Emmanuel Macron this week enjoyed a warm welcome in blast-hit Beirut, the likes of which he hardly ever receives at home these days. It remains to be seen whether the French president, who has long tried to cast himself as a global leader, will capitalise on the opportunity offered by the tragedy and live up to his ambitions.
“france will never let Lebanon go,” President Macron said as he toured the wrecked neighbourhoods of Beirut on Thursday, an ambiguous remark given that it came from the leader of a former colonial power that once ruled Lebanon.
Macron became the first foreign head of state to visit the Lebanese capital, which was devastated by a massive explosion in the city’s port on Tuesday.
The blast, blamed by Lebanese authorities on poorly stored ammonium nitrate, fuelled anti-government sentiment in the country rocked by a deepening economic crisis, a collapsing currency, and mass protests against perceived corruption and mismanagement.
That lack of trust some Lebanese people have in their own government overlapped with Macron’s willingness to position himself as a global leader.
The French president promised a “new political pact” and gave Lebanon’s government until September 1 to go ahead with a series of yet-unidentified reforms. He also did not rule out slapping sanctions on Lebanese officials if those reforms are not implemented.
Macron will host an international conference for Lebanon on Sunday to mobilise aid for the country, which appears…