Qatar has said it will provide the Lebanese armed forces with 70 tonnes of food a month as Lebanon seeks assistance in the face of its worst economic and political crisis in decades.
Lebanon’s army chief Joseph Aoun had appealed to world powers last month, during a meeting organised by France, for assistance for soldiers, whose wages have plunged in value as the Lebanese pound has crashed and inflation has soared.
Qatar’s donation was announced on Tuesday during a visit to Beirut by Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
“The support comes within the framework of the State of Qatar’s constant endeavors to help resolve the political crisis in Lebanon, and its firm commitment to support the Republic of Lebanon and stand by the brotherly Lebanese people,” Qatar’s state news agency QNA reported.
Sheikh Mohammed urged Lebanese parties to form a new government “to achieve stability”, QNA added. Lebanese politicians have spent months wrangling without agreeing on a new government that is needed to unlock international aid.
In turn, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said his country welcomed “Qatar’s ongoing support”, according to a statement released by his office.
الرئيس عون التقى وزير الخارجية القطري في قصر بعبدا وأبلغه ترحيب لبنان بالدعم القطري الدائم وبأي خطوة قطرية للمساعدة على حل أزماته الراهنة pic.twitter.com/SUb94PGLT7
— Lebanese Presidency (@LBpresidency) July 6, 2021
Translation: President Aoun met with the Qatari Foreign Minister at Baabda Palace and expressed Lebanon’s appreciation for Qatar’s ongoing support, and welcomed any step by Qatar to help resolve its current crises.
Lebanon’s cabinet resigned after a massive explosion in Beirut’s port in August last year and has been acting in a caretaker capacity since then, while the economic crisis in the heavily indebted Arab country has deepened.
The World Bank has called Lebanon’s crisis one of the worst depressions of modern history. The currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value against the United States dollar since the economic crisis erupted in 2019, and more than half of the population has been propelled into poverty.
Widespread anger over fuel shortages has spilled into fights at petrol stations, while caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab warned Lebanon is a few days away from a “social explosion”.
The country’s medicine importers also said they had run out of hundreds of essential drugs and warned of further shortages if the cash-strapped central bank did not unblock funds.
Lebanon has long looked to the Gulf for financial aid in the past, but Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia have become increasingly reluctant to help because of the rising influence of Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia group backed by Iran.
Western and other international donors have demanded a new government and key reforms before providing assistance.
“The situation is critical,” Aoun, the army chief, had warned at last month’s meeting. “If unmitigated, the economic and financial crisis will inevitably lead to the collapse of all state institutions including the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF),” he added.
He described the army as the “sole guarantor” of security and stability in Lebanon and the “most trusted institution domestically and globally”.
“Therefore maintaining the cohesiveness and supporting the LAF to carry out its mission are of paramount importance.”