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Le Drian Visit

Paris threatens to toughen sanctions on Lebanese leaders if cabinet deadlock persists

Paris threatens to toughen sanctions on Lebanese leaders if cabinet deadlock persists

During a two-day visit, the French foreign minister threatened harsher sanctions in case Lebanon's government formation deadlock persists. (Credit: Ludovic Marin/Pool via Reuters)

BEIRUT — French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian concluded a quick yet firm visit to Lebanon on Friday with a clear warning to Lebanese leaders: Form a government or face further sanctions.

“The political actors [in Lebanon] have not taken responsibility or gotten to work seriously to sort out the country,” he told reporters during a press briefing at the French Embassy’s Pine Residence on Friday morning.

“If they don’t act now, they will have to face the consequences of their failure.”

Le Drian’s departing words wrapped up a two-day visit to Lebanon, during which he met with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and a collection of civil society groups and political parties, including Beirut Madinati (“Beirut My City”) and the Kataeb Party.

Last week, the foreign minister announced that Paris had begun placing entry restrictions on Lebanese officials who are involved in corruption or blocking the government formation, without going into detail about whom the measures are targeting.

Almost 10 months have passed since Lebanon had an empowered Cabinet, and a deadlock between Aoun and Hariri over the new government’s makeup shows no sign of letting up. The pair last met face to face at the end of March and have repeatedly traded insults in the weeks since.

Hariri has said Aoun is maneuvering to gain enough cabinet seats for him and his allies to secure veto power in the government.

In a thinly veiled jab at Hariri during his meeting with Le Drian on Thursday, Aoun claimed that he was doing his best to form a cabinet despite the failure of “those concerned” to follow the principles of the formation process.

Le Drian said the sanctions announced last week are only “the beginning of the road” and that if the deadlock continues, officials will face “tougher and expanded” penalties, potentially across the European Union.

France has been the key international player in Lebanese affairs since President Emmanuel Macron visited Lebanon twice in the wake of the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion and launched what has come to be known as the French initiative. Paris is pressuring Lebanon’s leaders to form a government capable of implementing key reforms as a precondition to foreign financial aid and other assistance.

During his press briefing, the foreign minister also stressed the importance of the new government in preparing to hold new parliamentary, presidential and municipal elections in 2022, saying that “respect for the democratic electoral calendar is essential.”

By-elections for the seats of 10 MPs — eight of whom resigned after the port blast, while the two others died from COVID-19 in February — have yet to be held.


BEIRUT — French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian concluded a quick yet firm visit to Lebanon on Friday with a clear warning to Lebanese leaders: Form a government or face further sanctions.“The political actors [in Lebanon] have not taken responsibility or gotten to work seriously to sort out the country,” he told reporters during a press briefing at the French Embassy’s Pine...