France to impose travel ban on officials hindering progress in Lebanon

France to impose travel ban on officials hindering progress in Lebanon
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, left, meets with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, May 6, 2021. (AP Photo)

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BEIRUT: France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said France will impose travel bans on a number of senior Lebanese officials after he described “the inability of political actors in Lebanon to show responsibility” as “collective suicide.”

Le Drian, on his visit to Lebanon, added: “If these officials do not start acting responsibly, they will have to bear the consequences of their failure and defiance to the commitments they undertook.”

In a press conference on Friday at the Pine Residence in Beirut, Le Drian addressed Lebanese officials, saying: “We have decided to reinforce pressure on those hindering progress in the country. We cannot watch everything happening and do nothing. We have started to initiate restrictive measures to limit their entry to France, and this is only the beginning.”

Le Drian did not reveal the names of those who will be affected by these decisions, but talked about an “orchestrated political postponement by some and their defiance to commitments they had undertaken.”

He said: “Corrupt officials hindering efforts will not be able to enter France. If (corruption) persists, these measures will get more strict. We have started working along with the EU on drafting new measures to step up pressure if needed.”

Le Drian warned “the international community and France will not allow any attempt to postpone the next parliamentary elections in Lebanon” and said that “respecting the democratic deadlines in Lebanon is inevitable.”

He praised the “dynamic Lebanese civil society” and said: “I carefully listened to representatives of parties and movements with projects for different political models and I have met with exceptional women involved in amazing solidarity projects. It is up to the Lebanese to choose what they want for their country. The parliamentary elections in 2022 must constitute an opportunity for democratic talks about the future of Lebanon.”

The minister said he had not come to Lebanon to “get drawn into political inducements,” reiterating his invitation to Lebanese officials to commit to the promises made to French President Emmanuel Macron. His meetings at the Pine Residence excluded some top figures, such as jurists, constitution experts, academics and civil society activists.

Activist Dr. Mona Fayad told Arab News: “It is no coincidence that Le Drian did not meet any of the independent figures. Ever since the Beirut blast, France has only tried to absorb the resentment of the Lebanese and has enabled the ruling class to remain in power despite their complete unresponsiveness to the French initiative.

“The core problem that France must address is Hezbollah and its main supporter, Iran. Hezbollah controls the power in Lebanon and has messed with the country’s independence. Lebanon’s neutrality should be announced in an international conference organized to step up pressure against Iran and Hezbollah. Arms in Lebanon are owned and controlled by Hezbollah.”

She said: “Laws in Lebanon are not applied to everyone and no one is held accountable for violating the constitution. How is it possible for Gebran Bassil (the Free Patriotic Movement leader) for example, to justify hindering the government’s formation by the country’s customs, claiming he represents the largest group of Christians? What constitution stipulates that? The ruling class would never cede power because they know that by doing so, they will be held accountable.”

Over 40 senior officials, including constitutional experts, meanwhile, signed a document with a list of President Michel Aoun’s constitutional violations that “affect Lebanon and its future and change its identity and nature of the regime.”

Signatories urged lawmakers to “carry out their duties” warning “they will lead the country to hell” if they failed to.

“The president took an oath and promised to a be judge and not to take sides, which is something we have not yet seen during his mandate,” the document said.