In Lebanon, Sébastien Lecornu wakes up with French soldiers

By ending the year 2022 in Lebanon, the French Minister for the Armed Forces wanted to symbolically show Paris’ support for Beirut. Sébastien Lecornu also wanted to honor the French soldiers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (FINUL) by starting his visit to the country on Saturday with a New Year with them.

“It was important for me to spend New Year’s Eve on December 31 with the troops who are away from their families,” he said from Deir Kifa in the south. According to the French embassy in Beirut, he will then meet his Lebanese counterpart Maurice Sleem, the speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and the commander-in-chief of the Lebanese army.

Paris wants “respect for constitutional deadlines”

On Saturday, Sébastien Lecornu spoke with UNIFIL’s head of mission, General Aroldo Lázaro Sáenz, two weeks after the murder of an Irish soldier near the village of Al-Aqbiya (south) which he described as “absolutely terrible ambush”. He visited Ras Naqoura, the blue line of ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel, agreed after the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, but which is the subject of differences.

The French forces, present in Lebanon since 1978, are among the main contributors to UNIFIL, with 700 men. According to the embassy, ​​“this trip illustrates (…) France’s attachment to Lebanon’s recovery, which involves respecting constitutional deadlines in order to adopt the necessary reforms”.

Very serious economic crisis

Since the gigantic explosion on August 4, 2020 at the port of Beirut, where Sébastien Lecornu will visit, France has been trying in vain to encourage the political class to initiate reforms while for two months, political divisions have prevented the election of a President. Lebanon is going through an economic crisis described by the World Bank as the worst in the world since modern times: the local currency has lost around 95% of its value, while more than 80% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the UN.

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