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French FM Says Punitive Measures 'Only the Beginning' ahead of Lebanon Visit

French FM Says Punitive Measures 'Only the Beginning' ahead of Lebanon Visit

Wednesday, 5 May, 2021 - 18:15
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. (AFP)

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday he would carry a strongly worded message to Lebanese politicians when he visits Beirut on Thursday.

The minister said on Twitter that France would deal firmly with those blocking the formation of a new Lebanese government.

“We have taken national measures, and it is only the beginning".

The trip comes after Paris said it had started putting in place measures to restrict entry to France for some Lebanese officials on the grounds that they were blocking efforts to find a solution to Lebanon's political and economic crisis.

Le Drian has requested meetings with President Michel Aoun and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri.

Le Drian has also asked to meet Gebran Bassil, the leader of the largest parliamentary bloc and Aoun's son-in-law, who is under US sanctions for alleged corruption and his ties to Hezbollah.

France has spearheaded international efforts to rescue Lebanon from its deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, but after eight months has failed so far to persuade squabbling politicians to adopt a reform roadmap or form a new government to unlock international aid.

With the European Union, Paris has been working on creating a sanctions regime for Lebanon that could ultimately see asset freezes and travel bans.

However, that is likely to take time. As part of efforts to raise pressure on key Lebanese actors, France intends to stop issuing visas to certain officials, diplomats have said.

Diplomatic sources have said that Bassil could be one of those targeted, although he has no specific ties to France.

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