The European Union on Monday agreed to adopt a sanctions regime for Lebanese leaders by the end of July, France said, in an effort to force a stable government to emerge from nearly a year of political chaos following the Beirut blast.
"There was a moment ago a political consensus to put in place a legal sanctions framework before the end of the month, before the anniversary of the Beirut port explosion," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in Brussels after a meeting with his EU counterparts.
"Lebanon has been in self-destruct mode for several months," Le Drian said. "Now there is a major emergency situation for a population that is in distress."
Nearly a year after the Aug. 4 explosion, which killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and devastated swathes of the capital, Lebanon is still headed by a caretaker government, frustrating French efforts to encourage a new government.
Lebanon is mired in what the World Bank has called one of the worst economic crises since the 1850s, and the cash-strapped state is struggling to buy enough fuel to keep the lights on.
The economic crisis has seen the Lebanese pound lose more than 90 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market, and left more than half the population living below the poverty line.
"To the Lebanese authorities, we repeat the need that there is to form a government, to carry out the reforms necessary to exit this tragedy that they're in," Le Drian added.
Since days after the explosion, French President Emmanuel Macron has tried to pressure and cajole Lebanese leaders to form a technocratic government that would be able to rebuild the capital and save the country's economy from collapse.
Criteria for EU sanctions such as travel bans and assets freezes for Lebanese politicians are likely to include corruption, obstructing efforts to form a government, financial misdeeds and human rights abuses, according to a diplomatic note seen by Reuters.