On Beirut Blast Anniversary, Jordan Warns Lebanon Crisis 'Could Spill Over Beyond Its Borders'

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People carry national flags near the site of last year's Beirut port blast, on Wednesday.
People carry national flags near the site of last year's Beirut port blast, on Wednesday.Credit: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Jordan's King Abdullah II warned on Wednesday that Lebanon's economic and political crisis "could spill over beyond the country's borders" without international support.

Speaking at an international donor conference, one year after the massive explosion at Beirut’s port, Abdullah said, according to a transcript of his remarks published by Jordanian state media, "We cannot sit back and leave Lebanon and its people edge over closer to the brink."

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He warned that "without properly coordinated international action," the ramifications of the crisis in Lebanon could "reverberate across the region, and well beyond it."

The French presidency said the international conference has gathered over $357 million in aid required to meet the Lebanon's humanitarian needs.

Wednesday's virtual conference, co-hosted by France and the United Nations, was meant to show support for the Lebanese people, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaking at the virtual event on Lebanon, on Wednesday.Credit: Christophe Simon,AP

France will provide 100 millions euros ($118.6 million) in the coming months, Macron said. Paris will also send 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the country.

President Joe Biden, who addressed the conference in a video message, pledged to give $100 million in new humanitarian assistance.

About 40 heads of state and government, diplomats and heads of international organizations have taken part in the conference, according to Macron's office. Participants included Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, King Abdullah and European Council President Charles Michel.

Lebanon's current humanitarian needs have been estimated by the UN to be at least $357 million. Aid will focus on food, schools, the health sector and clean water supply, Macron's office said.

Wednesday's event was also meant to mount pressure on Lebanese leaders to form a new government able to implement reforms and start rebuilding the country.

Lebanon is going through the worst economic and financial crisis of its modern history, and a political stalemate that has kept the country without a functioning government for a full year.

Biden said that “no amount of outside assistance will ever be enough, if Lebanon’s own leaders do not commit to do the hard but necessary work of reforming the economy and combating corruption. That’s essential, and has to start now.”

Lebanese politicians have only made the situation "worse by placing their individual and political interests above the Lebanese people’s interests," Macron criticized. “Lebanon definitely deserves better."

Macron said that humanitarian aid promised Wednesday will be unconditional.

However, he warned that “there will be no blank check to the Lebanese political system because it is defaulting. ... Lebanese leaders seem to opt for the deterioration (of the situation). I regret it. I think it’s an historical and moral error.”

Michel, the European Council President, stressed that the EU adopted a few days ago a “sanctions framework ... to target those in Lebanon who obstruct efforts to end the political crisis. We obviously hope that we will not be obliged to activate it.”

Macron, who went to Beirut twice since the explosion at the port, has led international efforts to try to help the former French protectorate by providing emergency aid. Last year's conference on Lebanon, organized in the wake of the explosion, raised about 280 million euros ($332 million).

According to the UN, over half of Lebanese people now live in poverty, one in three Lebanese suffer from food insecurity and nearly 4 million people are at risk of not accessing safe water.

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