Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Verbal joust between the French President and the head of Hezbollah while Lebanon remains at an impasse

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Wednesday, September 30th 2020 à 18:25 | Read 306 times

Hassan Nasralah rejected Emmanuel Macron's accusations during a televised intervention (screenshot)
Hassan Nasralah rejected Emmanuel Macron's accusations during a televised intervention (screenshot)
LEBANON / FRANCE. Emmanuel Macron's violent diatribe, after Mustapha Adib's decision to renounce the formation of a mission government made up of technocrats, continues to cause a stir.

Sunday evening, September 27, 2020, the French president had violently criticized the Lebanese political parties, even speaking of "collective treason" and indicating having "shame" for their leaders. He accused them of not having allowed the president of the Council of Ministers appointed on 31 August 2020 to assemble a cabinet of "competent" and "independent" experts, as desired by Paris and despite their promises during his trip to Beirut in early September 2020. Emmanuel Macron pointed in particular to the hostile attitude of the Shiite Islamists of Hezbollah and their allies of Amal (led by the head of Parliament Nabih Berri). "You have a system of terror that has been set up and that Hezbollah has imposed," the French president said. While claiming that this party could not "at the same time be an army at war against Israel, a militia unleashed against civilians in Syria and a respectable party in Lebanon. It must not believe itself to be stronger than it is."

Hezbollah intends to appoint Shiite ministers to the government, including the finance minister. It refuses to allow decisions on the composition of the new cabinet to be taken by what it calls "the club of former prime ministers" - namely Saad Hariri, Tammam Salam, Fouad Siniora and Nagib Mikati - without taking into account the opinion of the parliamentary blocs representing the various faiths.

Reforms needed to unblock international aid

On Tuesday evening, 29 September 2020, during a televised interview, Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah, made a point of answering him in two tones. The first conciliatory: "We always welcome the French initiative and we are ready for dialogue and cooperation (...) We hope it will succeed".

The second, more aggressive: "We do not accept that you accuse us of treason (...) We reject and categorically condemn this condescending behaviour towards us and towards all the political forces in Lebanon".
Hassan Nasrallah added, "President Macron, who accused us of intimidation, is the one who practiced a policy of intimidating party leaders" to form a consensus government. And concluded with a "we saluted President Macron during his visit to Lebanon, but not on the basis that he is the prosecutor, the investigator, the judge (...), the leader and the governor of Lebanon!".

The implementation of reforms in the country, which necessarily involves a new ministerial cabinet, but also an agreement between the different parties to get them to vote, remains a precondition for the release of international aid promised since April 2018, which is essential for the very survival of Lebanon. The country has been in suspension of payments since March 2020. With a debt at the time of 166% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $92 billion (€80.37 billion), it is the third most indebted country in the world after Japan and Greece.

Reaffirming, on Monday 28 September 2020, his "attachment to the initiative of Emmanuel Macron", Lebanese President Michel Aoun must now engage in new consultations with parliamentarians to agree on the name of a new Prime Minister.

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