Tue, 03 Aug 2021

BEIRUT, Lebanon: EU Foreign Ministers warned they might apply sanctions to Lebanon if its political leaders continue to block the formation of a government to deal with its many ongoing crises.

After completing a "frank exchange" with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, EU High Representative Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, said in Beirut that the country's months-long political stalemate was testing the European bloc's patience.

"The Lebanese leadership must take its responsibility and adopt the necessary measures without more delay -- a government must be formed and key reforms implemented immediately," he said, as quoted by Reuters.

The European Council, he warned, "has been discussing options, including targeted sanctions. Of course we prefer not to go down this route and we hope that we will not have to. But it is in the hands of the Lebanese leadership."

Borrell's visit to Beirut was held prior to a meeting of EU officials in Brussels next week to discuss imposing sanctions on Lebanese officials accused of corruption and political obstruction.

"Let me insist," he said. "We stand ready to assist, if this what you want. But if there is further obstruction to solutions to the current multi-dimensional crisis in the country, we will have to consider other courses of action, as some member states have proposed."

After meeting with Aoun, Borrell will also meet with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and House Speaker Nabih Berri, in a bid to break Lebanon's seemingly intractable political stalemate.

The EU provided some $400 million to Lebanon in 2020, based upon promises to institute reforms, work to end corruption, reduce bureaucracy and end costly subsidies of essential products.

Due to the political stalemate, the reforms have not been put in place.

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