French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday urged new Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati to undertake “urgent” reforms to help his crisis-ravaged country as the two men met for the first time in Paris.
After repeating previous criticisms of the Lebanese political class, Macron told Mikati that it was “urgent to implement essential measures and reforms” and that Lebanon “could count on” the support of former colonial power France.
Reforms should include addressing energy and other infrastructure problems, improving public finances, reducing corruption and stabilizing the banking system, he said.
Mikati said he had come to the French capital to assure Macron that he and his new government, approved by the Lebanese parliament on Monday, were committed to reform.
“I expressed my determination to implement … the necessary reforms as soon as possible to restore confidence, give hope and reduce the suffering of the Lebanese population,” he said.
He also promised to respect the country’s political calendar and hold general elections next year.
Macron urges new Lebanese prime minister to undertake ‘urgent’ reforms
The billionaire’s nomination has ended 13 months of political stalemate since an explosion in August 2020 that killed at least 214 people and devastated areas of the capital, Beirut.
An economic collapse since then has depleted the central bank’s reserves, devalued the currency by more than 90 percent and plunged three out of four citizens below the poverty line, while those who can are emigrating by the thousands.
France has led the international response to the tragedy, organizing three international conferences dedicated to Lebanon and delivering aid in exchange for promises of political reform and accountability.
Macron traveled to Lebanon two days after the explosion and returned for a second trip.
The 43-year-old French leader has repeatedly expressed his exasperation at the failure of Lebanese leaders to end the political crisis and address the economic emergency.
“It is no secret to anyone that the negotiations took too long as the living conditions of the Lebanese people worsened,” Macron said on Friday.
Speaking with Mikati on the steps of the Elysee Palace, he said that the Lebanese population had a “right to know the truth” about the August 2020 explosion in Beirut.
One of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, the explosion was caused by a large amount of highly explosive ammonium nitrate that had been for years in a port warehouse, a stone’s throw from residential districts.