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Cyprus urges Lebanon to implement reforms

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Cyprus has urged Lebanon’s new government to implement reforms quickly, for the international community to unlock aid to its crisis-stricken neighbour.

Nikos Christodoulides is the first foreign minister from the European Union to visit Lebanon since Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet took office last month.

Mikati has pledged to work toward quick reforms in the small Mideast nation notorious for corruption and now on the verge of bankruptcy.

The World Bank has described Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis, which started two years ago, as one of the worst the world has seen since the mid-1850s.

The national currency has collapsed, and inflation has soared, plunging most of the population into sudden poverty.

The crisis has been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic and the massive explosion at Beirut’s port in August 2020 that wiped out the facility and badly damaged large parts of the city.

“Lebanon stands at a critical crossroads and the new government has to face substantial challenges,” Christodoulides said after meeting Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib in Beirut.

“It is paramount that the necessary actions and reforms be taken swiftly, in order for the international community to be able to unlock the aid it has pledged to Lebanon in the past,” Christodoulides added.

Lebanon resumed contacts with the International Monetary Fund in recent days and hopes to soon resume talks over a bailout package. The talks were suspended last year.

Other countries have conditioned financial assistance or investments in Lebanon on its government implementing badly needed and radical reforms.

Separately, Jordan agreed Wednesday to supply Lebanon with electricity through Syria and said that work is underway on a plan and a timetable on how to implement the deliveries.

Jordan’s energy minister, Hala Zawati, made the announcement after a meeting in Amman with her counterparts from Lebanon and Syria.

The meeting comes after last month’s agreement to supply Lebanon, where electricity shortages are critical, with Egyptian natural gas through Jordan and Syria.

Zawati said the three ministers agreed on supplying Lebanon with “some of its electricity needs” through the Syrian power network.

Electricity cuts in Lebanon have been a decades-long fixture; they now for about 22 hours a day.

Most of the Lebanese rely on private generators for power as state company supplies are limited.