BEIRUT — France's special envoy to Lebanon, Jean-Yves Le Drian, met on Friday with several political leaders and the ambassadors of five countries involved in efforts to find a way out of the crisis in Lebanon, which has been without a head of state since the end of October 2022. According to a diplomatic source interviewed by AFP, the ambassadors called for a president to be elected without delay.
Arriving in Beirut on Wednesday afternoon, the former French Foreign Minister said he was in Lebanon on a mission of "consultation and listening," and stressed that "the solution must come first from the Lebanese."
On Friday, he met the ambassadors of the five countries that had held a meeting on Lebanon in Paris on Feb. 6: the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar. "They agreed on the need to proceed without delay with the election of a president as a prelude to the launch of economic and social reforms within the framework of an International Monetary Fund recovery program," the diplomatic source reportedly told AFP. International donors are demanding a structural reform program to help the country recover.
Earlier in the day, Le Drian had held talks with MP and former presidential candidate Michel Moawad and with the parliamentary group of the Kataeb party, the party's communications officer, Patrick Richa, confirmed to L'Orient-Le Jour. The meeting with Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel and MPs Nadim Gemayel and Salim Sayegh was scheduled to last an hour. Their colleague, Elias Hankache, was absent for health reasons.
"Frank meeting with Jean-Yves Le Drian. We discussed the Kataeb approach to the presidential dossier," Gemayel tweeted after the meeting. We also presented a plan for a solution based on the recovery of state sovereignty, the lifting of the imposed trusteeship and the implementation of the reforms required to get the people out of the crisis."
'Lebanon is not on the agenda'
The French envoy also held talks with protest movement MPs Paula Yacoubian, Halimé Kaakour, Yassine Yassine, Ibrahim Mneimneh, Michel Doueihy and Waddah Sadek, the latter said in a tweet. "We stressed the need for the president to win the trust of the Lebanese, apply the constitution, have a global vision of reform and aspire to a sovereign Lebanon," added Sadek. According to Sadek, Le Drian assured that he is "on the move to listen to the different parties, break down the obstacles and find a solution based on reforms."
However, Sadek added, "Today, Lebanon is not on the international community's agenda, and no one is enthusiastic about helping it."
Le Drian then held talks with Druze political heavyweight Walid Joumblatt and his son, MP Teymour Joumblatt.
He also held talks with the army's commander-in-chief, Gen. Joseph Aoun, who is considered a potential presidential candidate. In a statement, the army said discussions focused on the overall security and political situation in the country, as well as on the military institution.
Le Drian also held talks with Sunni figures, including Tripoli MP Faisal Karameh.
Since his arrival in Lebanon, Le Drian has held talks with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai, and Christian leaders Samir Geagea (Lebanese Forces), Gebran Bassil (Free Patriotic Movement) and Sleiman Frangieh (Marada Movement). Frangieh is also an official presidential candidate. He also held discussions with Ziyad Baroud, former interior minister, whose name has come up several times as a possible presidential candidate.
Two weeks ago, Le Drian was tasked with finding a way out of the political impasse in Lebanon, which has been suffering from a presidential power vacuum for over eight months, due to a lack of consensus among political groups on a successor to Michel Aoun. His visit comes a week after Parliament held its 12th unsuccessful session to elect a new president. In the session, neither of the two main candidates — Jihad Azour, supported by the opposition and the FPM, and Sleiman Frangieh, favored by Amal and Hezbollah — obtained an absolute majority of votes.
Since 2020, France has been involved in the search for a solution to the political and economic crises roiling Lebanon, without success, and French President Emmanuel Macron has visited the country twice. According to a French diplomatic source, another trip to Lebanon by Le Drian is planned for the summer.