Blinken meets with Saudi and French counterparts to discuss Lebanon reform

Lebanon's spiralling economic crisis continues as leaders fail to form new government

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Saudi and French counterparts on Tuesday on the sidelines of a G20 ministerial in Rome to put the heat on Lebanese political leaders to implement economic reforms as they continue to fail to form a government.

Mr Blinken noted on Twitter that he had met Saudi Prince Faisal bin Farhan and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to call on “Lebanon’s political leaders to show real leadership by implementing overdue reforms to stabilise the economy and provide the Lebanese people much-needed relief".

The US and France have repeatedly called on Lebanon to enact economic reforms, but the Lebanese political elite have been unable to coalesce around a new government to implement those reforms since former prime minister Hassan Diab resigned last year after a deadly explosion at Beirut port.

For its part, Saudi Arabia banned the import of Lebanese agricultural goods in April, citing continuing illicit drug shipments from the country.

The economic crisis, deteriorating living conditions and skyrocketing price of consumer goods in Lebanon led to an intensified round of protests in Tripoli at the weekend, with demonstrators scuffling with the army, resulting in 18 injuries.

The US secretary of state also noted that he had raised the Biden administration’s efforts to broker a ceasefire between the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Houthi rebels in Yemen as well as “continued progress on human rights and economic reforms” in the kingdom during his meeting with Prince Faisal.

The Biden administration has repeatedly denounced the Houthis for their continuing offensive against Marib, the last stronghold of the internationally recognised Yemeni government.

Saudi Arabia has also blocked some fuel tankers from arriving to Yemen’s Hodeidah port, while the Houthi rebels controlling the port have also diverted arriving fuel shipments to generate revenue.

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Updated: June 29th 2021, 6:35 PM