French President Emmanuel Macron will be back in Lebanon today (Monday), his second visit to the country in less than a month, to push for ‘serious’ political and economic reforms.
On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that Lebanon risked “disappearing” as a country unless substantial reforms are undertaken, especially in the government, anti-corruption policies and the crumbling banking system.
Macron visited Lebanon soon after the Beirut port explosion on August 4, which killed nearly 190 and injured thousands more. During his visit, he demanded speedy structural reforms including the formation of a new government to undertake reforms. He warned Lebanon’s political class, which has been ruling the country for the past 30 years and accused of deep-rooted corruption that bankrupted the country.
“The purpose of his visit is clear: to push for the conditions to be met for the formation of a government that is capable of carrying out reconstruction and reforms,” the French presidency said in a statement. Macron will be meeting Aoun and other officials on Tuesday, the statement said.
However, Macron is first scheduled to have a different type of meeting; perhaps his most important meeting during his much-anticipated visit. He will meet the iconic singer Fairuz at her home, north of Beirut.
Fairuz, at 85, is considered the greatest living Arab artist. Curiously, Macron decided to visit Fairuz before he takes on the more serious and most likely tense encounters with Lebanon’s leaders. However, from a Lebanese popular point of view, he may be doing the right thing.
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Fairuz is probably the only thing that unites Lebanon now. The Lebanese don’t agree on anything that matters — the country is divided on party and sectarian lines. But they rarely disagree on Fairuz. Her saintly voice unites Lebanon and the Arab world. Rarely seen in public now, the artist has always been above politics. She symbolises Lebanon the idea that was once the sophisticated and enlightened face of the Middle East. Her meeting with Macron will hopefully convince him and others, especially her country’s leaders, that that idea is worth saving.
Saving Lebanon, which risks being a failed state, however is a tough task. The responsibility rests with its leaders and people who must shun foreign alliances and loyalties and come together to rebuild the country. No country, in the west and the Arab world will again pour money while Lebanon continues to be dominated by Iran-sponsored Hezbollah or other foreign backed proxies. That is the Macron message, and Lebanon will hopefully get it loud and clear this time.