NNA - A European Union official visiting Lebanon said 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 Lenarčič said at a press conference following his two-day visit that the EU will provide 60 million euros (more than $65 million) in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon in 2023, a 20% 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."
Lenarčič 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. -- Associated Press