Abbas Ibrahim holds Paris talks as cabinet deadline looms

General Abbas Ibrahim

BEIRUT – A senior Lebanese security official has held talks about the formation of Lebanon’s government with French intelligence chief Bernard Emie in Paris, a Lebanese official said on Thursday, as a deadline for announcing a cabinet looms early next week.

General Abbas Ibrahim

France is leaning on Lebanon’s fractious politicians to establish a new government that will enact reforms to dig the country out of a crippling economic crisis seen as the biggest threat to stability since its 1975-1990 civil war. 

President Emmanuel Macron said on Sept. 1, during a visit to Beirut, that Lebanese leaders had agreed to form a cabinet within two weeks, meaning one should be in place by early next week, to start implementing reforms set out in a French roadmap. 

It typically takes months to form governments in Lebanon, which is riven by sectarian and factional politics.

“We are all hoping that will be possible” to meet the deadline, a diplomat told Reuters. 

But “there has always been scepticism, in both political and diplomatic circles, that it could be delivered in two weeks, and there is still clearly a lot of work to be done before we have a full list of names,” the diplomat added. 

During his visit to Paris, Lebanese Major General Abbas Ibrahim met the French crisis team tasked with following up on the French initiative, the Lebanese official said. 

On returning to Beirut, the official said Ibrahim relayed to President Michel Aoun “France’s interest in following up on what was agreed during Macron’s visit, especially with regards to speeding up formation of the government.”

Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, named under French pressure on the eve of Macron’s visit, met Aoun on Tuesday and said he was in “the phase of consultation” with Lebanon’s president. 

During his visit, Macron gave Lebanese politicians until the end of October to start delivering on reforms, saying financial aid would be withheld and sanctions imposed further down the line if corruption gets in the way.