EU official says major aid to Lebanon depends on IMF deals

BEIRUT (AP) – A European Union official visiting Lebanon said on Friday that the international organization will increase its humanitarian aid to the crisis-hit country, but that more significant long-term assistance is dependent on reforms and an agreement with the International Monetary Fund dependent.

EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said at a press conference after his two-day visit that the EU will provide 60 million euros (more than $65 million) in humanitarian aid to Lebanon in 2023, a 20% increase compared to the previous year.

But he warned that such aid is “not a sustainable long-term solution” to the massive financial crisis that has left three-quarters of Lebanon’s six million people in poverty.

To emerge from the crisis, Lebanon would need to elect a president – who would resolve the presidential vacuum that has lasted for the past five months – and sign a deal with the IMF, which it says “would unlock significant financial assistance, including from the European Union, which Lebanon will need.” should help recover from the collapse.”

Progress on completing a $3 billion IMF bailout package for Lebanon has largely stalled.

Since reaching a tentative deal with the IMF nearly a year ago, Lebanese officials have made limited progress on the reforms needed to complete the deal, including restructuring the country’s debt and ailing banking system, reforming its barely functioning public sector Power System and Governance Reforms.

IMF officials said continued inaction would plunge the nation into a “never-ending crisis” in which it could spiral into hyperinflation.

Lenarčič also responded to mounting fears of the presence of more than a million Syrian refugees in the tiny country and called for their return. He acknowledged the large refugee presence was a challenge, but said it “does not absolve Lebanon and its leaders of their responsibility to provide basic services.”

“The current crisis that Lebanon is going through … was not caused by the Syrian refugees,” he said.

Lenarčič added that while refugees wishing to return can do so, the EU’s position is that “Syria still does not have the right conditions for safe and voluntary return”.

At the same time, he said the EU was not ready to consider lifting sanctions or funding a major reconstruction in Syria. Oil-rich Gulf Arab states, which previously severed ties with Damascus over the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown on protesters and later on civilians during the war, have stepped up efforts to tie ties with President Bashar Assad’s government in Syria since last month’s devastating earthquake to normalize Damascus.

While the US and EU have offered temporary sanctions in the wake of the earthquake, Lenarčič said major reconstruction funding is not on the table until there is “tangible progress towards a political settlement” for the insurgency, which has now turned civil war, entered its 13th year. year in.

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