Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading

French foreign minister warns Lebanon cannot risk 'power vacuum'

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (R) meets with France's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut. ©AFP

Beirut (AFP) - France's foreign minister on Friday urged the swift election of a new Lebanese president, after a second vote in parliament to pick a successor to incumbent Michel Aoun failed. 

"Lebanon today cannot risk a power vacuum," Catherine Colonna said at the end of a short visit to the Middle Eastern country, urging its leaders to live up to "their political and institutional responsibilities". 

Aoun was elected in 2016, after a more than two-year presidential vacancy.He was chosen after lawmakers tried 45 times to reach a consensus on a candidate.

After a failed attempt to reach quorum on Thursday, parliament speaker Nabih Berri has called for another vote on the presidency on October 20, before Aoun's term finishes at the end of the month, Lebanon, in the throes of a political paralysis that has hampered attempts to form a new government since the outgoing cabinet's mandate expired in May, is also grappling with its worst-ever financial crisis. 

Calling the economic crisis "unprecedented", Colonna said it would be "dangerous to subject the Lebanese to the consequences of another political crisis". 

"Without a jolt from Lebanese leaders, Lebanon's collapse will continue," she said. 

Since the start of Lebanon's financial crisis in 2019, the currency has lost more than 95 percent of its value and poverty rates have climbed to cover most of the population. 

Colonna, who met on Friday morning with Aoun, Berri and prime minister Najib Mikati, urged the implementation of a preliminary deal reached with the International Monetary Fund, saying it was the "only solution" for the bankrupt country to receive the financing it needs. 

Lebanon is under pressure from the IMF to streamline the implementation of reforms required to unlock billions in loans before Aoun's term expires. 

Colonna's visit came after Lebanon and Israel struck a deal this week over a maritime border dispute involving offshore gas fields after years of US-mediated talks.

Lebanon hopes that an offshore discovery can ease its financial downturn.

But Colonna warned that "this accord cannot substitute economic and financial reforms, which are indispensable".

Under the deal, Lebanon will have full rights to operate and explore the so-called Qana or Sidon reservoir, parts of which fall in Israel's territorial waters.

There are still no proven gas reserves in the reservoir.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.