PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron held talks in Paris on Tuesday with Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai. Marcon expressed his support for Rai's "efforts" in the face of Lebanon's "political impasse" and called on all forces in the country to break this deadlock "without delay."
The French president and the patriarch "shared their deep concerns in the face of the crisis" and "the paralysis of institutions, fueled by the presidential vacancy [that has been ongoing] for more than seven months," the Elysée reported. "They agreed on the need for a president of the republic to be elected without delay," Paris added.
In particular, Macron spoke of "the need" for Lebanon's Christians "to remain at the center of the sectarian and institutional balance of the Lebanese state."
The Lebanese president is traditionally chosen from within the Maronite community, and the patriarch is calling for a consensus-building candidate, while differences between Hezbollah and its opponents are preventing the election of a successor to Michel Aoun, whose term expired on Oct. 31.
'Bringing opinions closer together'
On his way from the Vatican, where he had met the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the head of the country's most influential Christian community discussed during his hourlong meeting at the Elysée Palace "ways of bringing opinions closer together," according to Rai's entourage.
According to the French presidency, Macron stressed that "the stalemate" was an "obstacle" to reforms, "without which there can be no recovery and lasting stability in Lebanon."
"The president expressed his support for the ongoing efforts of Patriarch Rai and called for joint efforts by all political forces to break the current political deadlock without delay," his office added.
Hezbollah does not have the necessary majority in Parliament to impose its preferred candidate, Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh. Its opponents, notably Christian parties including the Lebanese Forces, have also failed to impose their candidate, Michel Moawad.
France, which has strong ties with Lebanon, maintains that it does not support any candidate. But Lebanese officials claim that Paris supports the election of Frangieh, along with the appointment of a reformist prime minister, who must come from the Sunni Muslim community.
In his homily Sunday, Rai welcomed the fact that some parliamentary blocs were close to agreeing on a candidate "who could meet Lebanon's needs and inspire confidence in Lebanon and abroad."
According to Lebanese officials who requested anonymity, the Christian parties are trying to reach an agreement to nominate Jihad Azour, director of the Middle East and Central Asia for the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
This article has been translated from a French AFP article published in L'Orient-Le Jour