Saudi Arabia Y France committed an initial $32 million to launch a series of humanitarian projects in it Lebanon to help ease your crushing financial crisis.
Tuesday’s agreement, made between the French Foreign Ministry, the French Development Agency and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Aid Center, will provide nearly 30 million euros ($31.9 million) for the first humanitarian initiatives. and more are expected to come.
“This support comes as the commitment of Saudi Arabia and France to support the Lebanese people and contribute to their stability and development,” Saudi Ambassador Waleed Bukhari told a news conference. “The kingdom strives to support anything that eases the suffering of those in need.”
The first program will focus on food security and the country’s crippled health system, providing targeted monthly cash food assistance to 7,500 people, supporting hospitals in Tripoli and across North Lebanon, and distributing infant formula to families in need.
According to information obtained by AmericanPost.Newsthe remaining programs will focus on education, energy, water and the Lebanese Internal Security Forces.
Lebanon has been in the midst of a crippling economic crisis that has decimated lives and livelihoods for the past two years. More than three-quarters of the population lives in poverty, while the Lebanese pound has lost 90 percent of its value, and its skyrocketing inflation is among the highest in the world.
France and Saudi Arabia seek to help Lebanon
As we mentioned in AmericanPost.NewsFrance and Saudi Arabia agreed at the end of February to establish a joint aid mechanism for Lebanon.
The deal comes two weeks after Saudi Arabia returned its ambassador to Lebanon as it slowly revives ties with the crisis-hit country.
“The Franco-Saudi initiative indicates the desire of France and Saudi Arabia to be stakeholders involved in the Lebanon archive,” Lina Khatib, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, told Al Jazeera.
“But that does not mean that neither country will offer Lebanon a comprehensive financial rescue package, or that they will prioritize Lebanon on their foreign affairs agendas.”
Riyadh was once a key political and economic backer of Beirut, where it invested billions of dollars to boost its tourist economy.
However, he has become particularly concerned about the growing political power and influence of Iran-backed Hezbollah in the country in recent years and has stepped back.
Political analyst Bachar el-Halabi said Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian initiative will help “rehabilitate its image” among the Lebanese, especially the Sunni population, as they struggle to cope with the financial crisis.
“This aid will allow them to rebuild their social and political capital,” el-Halabi told Al Jazeera.
Relations between the kingdom and Beirut soured after comments by former Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi, criticizing the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, aired last October.
The former celebrity TV host made the statement a month before joining the Lebanese government, calling the long-running war “futile,” adding that Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen are “defending… external”. He resigned in December.
Riyadh’s main political ally, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, suspended his political career in February, and his party, the Future Movement, will not participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections on May 15.
Analysts have said that Lebanon’s efforts to thwart drug smuggling into Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, play down rhetoric against the Gulf Cooperation Council and promises of improving bilateral relations may have reassured the kingdom.
But experts also said that Saudi Arabia is still biding its time before committing to a new political strategy in Lebanon, at least until after the country’s parliamentary elections in just over two weeks.
“They are monitoring the political landscape before the elections,” el-Halabi said. “The kind of parliament that emerges after the elections will dictate what kind of role Saudi Arabia wants to play in Lebanon.”
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