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Lebanon – International Support Group for Lebanon – Speech by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (11 Dec. 2019)

Special Coordinator, dear friend, Secretary-General, ambassadors, directors, dear friends,

I attach the utmost importance to today’s meeting in Paris of the International Support Group for Lebanon, under the joint presidency of the United Nations and France. I want to thank the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Mr Ján Kubiš, for being here. Your presence and your active efforts testify to the seriousness of the situation in Lebanon, the importance of the country’s stability, both for the Lebanese people and for the region, and the need to coordinate the international community’s messages and action in these circumstances.

It’s because there’s an urgent need to take action that we decided to convene the International Support Group for Lebanon at very short notice. Lebanon is currently in a difficult situation that demands a swift and determined reaction by the Lebanese authorities first of all, a reaction the international community will have to support.

The Lebanese people have been mobilized for several weeks to demand reforms. They must be heard. The country’s economic situation requires it.

The Lebanese financial sector is largely paralysed, with serious consequences for all Lebanese people. Consequences particularly for the country’s businesses, many of which have begun reducing their activities and their employees’ salaries.

In this deeply worrying economic context, the protest movement under way is expressing profound aspirations, peacefully and, I believe, with great maturity. The movement, which has lasted nearly two months, has clear and strong demands: the fight against corruption, more transparency, genuine governance and reforms that put the Lebanese economy on the path to growth. It’s up to the Lebanese authorities to respond to the aspirations expressed by the Lebanese people, and to do so as a matter of urgency.

Lebanon, especially today, needs fully functioning institutions. It’s urgent for Lebanon to establish an effective and credible government capable of embarking on the necessary reforms.

The institutional vacuum that has existed since the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on 29 October is worrying. In this troubling context, I want to pay tribute to the work of the Lebanese Armed Forces, which have been in the front line for nearly two months, in maintaining Lebanon’s stability, Lebanese people’s security and their right to demonstrate peacefully. Lebanon’s stability and its dissociation from regional crises and tensions remain essential for the country and the region.

It is in this difficult context that we are meeting today. The International Support Group for Lebanon brings together all the most important political and economic players for Lebanon, those most committed to preserving its stability, those most committed to the functioning of its institutions and those most committed to its prosperity.

Today, the International Support Group has collectively drawn up a clear road map which plots the path which will allow Lebanon to respond to its main challenges, especially on the economic front. This map defines the main measures the Lebanese authorities would have to take: the Lebanese government committed to most of these measures at the CEDRE conference in Paris back in April 2018. I was there! They are now essential and absolutely crucial in order for the international community to mobilize in support of Lebanon. I really welcome the fact that your work has enabled a joint communiqué to be approved which signals our agreement about this road map.

Central to this road map, there are obviously the expectations the Lebanese have expressed since 17 October 2019: transparency; better governance; sustainability too, at a moment when Lebanon’s economy needs to be rebuilt on new, more robust and resilient foundations; finally, solidarity, at a time when Lebanon needs a more inclusive, fairer economy.

From that point of view, the presence among us – and for the first time as part of the International Support Group’s work – of representatives from regional and international financial institutions is of paramount importance. Their expertise and participation are essential to ensuring that Lebanon’s economic and financial situation recovers.

On the basis of our agreed road map, the commitment of the Lebanese authorities is now crucial. It must be accompanied by the formation of a competent government which is swiftly able to implement all the reforms the country’s situation demands. It is obviously not for the international community to decide the composition of the government, but Lebanon’s leaders; they must put their own interests to one side and keep in mind the general interest of all Lebanese people. The only criterion must be that the government is effective in delivering the reforms the people expect.

Ladies and gentlemen, only this path will allow all the participants around this table, and beyond, to mobilize in order to lend Lebanon the support it needs and which we’re ready to mobilize for that country we hold so dear.

Thank you for listening and for being here./.