The US State Department is dispatching a senior official to Lebanon this week to push the country’s leaders to form a government after months of political deadlock.
Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale will visit Beirut on Tuesday through Thursday, making him the highest-ranking US official to travel to the small Mediterranean country since President Joe Biden took office in January.
During his visit, Hale “will underscore America's concerns with the worsening socio-economic conditions throughout the country and the political impasse that is contributing to the deteriorating situation," read a State Department statement on Monday. Hale will hold meetings “with a full range of leaders.”
“Under Secretary Hale will press Lebanese officials and party leaders to come together and form a government capable of and committed to implementing economic and governance reforms so that the Lebanese people can realize their full potential,” the statement said.
Lebanon’s politicians have been unable to form a cabinet to address the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government quit in the wake of last August's Beirut port explosion, which killed 200 people and gutted much of the Lebanese capital.
Leading Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri was named prime minister-designate in October, but has been unable to agree on a cabinet lineup with President Michel Aoun. Hariri previously served as Lebanon's prime minister, but stepped down in October 2019 amid nationwide protests calling for his departure.
A new government in Lebanon would be expected to tackle a range of economic and social challenges including a plummeting currency, poor public services and rising unemployment. Since the Lebanese government defaulted on its debt last year, foreign donors have been unwilling to unlock much-needed financial aid without meaningful reforms and a stable government in place.