France’s top diplomat began a visit to Lebanon Thursday with a message of “great firmness” to its leaders.
Upon his arrival in Beirut, Jean-Yves Le Drian said French travel restrictions on Lebanese officials suspected of corruption or hindering the formation of a new Cabinet were “just the start.”
Lebanon is experiencing the worst economic and financial crisis of its modern history. The local currency has lost 85% of its value against the dollar in recent months while banks imposed informal controls on transfers and withdrawals. France has been trying to force change on Lebanon’s ruling class, whose corruption and mismanagement has driven the tiny country into the ground and pushed it to the verge of bankruptcy.
Over the year, the government of PM Hassan Diab stepped down in the wake of the explosion, and former premier Saad Hariri was tasked with forming a new one.
Hariri has not been able to form a Cabinet amid deep disagreements between him and President Michel Aoun, who has no legal recourse to fire him. Le Drian sent the message of our complete solidarity to the Lebanese people.
“Firmness in the face of those hindering the formation of a government: we have taken national action, and this is just the start,” foreign minister Le Drian wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a road map to break the political stalemate in the former French protectorate. Macron, who has previously said he is “ashamed” of Lebanese politicians, has been pressing for a Cabinet made up of non-partisan specialists who can work on urgent reforms to extract Lebanon from its multiple crises.
Those efforts have led nowhere as Lebanese top officials continue to bicker about the shape and size of a new Cabinet, and who chooses which ministers.