‘France is Lebanon’s friend,’ says President Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, greets Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri during their earlier meeting on April 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2019

‘France is Lebanon’s friend,’ says President Macron

  • French leader ‘working to calm the region, especially after the recent escalation’

BEIRUT: French President Emmanuel Macron met Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the Élysée Palace in Paris on Friday and stressed his country’s support for Lebanon, saying that the country is facing “delicate circumstances” and reiterating, “France is Lebanon’s friend.” Macron said: “The exchange of fire between Hezbollah and Israel at the end of August raised fears that regional conflicts could spill over into Lebanon. At the time, I personally intervened with the different parties, in close coordination with PM Hariri, to avoid escalation. Today, everyone must show full restraint. Lebanon can rely on France’s commitment toward it.”
Hariri was asked after the meeting whether the recent attacks on two Saudi Aramco oil facilities by Iran-backed Houthi militias had been discussed during the meeting. He said: “The Aramco crisis is very serious, and we should not take it lightly. It must not go unnoticed. What happened at Aramco has taken things to a much higher level of escalation. We hope there will be no further escalation. The Kingdom has a right to respond as it deems appropriate because, in the end, this is an attack on its territory and its sovereignty.”
When asked about France’s role in this regard, he replied: “Certainly, France has a permanent and ongoing role in this matter to reduce the escalation.”
Hariri visited Riyadh on Wednesday before heading to Paris to discuss ways to alleviate the economic crisis in Lebanon.
During his meeting with Hariri, Macron stressed France’s “commitment to the security and stability of Lebanon within the framework of UNIFIL, close cooperation with the Lebanese army and military forces, and what was agreed on at the Rome Conference in March 2018, including providing the Lebanese army with (necessary weaponry).”
The French president emphasized his country’s full commitment to implementing the decisions it made at the Cedar (CEDRE) Conference, held in Paris in April 2018, in addition to providing Lebanon with the means to carry out ambitious reforms to revive its economy with the support of international partners.
“€10 billion have been allocated for this,” Macron stated, “and I am happy we have reached an agreement with the Lebanese government to launch reforms as soon as possible. I hope this will allow the Cabinet to move forward with its projects, particularly in the electricity sector, infrastructure and administrative reform.”
Macron reiterated France’s support for Lebanon in dealing with the significant repercussions of the Syrian crisis as well as its full support for Syrian refugees, “taking fully into account the needs of host communities.”

We should not take the Aramco crisis lightly. It must not go unnoticed ... The Kingdom has a right to respond as it deems appropriate because, in the end, this is an attack on its territory and its sovereignty.

Saad Hariri, Lebanese prime minister

He said: “France will continue to work to reach a lasting solution to the Syrian crisis that allows refugees to return. It is the ultimate goal. No party should be (fooled into) thinking that this matter can be resolved within weeks, or forget the underlying reasons behind this displacement.”
Hariri told the French president during an open meeting with the media that Lebanon is committed to implementing Resolution 1701, which has maintained stability on its southern border for 13 years.
The prime minister also explained Lebanon’s first steps toward reform. “It is now about launching investments, and I hope to invite CEDRE’s Strategy Committee to meet in Paris in mid-November,” he said.
After the talks, which continued for an hour and a half, Hariri said: “For CEDRE, things are moving forward, and we have to make the necessary reforms,” adding that Macron is “working to calm the region, especially after the recent escalation.”
Hariri also announced plans to convene a meeting of the Saudi-Lebanese Higher Committee to sign economic agreements between the two countries. “We have completed about 19 agreements to be signed, and we will discuss how Saudi Arabia will help us with regard to our financial situation,” he said.
The Lebanese prime minister also met with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, and French business leaders to discuss potential investments in infrastructure projects in Lebanon. He claimed that “all” French investors are “eager to invest in Lebanon.”
He added: “A letter of intent was signed with the French government to purchase French equipment to enhance our defense and security capabilities. The bulk of it will be used to equip our navy and provide us with maritime air-transport capabilities to ensure the safety and exploration of our offshore oil and gas fields.”
He added, “France is showing its support by offering its guarantee for a loan of up to €400 million on generous terms.”

Online revolution in the hands of Lebanese youth

Updated 29 min ago

Online revolution in the hands of Lebanese youth

  • For the first five days of the demonstrations, television images transmitted live to the Lebanese public provided the incentive for people to take to the streets
  • On the sixth day, activists reconsidered social media, and WhatsApp has become the most-used platform to transmit live images

BEIRUT: The Lebanese youth revolt against tax increases and corruption began on social media with protests about a proposed levy on WhatsApp, bringing dissent from the virtual world to the real world.

For the first five days of the demonstrations, television images transmitted live to the Lebanese public provided the incentive for people to take to the streets.

On the sixth day, activists reconsidered social media, and WhatsApp has become the most-used platform to transmit live images.

The objection of Lebanese army soldiers to motorcyclists holding the flags of Amal and Hezbollah led to the protest rally in Riad Al-Solh Square in central Beirut on Monday night. This reassured those who were still apprehensive about taking to the street.

The “electronic revolution” is parallel to the revolution on the streets. It is mostly comprised of young people aged 12 and above.

Politicians should talk to these young people using modern means, which is what Prime Minister Saad Hariri has done. On his Twitter account, Hariri tweeted part of his speech after the cabinet meeting: “I will not allow anyone to threaten young demonstrators. Your voice is heard, and if your demand is an early election to make your voice heard, I am with you. You have returned the Lebanese identity to its right place outside any sectarian restriction.”

Activists leading the protests have been devising various forms of electronic attraction to motivate people to take to the street, including a video with the signature “Do you know why?” It includes songs about how to defy injustice, recounting the reasons for the revolution and filing “preliminary” demand papers summarizing the demands of people speaking on the street and in front of the cameras.

The hashtag #down_with_Bank_governor coincided with the move by some activists on Tuesday to the Central Bank of Lebanon to protest against the policy of its governor Riad Salameh. However, the response came through the same electronic means and other applications defending the governor.

Many rumors are circulating on social media, including that the president summoned the TV media for consultation and that there is a fear that the aim is to pressure the owners of the TV stations to stop transmitting live demonstrations to prevent protesters from expressing their opinion.

The most well-known action was that of the sister of the Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil resorting to social media to defend President Aoun and her brother.

Dr. Iman Eliwan, a professor of modern media, said that young Lebanese view social media as their “only platform of expression, and touching it ignited the first spark of the protests. And resorting to it during the protests aimed at activating ‘networking’ to prevent any possibility of laxity and to remain united using one language.”

And whether the absence of a unified reference for the movement is caused by this “networking,” she said: “It is possible that there may be group leaders on social media, and they consider these platforms as their strength.”

Eliwan added: “These young people express deep anger and this happens at their age. We used to say that they belonged to the Sofa Party. But they went down to the streets. They control the streets. Maybe they are marginalized in their homes and in their communities.”

Asked if these online revolutions have achieved any results, she said: “It has not reached anywhere in the experiences that we have seen in the Arab world. It can ignite the spark and activate the movement, but the horizon of this movement is deadlocked.”