US hails EU decision to adopt new sanctions regime for Lebanon

The US on Friday hailed the European Union’s decision to adopt a new sanctions regime on individuals in Lebanon that have caused the crisis-struck nation to an almost complete collapse.

After years of being urged to do so, the EU announced a sanctions regime that includes potential travel bans to the EU and asset freezes on entities linked to those sanctioned.

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According to a senior EU diplomat, Hungary was still opposed to the sanctions regime until late Thursday. Hungary has voiced its public support for Gebran Bassil, the Lebanese president’s son-in-law who was sanctioned by the US last year for acts of corruption.

“The United States welcomes the EU’s adoption today of a new sanctions regime to promote accountability and reform in Lebanon,” a joint statement from the US secretaries of Treasury and State read.
“As an increasing number of Lebanese suffer from the country’s worsening economic crisis, it is critical that Lebanese leaders heed their people’s repeated calls for an end to widespread corruption and government inaction and form a government that can initiate the reforms critical to address the country’s dire situation,” Janet Yellen and Antony Blinken said in the statement.

The US has mainly been the sole enforcer of sanctions on Lebanese officials for acts of corruption or their ties to Hezbollah, a designated terrorist organization by Washington and several European and Gulf countries.

But France, which distinguishes between the Iran-backed group’s so-called military and political wings, has been the major obstacle in the face of a unified international policy for Beirut.
“Sanctions are intended, among other things, to compel changes in behavior, and promote accountability for corrupt actors and leaders who have engaged in malign behavior,” Friday’s statement from the US said. “We welcome the EU’s use of this powerful tool to promote accountability on a global scale. The United States looks forward to future cooperation with the EU in our shared efforts.”

US-based sources familiar with the matter have said the US is working on announcing more sanctions on Lebanese politicians or members of their inner circles in the near future.

Treasury Department officials were in Lebanon last week to discuss “corruption, illicit finance, and counterterrorism,” the US Embassy in Beirut said during their visit. The delegation was made up of officials from the Treasury Department’s Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes (TFFC) office.

Najib Mikati was designated to form a new government after receiving the majority of votes to do so by lawmakers. He will be the third politician to try to form a government since Hassan Diab’s government resigned following the Beirut blast on Aug. 4, 2020.

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