Feb 19 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Saturday Lebanon must offer stronger signals that it is serious about reform to secure support from the international community as it struggles with a financial crisis.
“Lebanon first needs to be actively saving itself … We need a stronger signal from the Lebanese body politic that they are going to step up,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said at the Munich Security Conference.
He said this included first stabilising the economy and then addressing issues of corruption and mismanagement as well as “regional interference and loss of state sovereignty”.
Lebanon’s ties to the Arab Gulf and particularly Saudi Arabia, formerly a major donor to Beirut, hit rock bottom last year over what the Saudi foreign minister said was the growing influence of Iran-allied Hezbollah in the country.
Kuwait last month presented to Beirut a list of Gulf terms for thawing relations after Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states expelled Lebanese ambassadors and recalled their own.
“If there is a true initiative to reform the economic structure, reform the governance structure, reform the way the economy is managed, then I think you can call on the regional states to offer all kinds of support,” Prince Faisal said, mentioning technical and economic support as well as developmental aid.
He said a “short-term panacea” would not help Lebanon, which went into financial meltdown in 2019 under the weight of huge public debts, slicing more than 90% off the local currency’s value and plunging a majority of the population into poverty.
Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Christina Fincher