France to host Lebanon aid event on anniversary of port disaster

France’s foreign ministry has said President Emmanuel Macron will host a new international conference on crisis-hit Lebanon next month, on the first anniversary of a devastating explosion at Beirut’s port that killed some 200 people and wrecked much of the Lebanese capital.

The announcement on Friday came a day after Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri gave up trying to form a government, striking a further blow to a long-running political impasse. Prime Minister Hassan Diab has been serving in a caretaker capacity since resigning in the wake of the port explosion on August 4, 2020, with fractious sectarian politicians unable to agree on a new government ever since.

The French foreign ministry said in a statement the event will be organised with the help of the United Nations “to respond to the needs of the Lebanese whose situation is deteriorating every day”.

Macron had hosted a first aid conference in the wake of the port explosion, rallying some 250 million euros in pledges ($295m). But France, the former colonial power, has repeatedly expressed exasperation over the failure of Lebanon’s leaders to end a political and economic crisis that dates back to well before the explosion.

The foreign ministry said Hariri’s failure to form a government “confirms the political deadlock which Lebanese leaders have deliberately continued for months, even as Lebanon sinks into an unprecedented economic and social crisis”.

It said there was now an “absolute urgency” to remove this “deliberate and unacceptable obstacle” and allow the formation of a government in Lebanon and the rapid appointment of a prime minister.

However, some believe the political vacuum is going to continue until next year’s parliamentary election, scheduled to be held in May, Khodr said.

Lebanon is run under a power-sharing agreement to fully represent its religious communities. Key political and security offices are allocated to different sects. The president is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim.

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