France 'deeply concerned' by Lebanon unrest, urges 'de-escalation'

AFP , Thursday 14 Oct 2021

France on Thursday expressed concern over the deadly unrest that erupted in Lebanon over the investigation into last year's Beirut port blast and urged all parties to calm the situation.

 Armed clashes in Lebanon
Supporters of a Shia group allied with Hezbollah fire weapons during armed clashes that erupted during a protest in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. It was not immediately clear what triggered the gunfire, but tensions were high along a former civil war front-line between Muslim Shia and Christian areas. AP

"France is deeply concerned over the recent hindering of the smooth running of the investigation... and the violence that has occurred in this context. France calls on all parties to bring about a de-escalation," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

According to the authorities, at least six people were killed in clashes on Thursday, all of them by gunfire.

The clashes erupted after a demonstration organised by Shia parties against the lead investigator into the blast turned violent.

Judge Tarek Bitar has in recent days been in the sights of the Shia Hezbollah and Amal parties, particularly for insisting on subpoenaing top officials in his probe.

The French statement said that the "Lebanese judiciary must be able to work independently and impartially within the framework of this investigation, without hindrance, and with the full support of the Lebanese authorities."

"The Lebanese people are waiting for full light to be shed on the port explosion. They have a right to the truth."

The explosion on August 4, 2020, killed more than 200 people and destroyed large swathes of the capital.

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