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Western Diplomat to Asharq Al-Awsat: Lebanon Faces ‘Existential Threat’

Western Diplomat to Asharq Al-Awsat: Lebanon Faces ‘Existential Threat’

Saturday, 11 July, 2020 - 06:30
A man works in a jewelry store where an Arabic sign reads, "We buy gold and pay in dollars," in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, July 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
New York - Ali Barada

Lebanon faces an “existential threat” over its economic and financial crisis, European diplomats in New York and Washington have warned.

“Lebanon is so dear to our hearts,” one diplomat told Asharq Al-Awsat in remarks published on Saturday.

European countries have strong historic relations with it, he said.

But “the ball is now in Lebanon’s court,” said the diplomat about the country’s need to enact reforms if it needs external funding, which includes pledges made by donors at the CEDRE conference in Paris in 2018.

Lebanon is mired in its worst ever economic crisis, marked by an unprecedented plunge of its currency. The financial meltdown has thrown its people into a frantic search for dollars.

Asked about UN peacekeepers south of the Litani river, the diplomat revealed that discussions are underway to extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for another year.

On US efforts to change UNIFIL’s rules of engagement, he said: “Some of our partners want to make it more active in relation to Hezbollah and other actors.”

“But I don’t think we will do that,” he said. “We will inform our partners (the US) that if they were unhappy with the French, Spanish and Italians missions (operating within UNIFIL), then come and do it yourselves.”

UNIFIL is a peacekeeping operation rather than an enforcement mission, said the diplomat.

Set up in 1978, UNIFIL was beefed up after a month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 and tasked with guaranteeing a ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from a demilitarized zone on the border.

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