French envoy Le Drian meets key Lebanese players in push to end political crisis

French envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian met with key Lebanese figures on Thursday in a “consultation” mission to push for a solution to the country’s protracted political impasse.

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Since 2019, Lebanon has been in deep economic crisis. It has been ruled by a caretaker cabinet for more than a year and has no president for nearly eight months.

With bitter divisions between Iran-backed Hezbollah and its opponents, no group has a clear majority in parliament and lawmakers and has failed to elect a new president 12 times.

“This is a consultative task … to ensure that the country emerges from the political impasse,” Le Drian told reporters.

He said he was “engaging in the necessary talks with all involved to bring an immediate end to the political deadlock”.

Le Drian met caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Maronite Church influential leader Beshahara on Thursday after holding talks the previous day with parliament speaker Nabi Berry, a key Hezbollah ally. Rye.

Under Lebanon’s delicate sectarian power-sharing system, the president is usually a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shiite.

The last presidential election, held earlier this month, pitted Hezbollah-backed Suleiman Frangi against finance official Jihad Azul, who is backed mainly by Christian and independent lawmakers.

Le Drian also met with Frangee, who described the meeting as “positive and constructive.”

Lebanese Christian politicians have criticized Paris for appearing to back Franquier on the condition that the reformist be prime minister.

“The solution comes first from Lebanon,” Le Drian said, adding that Lebanon “did not offer an option” for the presidency.

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called for a “quick end to Lebanon’s institutional political vacuum”.

Lebanon’s former ruler, France, tried several times to bail the country out, but failed.

“The most important thing is to start the negotiation process,” said Michael Young, an analyst at the Carnegie Middle East Center, noting the importance of Lebanon and regional players.

He said the “package deal” could include not only the president’s nomination, but also nominations for prime minister, central bank governor and army chief of staff later this year.

France has issued an arrest warrant for embattled central bank chief Riad Salameh, charging him with money laundering, among other crimes.

Salame, whose term ends next month, has denied the allegations.

The pro-Hezbollah daily Al-Akhbar on Thursday predicted a long-lasting presidential vacancy and said “Le Drian’s visit does not hold much hope”.


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