Rudderless Lebanon could miss out on aid, France warns

"We deeply regret that our Lebanese friends are not able to agree on a government," Bruno Foucher said during a press conference held on a French frigate making a stop in Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2018

Rudderless Lebanon could miss out on aid, France warns

  • Lebanon's economy has looked on the brink of collapse for some time but a Paris conference dubbed CEDRE in April earned it $11 billion in aid pledges
  • Polls held in May gave Saad Hariri a new term as prime minister but Lebanon's fractious political class has since failed to agree on a government line-up

BEIRUT: France on Friday warned Lebanon it could lose the international community's goodwill and much-needed investments if it takes any longer to form a government.
Lebanon's economy has looked on the brink of collapse for some time but a Paris conference dubbed CEDRE in April earned it $11 billion in aid pledges.
Polls held the following month gave Saad Hariri a new term as prime minister but Lebanon's fractious political class has since failed to agree on a government line-up.
Seven months on, a breakthrough does not seem imminent and French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher warned that Lebanon stood to lose a lot.
"We deeply regret that our Lebanese friends are not able to agree on a government," he said during a press conference held on a French frigate making a stop in Beirut.
The amounts pledged in Paris were unexpectedly high and other conferences have also mustered support for Lebanon, whose economy has been in a downward spiral for years due to political divisions and corruption.
The outbreak of violence in neighbouring Syria in 2011 added to those woes, keeping tourists away and triggering a massive influx of refugees that has strained public services.
"The lack of a government in Lebanon means running the risk that this dynamic in the international community is lost," Foucher said.
"That moment could pass."
The French envoy explained that a new government was needed to undertake the programme contained in the CEDRE plan and warned that investors would not wait for forever.
"There are other countries that may need international assistance," he said.
Government formation is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex governing system seeks to maintain a precarious balance of power between its various political and religious communities.


Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

A Syrian woman carrying a child walks by, in the Washukanni Camp for the internally displaced, near the predominantly Kurdish city of Hasakeh in northeastern Syria, on February 17, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 39 min 42 sec ago

Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

  • Middle East expert believes Ankara and Tehran are locked in an information war

ANKARA: Turkish and Iranian media outlets are battling as deeply rooted tensions have resurfaced. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency has published an opinion piece that critically discussed tensions with Iran over Syria. It said: “Turkey’s vision of regional development and integration is pitched against Iran’s regional strategy prioritising geopolitical wins.
“Ignoring Ankara’s concerns in the fight against terrorism during Operation Peace Spring, Tehran is now setting its Shiite militias in the field in motion against Turkey, who is actively endeavoring to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
The analysis piece, titled “Idlib front, Iran’s weakening foreign operation capacity,” was penned by Hadi Khodabandeh Loui, a researcher at the Iran Research Center in Ankara.
Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.
An editorial piece that was published in Iran’s hardline newspaper Entekhab compared Turkey’s military moves in Syria to Israel’s bombings of pro-Assad forces. The piece warned Ankara about a potential aggressive reaction from Tehran to both threats.
Israeli warplanes fired missiles at targets near Syria’s capital, Damascus, in early February and they hit Syrian Army and Iran-backed militia positions, reportedly killing 23 people.
Being among the guarantor states of the Astana peace process for Syria, aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, Turkey and Iran have already witnessed the fragility of their relations in October 2019 when Iran criticized Turkey’s moves to establish military posts inside Syria, emphasizing the need to respect the integrity of Syria.
Then, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly accused Iran of betraying the consensus between the two countries following Tehran’s condemnation of Turkey’s operation in northern Syria against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

BACKGROUND

Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.

In March 2018, Iran’s Tehran Times defined Turkey’s cross-border military operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin as an “invasion.” It splashed with a headline that read: “Turkish troops occupy Syria’s Afrin.”
Over recent weeks, Ankara has voiced criticisms that the Assad regime, Iran-backed militia and Russia have violated the ceasefire in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, with frequent attacks targeting Turkish troops.
Samuel Ramani, a Middle East analyst at the University of Oxford, thinks that Assad’s forces are winning decisively, and Turkey’s ability to resist them is greatly diminished.
“Assad’s forces have consolidated their control over west Aleppo, and are steadily advancing in Idlib. Turkey does not view the Iranian mediation offers in Syria as credible, especially as Iranian media outlets are justifying them by claiming that Turkey broke the terms of the Sochi agreement by harboring extremists. Turkey is insistent that Russia violated Sochi by supporting Assad’s offensive,” he told Arab News.
Regarding the media conflict, Ramani thinks that Turkey and Iran are locked in an information war over Syria, and are both trying to paint the other as an aggressor.
“It’s a way to rally public support in both countries around more confrontational posturing, in the event of a bigger military escalation that actually sees Turkish and Iranian forces in direct combat, not just Assad and Turkish proxies,” he said.