The UK Minister for the Middle East, James Cleverly, ended on Friday his first visit to Lebanon, urging Lebanon’s politicians to implement urgent reforms to prevent the country from plunging further into an economic crisis.
At the end of his visit, Cleverly said: "The UK and the international community will continue to support the people of Lebanon, including the most vulnerable. But that alone is not enough, and Lebanese leaders must act now to save Lebanon from a complete economic catastrophe.
“The people of Lebanon deserve a better future. Accountability, transparency, and taking responsibility are key for Lebanon to rise again.”
As part of his visit, Cleverly met with President General Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, Caretaker PM Hassan Diab, Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe, PM-designate Saad Hariri, Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai, and Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun.
The visit to Lebanon comes at a critical time for the country amidst an ailing economy, an ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and an increasingly vulnerable population. Cleverly underlined the need for the rapid formation of a new government and the urgency of long-awaited reforms.
At the port of Beirut, the Minister saw the scale of August’s devastating blast and the important role UK aid provided in the response. This included over $30 million aid package, the swift deployment of UK teams of humanitarians, military and medical specialists and the deployment of HMS Enterprise sent to help with the recovery efforts.
The UK Minister met Lebanese families who have been supported by the UK in the aftermath of the port blast, including women whose homes were damaged, and those who suffered life-changing injuries. He also met with some of the 150 small businesses that the UK is supporting to rebuild after the explosion.
Furthermore, he visited the First Land Border Regiment watchtower – a UK border security project helping to keep Lebanese borders secure.
In Tripoli, he met youth groups from Jabal Mohsen and Bab El Tebbeneh - supported by MARCH NGO - working on rebuilding communities destroyed by conflict, strengthening ties between them, transforming lives, and brightening future prospects.
The Minister’s visit to Lebanon came after he visited Iraq, where he discussed regional issues including the coronavirus pandemic and security.