Qatar is ready to help cash-strapped Lebanon with its economic recovery if its deeply divided political class agrees on a new government.
The outgoing cabinet has served in a caretaker role since resigning in August last year following public fury over the Beirut port blast that killed more than 200 people and destroyed entire neighbourhoods.
Lebanon’s wrangling politicians’ failure to agree on a new government has drawn rebukes from donors and warnings of “a social catastrophe” from United Nations agencies.
“Under our policy, we only provide financial help through economic projects … that will make a difference to the country’s economy,” Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said during a visit to Beirut on Tuesday.
But “this demands there be an independent government to work with”, he said at a press conference after meeting Lebanon’s president.
“As soon as a government is formed, Qatar will be ready to study all the options” and only then discuss “a comprehensive economic programme to support Lebanon”, he said.
“We carried a message … to urge all sides to put national interest first above other political interests to form a government,” Al Thani said.
Lebanon is in desperate need of financial assistance but France and other international lenders have conditioned financial help on an independent cabinet enacting sweeping reforms.
In 2008, Qatar hosted rival Lebanese leaders, brokering the “Doha agreement” that ended 18 months of political conflict and averted the risk of civil war.
In response to whether there was any similar Qatari mediation now, the foreign minister said Lebanese were always welcome in Doha but this was not currently in the works.