France FM dismayed at Lebanon failure to form cabinet
France’s Foreign Minister said on Thursday that the failure to form a new Lebanese government was a "terrible incident" and criticised the country's entire political class following the resignation of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.
Speaking to reporters on the heels of high-level meetings of the United Nations Security Council held under the Presidency of France, Jean-Yves Le Drian said: "My understanding is that acting Prime Minister by interim Hariri ... had proposed a government to President Aoun ... who rejected it. ...it is only logical that the prime minister draws his conclusions."
"It is yet another terrible incident... There is a total inability of the Lebanese leaders to find a solution to the crisis that they have created," Le Drian added.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described Hariri’s resignation as “one of the more dramatic episodes in the inability of Lebanese officials to find a way out of the crisis,” saying they must form a government to pull the country out of this “cynical self-destruction”— L'Orient Today (@lorienttoday) July 15, 2021
Hariri abandoned his effort to form a new government following a meeting with President Michel Aoun in the Baabda presidential palace on Wednesday to discuss his proposal of a 24-member cabinet. On the day after the meeting, Hariri announced his resignation, concluding his statement by saying "God help the country."
Hariri's resignation signals further unknowns for Lebanon's political future. The country has gone without a government for nearly a year and is in the throes of an economic death spiral.
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.
On Monday, the European Union said it wanted to agree by the end of July to a legal framework for sanctions targeting Lebanese leaders, in an attempt to ramp up pressure on Lebanon’s squabbling politicians.
"Lebanon has been in self-destruct mode for several months," Le Drian, who has been leading the initiative, told reporters in Brussels. "Now there is a major emergency situation for a population that is in distress."
The United States said Thursday's resignation of Saad Hariri as Lebanon's prime minister-designate was disappointing.
"It is critical that a government committed and able to implement priority reforms be formed now," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after Hariri abandoned his efforts to form a government nine months after accepting the challenge.
Last month, top diplomats of the United States, France and Saudi Arabia jointly pushed for Lebanon's squabbling leaders to come together to address the country's mounting crises.
The three discussed "the need for Lebanon's political leaders to show real leadership by implementing overdue reforms to stabilise the economy and provide the Lebanese people with much-needed relief," Blinken wrote on Twitter.
The US, Saudi Arabia and France -- the former colonial power -- are key players in Lebanon, having worked together on the 1989 Taif accord that ended a bloody civil war and established a complicated agreement to split power among the country's communities.
Lebanon has been without a functioning government since a massive blast in Beirut in August 2020 killed more than 200 people and ravaged swathes of the Mediterranean city.