Photo’s source: wikipedia.org
On April 27th, 2022, France and Saudi Arabia announced a joint development fund for crisis-hit Lebanon that will provide $76 million for support aid and relief work. A memorandum was signed by the Director of the Branches Department at KSrelief, Mubarak Bin Saeed Al-Dossari, the French Ambassador to Lebanon, Anne Grillo, and to represent the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the AFD Director in Lebanon, Gilles Gran-Pierre.
The Kingdom will make a contribution of 36 million euros, while France will commit to making a similar contribution within the framework of the partnership between the two sides, bringing the total to 72 million euros provided by the two countries.
Walid Bukhari, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, said: “The initiative aims to support the humanitarian and relief work, and achieve stability and development in Lebanon by implementing the highest standards of transparency and accountability.”
The fund will support projects in the following sectors: food safety, health, education, energy, water, and interior security forces.
Bukhari added: “A monetary contribution of $38 million will be provided by KSrelief, whereas the French party will contribute a similar sum, making the total $76 million provided by both countries to the joint fund”. “We fulfill our obligations toward Lebanon without discriminating against its sects and groups, based on our duty of Arab brotherhood.”
The French Embassy in Lebanon said that the French contribution aimed to support “the vulnerable people in Lebanon and respond to their most urgent needs in the sectors of health and food safety”. “A part of this support will mainly go to the Tripoli Governmental Hospital and will boost the primary healthcare services, in addition to providing emergency aid, including food for deprived groups.”
Bachar el-Halabi, a political analyst 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.
The Lebanese economic crisis started in 2019 with the depreciation of the Lebanese currency as well as shortages of food, fuel, and medicine. The 2020 Beirut port explosion further exacerbated the situation, and is still under investigation by the government nearly two years later. Anti-government protests have continued on and off since 2019.
Lebanon is also plagued by massive corruption, in March, 2022 a judge charged Central Bank head Riad Salameh with illegal enrichment and money laundering.
Some states, including France, have been reluctant to provide aid to Lebanon in the absence of governance and macroeconomic reforms.
The Saudi aid also represents a turning point in Saudi-Lebanon relations. Saudi Arabia pulled its ambassador from Lebanon last year over comments made by Lebanese minister that were critical of the Saudi intervention in Yemen. In April, 2022, Saudi Arabia returned its ambassador.
Saudi Arabia remains concerned about Iran’s influence in Lebanon via Hezbollah, as well as drug trafficking from Lebanon.
This article was edited using the data from the Saudigazette.com, Al-monitor.com, Arabnews.com, and Aljazeera.com