During a one-day visit to Beirut Thursday France’s foreign minister delivered a harsh message to Lebanese leaders, that Paris was fed up with the country’s political officials that has failed to form a new government necessary to stop economic collapse.
Jean-Yves Le Drian met President Michel Aoun for around 45 minutes at Baabda Palace before heading to Beirut where he met Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at his residence in Ain al-Tineh for 30 minutes. The French minister did give any comments to reporters after meeting Aoun or Berri.
A presidential statement said Aoun stressed to the French foreign minister that forming a new government was his top priority. “[Aoun] said that he would continue to put efforts to reach practical results despite internal and external hurdles and the lack of commitment from those concerned to following constitutional norms and set methodology in forming governments,” the statement said.
Aoun also explained to Le Drian his constitutional responsibility to preserve the political and sectarian balance during the government formation process, the statement said. The president reiterated his pledge to implement reforms starting with forensic auditing of Central Bank accounts and asked France and Europe to help Lebanon retrieve the billions of dollars in funds that had been smuggled outside the country.
Two diplomats said Le Drian wanted to send a clear message that Paris supports the Lebanese people, but that it had had enough of the political class that had failed to meet its commitments.
“He came to Beirut to give Lebanese officials a strongly worded message, to tell them ‘Lebanon is sinking and you are the ones sinking it even more … And if you don’t help yourselves, nobody can help you,'” a senior Lebanese political source told Reuters.
Le Drian, in tweets Wednesday night, said his visit to Lebanon was aimed at asserting France’s support for the Lebanese, who are reeling under the worst economic and financial crisis in decades.
“I will be in Lebanon tomorrow with a strongly worded message to politicians and a message expressing our full solidarity with the Lebanese,” Le Drian wrote.
“We will deal firmly with those obstructing the government formation. We have taken national measures. This is just the beginning. My visit also confirms France’s solidarity in the field of teaching, medicine and antiquities and its support for the Lebanese who are exerting their utmost efforts for the sake of their country,” he added.