Explosion catastrophe, economic crisis, corona pandemic: Lebanon is in a deep crisis. Germany is ready to provide extensive assistance - but only under certain conditions.
Beirut / Berlin (dpa) - More than a week after the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is visiting the site of the disaster today.
During the one-day stay in the Lebanese capital, the SPD politician wants to talk about economic aid for the country on the Mediterranean Sea and at the same time promote reforms, which are also demanded by many Lebanese.
"The country now needs a powerful departure and it needs far-reaching economic reforms," said Maas before his departure from Berlin. "This is the only way that Lebanon will win its youth over for a good future, that is the only way to build the necessary trust." At least 165 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured in the severe explosion on Tuesday last week. Thousands of Lebanese took part in a funeral march on Tuesday evening.
Maas wants to speak to President Michel Aoun, representatives of various social groups and aid organizations in the capital, Beirut. Germany had pledged 20 million euros at the weekend to deal with the consequences of the disaster. "We want to bring our aid directly to the people of Beirut with the United Nations and through experienced aid organizations," Maas promised.
The detonation is said to have been triggered by large quantities of the highly explosive chemical ammonium nitrate, which were stored in the port without any safety precautions. Large parts of the port and surrounding residential areas were destroyed. The German embassy was also badly damaged. A German diplomat died. Other embassy staff were injured. Maas also wants to speak to embassy staff who have lost their homes.
Maas visits the country amid a serious political and economic crisis. In response to the explosion and violent protests against the government, Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the resignation of the cabinet on Monday. President Aoun now has to negotiate with the main political blocs about a successor. Due to strong conflicting interests, it has often taken a long time to fill top positions in Lebanon. Due to the severe economic crisis, the corona pandemic and the consequences of the detonation, however, there is great pressure to find an agreement quickly.
On Tuesday evening, thousands marched in silence towards the port, eyewitnesses reported. Some wore white roses, others had tears in their eyes. The names of the victims were read out at a memorial service. "I am speechless. We have lost our beautiful Beirut," said a woman named Randa, who was made homeless by the disaster. “We will rise from the rubble,” shouted others. Many Lebanese blame the political leadership and widespread corruption for the explosion and economic crisis.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200812-99-133881 / 2