Christophe Simon / AP
International leaders at a virtual summit on Sunday pledged $ 298 million in aid to help Lebanon in the aftermath of the catastrophic bombing that killed at least 158 people and destroyed Beirut’s major trails.
In his first speech, French President Emmanuel Macron – co-host of the summit together with the UN – said “Lebanon’s future was in question” and called on those present “to come together in support of Lebanon and its people”. “.
Among those present were officials from about 30 international bodies and nations, including President Trump, who had announced his participation on Twitter.
Reuters quotes Macron’s office as saying that approximately $ 298 million would not be conditioned on government reforms in Lebanon, but long-term support would be. During Sunday’s summit, Macron urged Lebanese leaders to act in the country’s best interest, making a clear allusion to anger in the country’s ruling class following the blast.
“It is up to the country’s authorities to act so that the country does not sink, and to respond to the aspirations that the Lebanese people are now legally expressing on the streets of Beirut,” Macron said, according to a translation by France 24.
Riots in Lebanon have been high since last week’s explosion in the port of Beirut. Anger over the blast has been directed at corruption and negligence by the country’s politicians. The day before the virtual summit, mass demonstrations drew thousands to the streets of Beirut, with protesters even collecting a bad stone to cut out prominent politicians.
Prior to the blast – caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in the port of Beirut – the country had already experienced a major economic collapse. Lebanon had also been fighting under the COVID-19 pandemic.
The BBC reports that 15 leaders at the summit issued a joint statement, insisting that aid should be “sent directly to the Lebanese population, with maximum efficiency and transparency”.
“The assistance must be timely, sufficient and in line with the needs of the Lebanese people,” the statement said.
The European Commission – the executive body of the European Union – has pledged about $ 35 million, over the promised $ 39 million. The UK also pledged $ 26 million during the summit.
Earlier Sunday, the interim administrator for the US Agency for International Development clarified that the agency would evade pledging money through the Lebanese government. John Barsa told reporters in a conference call that $ 15 million would go through universities the United States trusted.