UN chief on 'solidarity' visit to crisis-hit Lebanon

President Michel Aoun (right) meeting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a visit to the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut on December 19, 2021. (Photo: Dalati and Nohra/AFP)
BEIRUT  — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Beirut on Sunday on a "solidarity" trip to Lebanon as the country remains in the throes of a crippling financial crisis.اضافة اعلان

"If there is a word to characterize my visit, that word is solidarity," Guterres said in a statement upon arrival.

He had previously called on Lebanese officials to unite to find solutions to the country's dire economic crisis, dubbed by the World Bank as among the planet's worst since the 1850s.

"The divisions among political leaders in Lebanon have paralyzed the institutions," Guterres told reporters Thursday at the UN headquarters in New York.

This makes it impossible "to reach agreement with IMF... to launch effective economic programs, and to create the conditions for the country to initiate the recovery," he added.

Lebanese leaders do not have "the right to be divided in a moment of such dramatic crisis".

Around 80 percent of Lebanon's population is estimated to be living under the poverty line.

Cabinet has failed to meet since mid-October due to infighting, in particular over the judge charged with investigating the catastrophic August 2020 explosion at Beirut's port that killed at least 215 people, injured thousands and devastated swathes of the capital.

Guterres is set to visit the blast site on Monday, holding a minute's silence for the victims.

He is scheduled to meet with President Michel Aoun on Sunday, as well as with other high-level officials, religious leaders and representatives of civil society organizations before his departure on Wednesday.

He will also visit the impoverished northern city of Tripoli and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the country's south.

Read more Region and World