France’s Emmanuel Macron offers Lebanon help and anti-corruption commitment

He said aid was not blank cheque and Lebanese politicians had to commit to reform

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French President Emmanuel Macron has laid out priorities for Lebanon as it recovers from the Beirut port blast and promised hundreds of millions of euros in aid if leaders could introduce reforms.

Mr Macron said the key areas where France would help Lebanon to recover from the August 4 blast, which killed 190 people, were health, food, education and housing.

He said the aid was not a blank cheque and that Lebanese politicians had to agree to reform and commit to transparency.

In Beirut on Tuesday night. Mr Macron said if promises were not met by the end of October, consequences could include sanctions co-ordinated with the EU.

“We will not turn our eyes away from supporting the Lebanese people,” he said.

Mr Macron said France had sent 700 soldiers and 140 technical experts to the blast site and now they were looking at rebuilding.

“We have four priorities," Mr Macron said. "Our support to primary health centres will be reinforced, as well as our support to Rafik Hariri Hospital."

He said France would give €700 million (Dh3.06 billion/$833.9m) to Hariri Hospital, which looks after Covid-19 patients.

“In parallel, help will be distributed to private hospitals as well. After health there is food, ” Mr Macron said.

“The third priority is education. Children must absolutely go back to school and students go back to university. The future of the country is at stake.

epa08640173 French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference at the Pine Residence, the official residence of the French ambassador to Lebanon, in Beirut, Lebanon, 01 September 2020.  EPA/GONZALO FUENTES / POOL  MAXPPP OUT
French President Emmanuel Macron speaking at the official residence of the French ambassador to Lebanon, in Beirut. EPA

“A lot of children I met today told me they will not go back to school. I think we cannot accept this as a fatality. We will mobilise €700m for school reconstruction.

“For housing we must not give up. The 300,000 people who lost their houses live with close friends and family.

“But their houses must be rebuilt transparently and with proper security. I am also thinking of the port. This is part of the essential mission we looked at.”

Mr Macron said it was crucial that any investigations took place with international experts.

He said Lebanon’s political parties promised a new government would be formed in 15 days.

Mr Macron said he would ensure that the international community supported the country if reforms were in place.

He was in Lebanon on Tuesday hoping to spur politicians into reforming their failing government with the prospect of international funding to rescue the economy.

Talking of France's historic ties with Lebanon, Mr Macron said Paris would host another international conference in October to rally support for Lebanon, two years after a similar conference had little impact.

It was his second trip in a month to the Lebanese capital.

Mr Macron visited the city a day after the Beirut port blast.