‘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.”


What shapes the Middle East’s migration patterns

Updated 58 min 26 sec ago

What shapes the Middle East’s migration patterns

  • An estimated 29 million people have migrated from Arab countries since 1990, according to UN data
  • Political crises and civil conflicts have blurred the lines between voluntary and forced migration

ABU DHABI: Less than two months since an unhappy year for the Arab region’s migrants and refugees came to an end, the omens of things to come are far from good.

According to the latest “Situation Report on Migration in the Arab Region,” prepared by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with various UN agencies, displacement and migration are two prominent trends at the beginning of 2020. Particularly — and unsurprisingly — in countries withongoing wars.

An overwhelming majority of Arab countries endorsed the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) at the UN General Assembly in December 2018, voting to adopt its principles in national legislatures.

Subsequently, the number of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea was found to have plunged in 2018 to almost a tenth of what it was in 2015.

However, the reality of the region’s migrant and refugee situa- tion belies the hopes raised by the adoption of the GCM.

In Libya, for example, there was a steep deterioration last year in the living conditions of migrants and refugees stranded in the unstable North African country.

FASTFACTS

29m - An estimated 29 million people have migrated from Arab countries since 1990.

1/2 - Almost half of the people who migrated stayed within the Arab region.

9.1m - Refugees who have sought protection in the Arab region include 3.7 million under the mandate of the UN Refugee Agency and 5.4 million registered with UNRWA.

14.5% - The number of migrant workers in 18 Arab countries stood at 23.8 million in 2017, representing 14.5 percent of all migrant workers globally.

?The country’s protracted civil conflict has not only caused massive displacement within its borders, but also means it has become a dangerous place for economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa wishing to travel to Europe. World leaders have just pledged in Berlin not to interfere in Libya’s civil conflict and to uphold a UN arms embargo, but only time will tell if that promise will be honored.

In Syria, meanwhile, the human- itarian situation in Idlib — the last stronghold of opposition forces and a safe haven for millions of internally displaced persons (IDP) — remains shaky as Russian- backed regime forces press on, despite mounting civilian casualties.

In Yemen, a peace opportunity was missed in early 2019, and there has been no let-up since in the fighting between government forces and the Houthi militia, who control the capital Sanaa and the northern highlands. The country currently hosts between 2 million and 3.5 million IDPs and another 1.28 million returnees, in addition to 279,000 migrants and refugees — almost exclusively from Somalia and Ethiopia — for whom the country is a short-term way station, not a final destination.

Lebanon is in the grip of a wide- ranging crisis, too. People at the bottom of the economic ladder, including 1.5 million Syrian refugees and almost 500,000

Palestinian refugees, supple- ment their meager incomes with handouts from aid agencies. Even before the protests erupted in Lebanon in October last year, a UN vulnerability assessment report for refugees in the country, carried out in early 2019, made grim reading.

It said about 73 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon were living below the poverty line — up from 69 percent the year before, and considerably higher than the estimated 28 percent of Lebanese in the same situation.

Of course, migration and displacement have long shaped the Arab region, with countries simultaneously acting as points of origin, transit and destination.

However, in recent years, the distinction between voluntary and forced migration has become blurred as political crises and civil conflicts — viewed as the chief causes of human displace- ment — have proliferated. “The challenge today is to put in place policies that will ensure successful and true integration while benefiting both the countries of residence and origin,” Laura Petrache, a senior adviser at Migrant Integration Lab, told Arab News.

According to UN reports, the number of migrants and refugees originating from the Arab region reached 29 million in 2017. Almost half of them remained in the region. Overall, the number of migrants and refugees as a propor- tion of the total population of the Arab region has risen steadily over the past three decades.

In 2018, around 80 percent of the region’s refugees originated in the Levant, mostly on account of the Syrian conflict.

Caption

 

Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Sudan are among the top 10 Arab destinations for migrants and IDPs owing to conflicts in the neighborhood. Apart from Lebanon, all of those countries have witnessed an increase in the number of refugees and migrants within their borders since 2015.

After Turkey, Jordan was the second-most-popular destination country for refugees and migrants from the region, with Lebanon, 

Saudi Arabia and the UAE also reporting significant numbers. Iraq was the only country that saw its national refugee and migrant population decrease.

What the latest reports confirm is that migration in the Arab world not only has multiple drivers — socio-economic pressures, political instability and environmental degradation — but also complex patterns and trends.

Take the Gulf and the Levant regions. They attract different kinds of migrants because their levels of stability, security and development are not comparable. While Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen are plagued by conflict, violence, corruption and divisions in both society and polity, GCC member countries are leading the way in groundbreaking ideas and investments, building cities of the future and attracting talent from across the world.

The migrant population in the GCC countries swelled from 8.2 million in 1990 to 28.1 million in 2017 — a substantial rise compared with figures for other parts of the Arab region.

Around 27 percent of global remittance outflows in 2017 reportedly came from the Arab region, estimated at $120.6 billion, and almost all of that (98.9 percent or $119.3 billion) came from GCC countries. According to the IOM’s report, the top remittance-sending countries were the UAE (at $44.3 billion) and Saudi Arabia (at $36.1 billion).

Under the circumstances, it is difficult to see meaningful, positive change for migrants happening any time soon in the Arab region, with the possible exception of the GCC.

“Migration policy making should move away from assimila- tionist frameworks,” Petrache, of the Migrant Integration Lab, told Arab News. “Instead, the policy emphasis should be on working with countries of origin to achieve sustainable integration — and re-integration in the case of return immigration.

“The policies should take into consideration the potential for win-win solutions using and developing the capability of the migrants to make a positive contri- bution to local host communities,” Petrache said.