French President Emmanuel Macron announced an international fundraising conference for Lebanon during his visit to Beirut on Thursday in the wake of the enormous blast that devastated the city earlier this week.
Mr Macron said that France will organise a conference with donors in Europe, America, the Middle East and elsewhere to raise money for food, medicine, housing and other urgent aid.
But he warned Lebanon’s political leadership that he wouldn’t give “blank checks to a system that no longer has the trust of its people.” He called on them to create a “new political order.”
He promised a “clear and transparent governance” so that the aid goes directly to the population and aid groups.
In startling scenes, Mr Macron — whose country once was Lebanon’s colonial ruler — presented himself as a champion for the Lebanese to push change on their leadership.
For many Lebanese, Tuesday’s giant blast was the last straw after years of corruption and mismanagement by a political elite that has ruled for decades.
At least 137 people were killed and over 5,000 injured by the blast, which decimated half the city, leaving about 300,000 thousand homeless.
Arriving in Beirut on Thursday afternoon, Mr Macron was met by Lebanese President Michel Aoun. He then visited the port where the explosion took place and walked through one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods, Gemmayzeh, down a street lined with wrecked buildings.
None of Lebanon’s top politicians have toured residential areas damaged by the blast, though President Michel Aoun and others did visit the port.
"I am here also to propose a new political initiative because there is anger against the political system," Mr Macron told the crowd, which gathered on the narrow street and could be heard shouting for regime change in footage broadcast on television stations.
"It’s what I’ll express this afternoon [to Lebanese politicians]. We must today proceed with reforms to change the system to stop the division of Lebanon to fight against corruption, to have transparency and truth, this explosion is the consequence of negligence," he added.