Sat, 01 Apr 2023

France on Monday hosts an international meeting as part of attempts to end the political and social deadlock in Lebanon, against a background of the worst-ever financial crisis in the Mediterranean country.

French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Lebanon to "change its leadership" following months of deadlock that have impeded reforms.

Lebanon is being run by a caretaker government and is without a president as lawmakers have repeatedly failed to elect a successor to Michel Aoun, whose mandate expired at the end of October.

The political impasse has hampered efforts to lift the Mediterranean country out of its worst-ever financial crisis. According to the International Monetary Fund, billions of dollars in foreign aid will become available only after a stable administration has been established.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than 95 percent of its value to the dollar since 2019, and more than 80 percent of the population of seven million lives in poverty, according to the United Nations.

The French-based mulitnational company TotalEnergies has invested massively in the exploitation of gas reserves off the Lebanese coast.

Months of background preparation

The Paris gathering is to be attended by representatives from France, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt. It is not clear if any Lebanese representatives have been invited.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna has expressed serious concern about Lebanon's political deadlock. Colonna visitied Saudi Arabia last Thursday.

France and regional partners have been discussing means "to encourage the Lebanese political class to assume its responsibilities and foster a way out of the crisis", according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry in Paris.

"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."

Beirut needs to show judicial responsibility

UN rights experts have meanwhile voiced concern at the slow pace of an investigation into the killing of Lebanese intellectual Lokman Slim two years ago, demanding that Beirut ensure accountability.

"It is incumbent on the Lebanese authorities to fully investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime," the four independent United Nations experts said.

"Failing to carry out a prompt and effective investigation may in itself constitute a violation of the right to life."

A secular activist from a Shiite family, 58-year-old Slim was found dead in his car on 4 February 2021, a day after his family reported him missing.

His bullet-riddled body was found in southern Lebanon, a stronghold of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement of which Lokman Slim was heavily critical.

In their statement, the UN special rapporteurs voiced outrage that no one responsible for the assassination had even been identified.

Originally published on RFI

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