Embattled Merkel in Lebanon amid heated asylum debate

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (2nd-R) shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) a panoramic view of the capital Beirut on June 21, 2018

Beirut (AFP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks in Beirut Thursday, on the second leg of a Middle East trip that comes amid an acrimonious debate at home over refugee policy.

Merkel met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose office said they discussed the latest developments in Lebanon and the region.

She is due to meet President Michel Aoun on Friday and hold a press conference before flying back to Germany, where she faces intense pressure to curb migrant arrivals.

Before Lebanon, Merkel was in Jordan, where she met King Abdullah II. The pair of small countries have the world’s two highest numbers of refugees per capita.

With anti-immigrant sentiment spreading across Europe, Merkel has been criticised by hardliners in her own governing coalition for allowing more than one million asylum seekers into Germany in 2015.

Many of them were from Syria, whose seven-year-old conflict is also responsible for the massive influx of refugees to Jordan and Lebanon.