A United States senator said during a visit to Beirut on Wednesday that Lebanon is in “free fall” and its story should not become a “terrifying story”, expressing the hope that a government will be formed this week to begin dealing with its financial meltdown.
The statement reflects growing concern about the situation in Lebanon, where a financial collapse that began in 2019 reached the stage of a major crisis last month, with a fuel shortage paralyzing the country and sparking security incidents and warnings that the worst is yet to come.
Another senator in a US Congressional delegation said Iranian fuel was shipped by Hezbollah militia in Lebanon is accompanied by complications, excluding that it is an attempt by the Iranians to “take the shot”.
The financial crisis is the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war.
More than half of the six million Lebanese have fallen in poverty. The World Bank says the country is experiencing one of the most severe recessions of modern times, with the currency depreciating by more than 90% and the financial system paralyzed.
“Lebanon is in free fall, “Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters at the end of a two-day visit.” We’ve seen this movie before and it’s a horrible story. But the good thing is that this can and should be avoided. . “
Lebanese politicians, who failed to do anything to stop the collapse, have been arguing for more than a year over forming a new government to replace the one that resigned following the explosion of the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020.
The formation of a new government capable of carrying out reforms is a necessary condition for the flow of foreign aid. The United States is the largest donor of foreign aid to Lebanon.
The congressional delegation met with Lebanese leaders, including President Michel Aoun, who expressed hope to form a government this week, the presidency said in a note.
Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, has repeatedly expressed optimism about the agreement to a government shortly.
For his part, Senator Chris Murphy, chairman of the committee dealing with Middle Eastern affairs at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters: “We got good news today.” He added that he expects the formation of a new Lebanese government, perhaps upon his return to his country.
Several Lebanese parties accuse Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement of obstructing the formation of the government by demanding a third of the portfolios, which gives him a high veto. Aoun denies it, and told the US Senate delegation, “Many obstacles have been overcome” before forming a government.
With the state in difficulties, Hezbollah announced last month that it was importing fuel oil from Iran, saying it was trying to alleviate the crisis. On the other hand, several Lebanese parties claim that this further undermines the authority of the state and places Lebanon under US sanctions.
Washington classifies Hezbollah, which is part of the Lebanese political system, as a “terrorist group”.
The interim government’s energy minister said Wednesday that no permit has been obtained for the shipment of fuel.
The United States is in negotiations with Egypt and Jordan on a plan to alleviate the electricity crisis in Lebanon. The Lebanese presidency said it includes the use of Egyptian gas to generate electricity in Jordan and being transported through Syria, which is subject to US sanctions, including the so-called “Caesar’s law”.
In this context, Senator Chris Van Hollen said: “Complexity, as you know, is transportation through Syria. We are looking for ways to address this despite the Caesar Act.”
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