French President Emmanuel Macron was due to head northeast of Beirut on Tuesday to mark Lebanon’s centenary by planting a cedar tree, the emblem of the Middle East nation that is collapsing under the weight of a crippling economic crisis.
In his second trip to Lebanon in less than a month, Macron is expected to lean on Lebanon’s fractious leaders to carry out economic reforms that are vital to getting the country out of crisis and unlocking foreign aid.
With its economy in deep crisis, a swathe of Beirut in tatters following a huge explosion at the port on Aug. 4, and sectarian tensions rising, Lebanon is facing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-90 civil war.
The French air force display team is scheduled to perform a display over the country with Lebanon’s national colors.
Lebanon’s modern borders were proclaimed 100 years ago by France in an imperial carve-up with Britain after the First World War. Lebanon gained independence in 1943.
Center stage in international efforts to press Lebanese leaders to tackle corruption and take other steps to fix their country, Macron began his trip late on Monday by meeting Fairouz, one of the Arab world’s most famous singers.
He was greeted by dozens of protesters gathered outside, who held placards reading “No cabinet by, or with, the murderers” and “Don’t be on the wrong side of history!”