International community losing patience with Lebanon

Published March 21st, 2014 - 06:40 GMT

Is the international community losing its patience with Lebanon? A well-positioned source has hinted as much to The Daily Star.

While encouraged by the formation of the Cabinet, some members of the international community are frustrated that a number of development projects are stalling due to an effective standstill in government work, the source said.

“Frankly, it’s irritating,” the source added.

The same source noted that more than $600 million in development projects for Lebanon are awaiting governmental approval. More than a third of that sum comes from France.

Diplomats and members of the international community consider it “urgent” that the government begin functioning normally.

Increasingly, the international community, and France in particular, has acknowledged the importance of supporting Lebanese institutions during this fraught time. Earlier this month, Elysee Palace hosted a meeting for the International Support Group for Lebanon during which participants underscored the importance of bolstering the Lebanese Army.

With the country’s military set to receive $3 billion in French arms, equipment and training paid for by Saudi Arabia, France has been forced to defend itself from accusations that it is meddling in Lebanese politics.

But “ France has no veto” over what arms the Army can receive, the source told The Daily Star. Details of the arms agreement are expected to be hashed out at an expert level meeting to be held in Rome on April 10. The arms agreement does not require the approval of Lebanon’s Parliament, the source added.

Elysee Palace is also keeping a close eye on the situation in Arsal. Unlike various parties in the March 8 camp, most of whom have decried the erstwhile sleepy town for being a terrorist haven, Paris considers the crisis in Arsal to be “primarily humanitarian” but admits that the fall of Yabroud just across the border in Syria has added a “security element” to the town’s situation.

The international community, the source said, is well aware that the political-security situation is fluid and, as a result, is working to ensure Lebanon “doesn’t sink.”

The statement is hardly encouraging but reflects the country’s new reality where incidents of “spillover” from the Syrian war are becoming increasingly common.

But although Western countries have repeated ad infinitum their desire to support Lebanese institutions, many ask where exactly is the evidence of this much promised assistance?

Only a handful of countries have contributed to the World Bank multidonor trust fund for Lebanon so far, and less than $50 million has actually been received to date.

Given the above mentioned foot dragging of the Lebanese authorities, reticence in donating directly to the government might be forgiven. Furthermore, the source said, members of the international community were growing weary of the constant Lebanese clamoring for more help with the refugee crisis.

“Stop saying that nothing is being done,” said the source, chiding an imagined Lebanese audience. “Maybe the aid is not sufficient, but there has been an outpouring [of support].”

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