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Any major assistance to Lebanon depends on the IMF deal: European Union

A European Union official visiting Lebanon said on Friday that the international body will increase its humanitarian assistance to the crisis-struck country

European Parliament (EU) selected USB-C as the standard port

European Parliament (EU) selected USB-C as the standard port

AP Beirut

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A European Union official visiting Lebanon said on Friday that the international body will increase its humanitarian assistance to the crisis-struck country, but that more significant long-term aid depends on reforms and a deal with the International Monetary Fund.
EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said at a press conference following his two-day visit that the EU will provide 60 million euros (more than USD 65 million) in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon in 2023, a 20 per cent increase from last year.
But he warned that such aid is "not a sustainable long-term solution to the massive financial crisis that has left three-quarters of Lebanon's population of 6 million in poverty.
To get out of the crisis, he said, Lebanon needs to elect a president -- which would resolve a presidential vacuum that has dragged on for five months - and to ink a deal with the IMF, which he said would unlock substantial financial support also from the European Union that should help Lebanon recover from the collapse.
Progress towards finalising a USD 3 billion IMF bailout package for Lebanon has largely stalled.
Since reaching a preliminary agreement with the IMF nearly a year ago, Lebanese officials have made limited progress on reforms required to clinch the deal, which include restructuring the country's debts and its ailing banking system, reforming its barely functioning public electricity system and making governance reforms.
IMF officials said continued inaction would leave the nation in a never-ending crisis in which it could spiral into hyperinflation.
Lenarcic also responded to increasing angst over the presence of more than 1 million Syrian refugees in the tiny country and calls for their return. He acknowledged that the large refugee presence is a challenge but said that it does not absolve" Lebanon and its leaders of their responsibility for providing basic services.
The current crisis in which Lebanon finds itself was not created by the Syrian refugees, he said.
Lenarcic added that, while refugees who want to return are free to do so, the EU's position is that the conditions are still not right in Syria for safe and voluntary return.
At the same time, he said the EU is not ready to consider lifting sanctions or funding major reconstruction in Syria.
Oil-rich Gulf Arab countries that had previously cut ties with Damascus over the Syrian government's brutal crackdown on protesters and later on civilians during the war, have been stepping up efforts to normalize ties with President Bashar Assad's government in Damascus since last month's devastating earthquake.
While the US and EU have offered temporary sanctions released in the aftermath of the earthquake, Lenarcic said major reconstruction funding is not on the table until there is tangible progress toward a political resolution to the uprising-turned-civil-war that has now entered its 13th year.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Mar 31 2023 | 5:49 PM IST

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