including Iran, Egypt, the Gulf Cooperation Council and Russia.
Lebanon’s LBC, one of the outlets that first revealed the meeting’s details, reported that discussions will include “a concrete action plan for governance” along with “reforms that set specifications for the president, the prime minister, and the entire government.”
One of the potential conditions would be that the candidates must not have a history of political or financial corruption in their records.
Former President Michel Aoun’s six-year term ended in October last year, however the presidential vacancy has yet to be filled. Reports speculate that Lebanon’s army commander General Joseph Aoun would assume the role.
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the US, and France are among the key countries that have continued to discuss rescue plans for Lebanon as it grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades.
Despite billions of aid sent to the country, including those in response to the tragic Beirut explosion, Lebanon has yet to financially recover.
More recently, Qatar joined a tripartite consortium for oil and gas exploration in blocks 4 and 9 after the maritime dispute between Lebanon and Israel was resolved.
While Qatar has yet to disclose any mediation roles in the matter, several analysts have pointed to the possibility of Doha’s involvement in reaching an agreement.
Qatar’s role in Beirut goes back years, the most notable of which were efforts during the deadly violence in Lebanon in 2008. At the time, it succeeded in bringing various Lebanese sides to the Gulf state to talk at the negotiating table, resulting in the Doha Agreement.
However, remnants of the widespread division in Lebanon have continued as demands for the overthrow of the ruling elite grow.
Meanwhile, rights groups and Lebanese citizens across the country have pointed to the corrupt ruling elite as the main cause behind the nation’s crises.
A World Bank report released in July exposed how politicians in Lebanon were using the country’s resources to serve their own interests and accused officials of conducting a Ponzi scheme.
Last year, Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh was at the centre of a probe into money laundering, though he denied any wrongdoing.
Several European countries led their own investigations into Salameh’s activities, including France, Germany, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.