Lebanon has no other option for economic recovery but to move forward on an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, a senior US official said on Thursday. Reuters reports.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf visited Lebanon, which is suffering from one of the worst financial crises in the world, according to the World Bank, on a regional trip earlier this month.
Beirut signed a staff-level agreement with the IMF in April 2022, but its progress towards the financial reforms needed to unlock $3 billion in funding is “very slow”, according to the lender of last resort.
Leaf, in an online briefing, said she urged Lebanese officials to make progress on the overall deal and end the month-long presidential vacuum.
“Helping the Lebanese people remains a priority for us as we urge the Lebanese leaders to embrace an urgency they clearly lacked,” she said. “The IMF package is a lifeline. There is no other way out.”
Leaf said she hoped that the recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran could have a “relaxing and beneficial impact on Lebanon, as well as other countries throughout the region”.
Saudi Arabia is trying to restore ties with Syria after more than a decade of isolation.
Leaf said the US did not support normalization with the Syrian government and announced new sanctions this week on Syrian and Lebanese nationals accused of being involved in the production and trafficking of Captagain, an amphetamine.
She described the Captagon as a “scourge” in the region.
Leaf said talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials in Egypt and Jordan in recent weeks have been “very slowly, carefully” moving toward de-escalation.
She said that public protests in Israel had “to some extent” compromised the ability to deal with those tensions but that the US sought to continue those talks in the coming months to achieve “persistent, relative calm”. .
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported 152 Palestinian killings by Israeli security forces last year in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and said there had also been an increase in Jewish settler violence against Palestinians.
IMF warns: Without reform, Lebanon may enter ‘endless crisis’