PARIS French President Emmanuel Macron wants to give the Lebanese people hope for the future when he visits Beirut on Thursday, but aides say he will call for deep changes to build a “new Lebanon”.
Macron will be the first foreign leader to visit the Lebanese capital since an explosion at a warehouse on Tuesday killed at least 137 people.
France has long sought to support its former colony and is sending emergency aid after the blast, but diplomats say it has become increasingly worried about endemic corruption and has been pressing for reforms for some time.
“The aim of the president’s visit is to belie the idea that Lebanon is alone, sunk and about to disappear,” an adviser to Macron said. “It will be an occasion to try to give hope to the Lebanese, tell them there’s a way, and that France is there to walk alongside them.”
The adviser said the trip was also “an opportunity to lay out clear foundations for a contract to rebuild Lebanon that is demanding with everyone and that prevents conflicts.”
Another source close to the president made clear Macron expected action from Lebanon’s leaders.
“He wants to tell them some home truths: France is ready to mobilise the international community, but that must imply a deep change for a new Lebanon,” the source said.
Lebanese officials have blamed the disaster on a huge stockpile of highly explosive material at Beirut port.
But Lebanese, who have lost jobs and watched savings evaporate in a financial crisis, blamed politicians who have benefited from decades of state corruption and bad governance.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for “concrete action” during a visit to Beirut last month and said protesters’ calls for change and transparency had “unfortunately not been heard so far.”
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