French President Emmanuel Macron marked Lebanon’s centenary Tuesday by planting a cedar tree, ahead of “risky” talks with Lebanese leaders to pressure them to implement reforms that are vital for the country’s survival.
“It’s the last chance for this system,” Macron told POLITICO in an interview while travelling to Beirut Monday. “It’s a risky bet I’m making, I am aware of it … I am putting the only thing I have on the table: my political capital.”
He also said that Lebanese leaders will be sanctioned if reforms are not implemented.
Macron’s second visit in less than a month comes on the heels of the designation of a new prime minister, who was chosen by Lebanon’s main ruling parties under French pressure.
The French president landed in Beirut hours after diplomat Mustapha Adib was appointed as the new prime minister-designate and visited legendary Lebanese singer Fairouz at her residence in Rabieh.
He was greeted by angry protesters who were chanting “Mustapha Adib no,” as they view him as another yes-man to the political elite.
Macron, who previously visited in the immediate aftermath of the blast that killed more than 190 people and injured 6,500, planted the cedar sapling at a forest reserve in the mountains northeast of Beirut.
Elysée Palace said Macron had planted the tree at the Jaj cedar reserve in Jbeil to show his “confidence in the future of the country”.
The French air force display team flew overhead, leaving smoke trails of red, white and green, the national colours of Lebanon whose borders were proclaimed by France 100 years ago in an imperial carve-up with Britain.
Lebanon gained independence in 1943.
He is set to visit the port site and areas affected by the blast. He will later meet with President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace, followed by a meeting with the country’s main political leaders at the Pine Residence – the official residence of the French ambassador in Lebanon.
Meanwhile protests are set to take place in Martyrs’ Square at 4 p.m., which are headlined by the phrase “Their time is up,” referring to the country’s ruling elite that nationwide protests tried to topple last October.
Another protest slogan reads “the true legitimacy is in our hands,” as many protesters are unsatisfied with how the new premier was chosen and already expressed their distrust in him and his government he is yet to form, hours after he was designated.