Lebanese politicians blocking government formation to be banned from France

Foreign minister did not provide any names but said Paris may implement more punitive measures

French European and Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wearing a face mask leaves after attending the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on November 10, 2020. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)
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France will ban from its territory those blocking the formation of a Lebanese government, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday.

It was the first punitive move by Paris against politicians it blames for the long deadlock after months of warnings.

“We have begun applying restrictive measures on a national level in terms of access to French territory for figures involved in the current political blockage or in corruption,” Mr Le Drian said on a visit to Malta.

He did not identify which politicians were responsible for blocking the formation of a cabinet and would be banned from France.

Mr Le Drian had previously warned that those preventing a government from being formed would face consequences.

President Emmanuel Macron in March said France would “change its approach” to Lebanon.

Mr Macron launched an initiative last September to save Lebanon from its economic crisis after the deadly Beirut port blast.

Lebanese politicians failed to form a government and implement a reform agenda, sinking his recovery plan.

Reforms are a prerequisite for Lebanon to secure much-needed debt relief and funds from international lenders after a severe crisis.

Mr Le Drian said more punitive measures may lie ahead for Lebanese politicians.

“We reserve the right to adopt supplementary measures against those obstructing a way out of crisis and we will do so in co-ordination with our international partners,” he said.

While Mr Le Drian has not named blacklisted politicians, prime minister-designate Saad Hariri has blamed allies of the Iran-backed Hezbollah for blocking his bid to form a government.

Mr Hariri was appointed to form a new cabinet last October, after the last government resigned following the August port explosion that killed more than 200 people and ruined much of Beirut.

He has accused President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, who leads the Hezbollah-allied Christian Free Patriotic Movement, of seeking a enough ministerial portfolios in the coming government to grant the party the power of veto.

Mr Aoun and Mr Bassil deny the accusations.

The US slapped sanctions on Mr Bassil for corruption last year, who was on an official visit to Moscow when Mr Le Drian made the announcement.

It is unclear whether he is one of those to be blacklisted by France.

A spokesman for the Lebanese presidency denied that Mr Aoun was blacklisted or that Mr Bassil was a target.

“I doubt the head of the biggest parliamentary bloc will be impacted by this decision,” he said of Mr Bassil.

The French embassy declined to comment on the issue.