EXPLOSIONS IN BEIRUT – “A focus of urgency and hope for the future”. During his visit to Beirut on Thursday, Emmanuel Macron promised rapid and massive aid from the international community to Lebanon, hit by a gigantic explosion in a warehouse in the port of its capital and an economic crisis that hits him hard and for a long time.
The French president and the UN will bring together international donors this Sunday, August 9 at 2 pm (12 pm GMT) for an online conference. China, Russia and Egypt will gather “around the table”, as well as the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and several representatives of the EU. Also attending will be British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and King Abdullah II of Jordan.
“Everyone wants to help,” says Trump.
Donald Trump announced that he would participate in this meeting, while the latest report shows at least 158 dead, almost 6,000 injured, dozens missing and hundreds of thousands of homeless. “We will have a video conference on Sunday with President Macron, the leaders of Lebanon and leaders from other parts of the world,” the US president tweeted on Saturday.
… We will have a teleconference on Sunday with President Macron, leaders from Lebanon and leaders from various other parts of the world. Everyone wants to help!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2020
“Everyone wants to help!” he added, mentioning that he spoke with the French president. Emmanuel Macron will speak first. He will be followed by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and then by Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will be there according to information from BFMTV, unlike Israel. But a contact is “made by the UN”, we said in the Elysee.
For its part, Iran “has not expressed its willingness to participate”, but “the Gulf countries – Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia – have been invited,” added the Elysee, specifying that they have “no doubt that they will be represented. “
“No blank check for the Lebanese government”
If the UN has estimated Lebanon’s needs for the health sector alone at 85 million dollars, the French president’s entourage did not want to give the amount of aid that could be delivered on Sunday.
“The immediate objective is to meet the emergency needs of Lebanon, in conditions that allow aid to reach the population directly,” explained the Elysee. The priorities are “the consolidation of damaged buildings, emergency medical aid, food aid and the restoration of hospitals and schools.”
“The methodology is the one used by international organizations, it is necessary that we do not write a blank check to the Lebanese government,” continued the same source.
The devastation caused by the explosion, apparently caused by the storage of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate in a deposit in the port of Beirut, is a catastrophe of more for the Lebanese. Lebanon has been plunged for months into a very serious economic crisis, marked by an unprecedented depreciation of its currency, hyperinflation, massive layoffs and drastic banking restrictions.
On Saturday, thousands of protesters marched through downtown Beirut. Led by retired officers, the protesters stormed and briefly occupied the headquarters of the Chancellery, proclaiming it “headquarters of the Revolution.” For the French presidency, the demonstrations “testify to the exasperation, the anguish of the population, the need for things to change.”
“Lebanon is sinking, we believe that it has hit bottom, so it is time to return to the surface,” commented again the delegation of Emmanuel Macron, recalling that the French president has promised during his visit on Thursday that aid would not go to “corruption”.
Emergency help now available
While in the Lebanese capital rescuers were still working to find survivors, international aid continues to flow. As soon as the explosion was announced, several countries, mainly France, sent relief personnel and material aid.
France has also installed an air and sea bridge to transport more than 18 tons of medical aid and nearly 700 tons of food aid to Beirut after the gigantic explosion that struck the Lebanese capital in the heart, it announced. On Saturday night the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian. Eight flights are currently scheduled, the first to leave on Wednesday the day after the disaster, and two maritime connections, the ministry said in a statement.
Russia has sent rescuers, Egypt and Qatar will open field hospitals, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO). The latest initiatives to date, the Canadian government announced on Saturday the launch of an aid fund for Lebanon and called on Canadians to be generous.
See also The HuffPost: In Beirut, Macron asked the crowd for help to overthrow Lebanese leaders