BEIRUT — Lebanon’s caretaker government has “succeeded in achieving many of the goals it set,” caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Wednesday to the UN General Assembly in New York, but the “road is still long” for the country to overcome its unprecedented economic crisis.
Mikati also called on assistance from the international community.
Lebanon has pledged to move forward with all the necessary legislative and administrative reforms demanded by the IMF to unlock a $3 billion assistance package, the caretaker prime minister added.
However, an IMF delegation that visited Lebanon this week said in a statement Wednesday that the Lebanese government’s progress in making those reforms remains “very slow.”
The IMF statement also noted the considerable delay in adopting the 2022 budget — which still has not been passed by Parliament — and called on Lebanese leaders to focus on developing a 2023 budget that is “credible” and based on “realistic” macroeconomic projections.
So far, only the requested reform for a new banking secrecy law has passed Lebanon’s Parliament. However, the IMF afterward requested multiple changes to the text before it becomes law.
Call for an assistance conference
At the UN meeting, Mikati called on the “friends” of Lebanon in the Arab world and elsewhere to assist the country. Lebanon’s current economic crisis is among the worst in the world since the mid-19th century, according to the World Bank.
He said he also hoped to organize a new international conference to gather funds that would help the country overcome the “challenges” it currently faces.
Regarding recent developments in the exploitation of Lebanon’s offshore energy resources, Mikati said he was “very pleased to announce that the negotiations” on delineating the maritime border with Israel “will come to an end very soon” after a “concrete progress” in this file.
Mikati met on Tuesday with the US negotiator in charge of these negotiations, Amos Hochstein, who also spoke this week with Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab on Lebanon’s response to Israeli proposals on the maritime border issue.
Lebanon “is determined to protect its national interests and make its national resources bear fruit,” Mikati added in Wednesday’s address, stressing that Beirut “is aware of the importance of the promising energy market in the Eastern Mediterranean, for the flourishing of the economies of the countries in the region, but also to meet the energy needs of importing countries.”
Europe is currently suffering from an energy crisis, following the sanctions imposed on Russia, which was then a major supplier of gas.
Meetings with Raisi and Erdoğan
On the sidelines of the general assembly, Mikati met with several heads of state and other officials.
Notably, Mikati with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi Wednesday night, though did not release a statement about their discussion. Previously, on Tuesday, Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib met his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian with the latter reaffirming Iran’s intention to supply Lebanon with fuel.
Mikati also met with the Vice President of the World Bank for the Middle East and North Africa, Ferid Belhaj, who said that they “discussed the economic and social challenges facing the country and the need for reforms” to secure World Bank support.
In another meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, Bou Habib and the Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations, Ambassador Amal Mudallali, Mikati discussed Syrian refugees in Lebanon. He reportedly mentioned the content of the letter he sent earlier this month to the Secretary-General of the United Nations calling for a “new approach” by the international community to repatriating Syrian refugees.
Mikati had also noted in this speech that Lebanon is a small country that is hosting “a large number of Syrian refugees,” and insisted that “this is a burden Lebanon can no longer tolerate,” and demanded that a plan be put forward to ensure the “safe return of Syrian refugees.”
Finally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received Mikati at “Turkey House,” the headquarters of multiple Turkish diplomatic missions in New York, where Erdoğan reportedly assured his country’s support for Lebanon.
Turkey has previously sent aid to Lebanon, most recently in August, when Ankara delivered 90 tons of medical supplies, including ICU medications, to the Public Health Ministry.
Also on Wednesday, representatives of the United States, France and Saudi Arabia met on the sidelines of the General Assembly, issuing a joint statement urging Lebanon to implement reforms demanded by the IMF and to hold the presidential election "within the constitutional timeframe."
BEIRUT — Lebanon’s caretaker government has “succeeded in achieving many of the goals it set,” caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Wednesday to the UN General Assembly in New York, but the “road is still long” for the country to overcome its unprecedented economic crisis. Mikati also called on assistance from the international community. Lebanon has pledged to move forward...