International conference on Lebanon raises more than $ 357 million

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SAULIEU, France (AP) – The French presidency has said that an international conference on Lebanon has raised more than $ 357 million in aid needed to meet the country’s humanitarian needs, a year after the massive explosion in the port of Beirut.

Wednesday’s virtual conference, co-hosted by France and the United Nations, aimed to show support for the Lebanese people, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

France will provide 100 million euros ($ 118.6 million) in the coming months, Macron said. Paris will also send 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the country.

President Joe Biden, who addressed the conference in a video message, pledged $ 100 million in new humanitarian aid.

Some 40 heads of state and government, diplomats and heads of international organizations took part in the conference, according to Macron’s office. Participants included Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, King Abdullah II of Jordan and European Council President Charles Michel.

Lebanon’s current humanitarian needs have been estimated by the UN at at least $ 357 million. Aid will focus on food, schools, the health sector and clean water supplies, Macron’s office said.

Wednesday’s event was also aimed at putting pressure on Lebanese leaders to form a new government capable of implementing reforms and starting to rebuild the country.

Lebanon is going through the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history and a political stalemate that has kept the country without a government for a full year.

Biden said that “no foreign aid will ever be enough if Lebanon’s own leaders do not commit to doing the difficult but necessary work of reforming the economy and fighting corruption.” This is essential and it must start now.

Lebanese politicians have only “made the situation worse by placing their individual and political interests above the interests of the Lebanese people,” Macron criticized. “Lebanon certainly deserves better.”

Macron said the humanitarian aid promised on Wednesday will be unconditional.

However, he warned that “there will be no blank check for the Lebanese political system because it is failing. … The Lebanese leaders seem to opt for the deterioration (of the situation). I regret that. I think this is a historical and moral error.

Michel, the president of the European Council, underlined that the EU adopted a few days ago a “framework of sanctions (…) to target those in Lebanon which hamper efforts to end the political crisis. We obviously hope that we don’t have to activate it.

Macron, who has been to Beirut twice since the port explosion, has led international efforts to try to help the former French protectorate by providing emergency aid. Last year’s conference on Lebanon, organized in the aftermath of the explosion, raised around 280 million euros ($ 332 million).

According to the UN, more than half of Lebanese live in poverty today, one in three Lebanese suffers from food insecurity and nearly 4 million people are at risk of not having access to drinking water.

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