BEIRUT — On the second day of his tour of Lebanon, French special envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian met Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Gebran Bassil at his home on Wednesday morning, in the presence of French Ambassador Anne Grillo.
Le Drian then visited Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in Meerab. The French diplomat released no statement after either meeting.
FPM MP Nada Boustany, who attended the meeting between Le Drian and Bassil, announced that the latter proposed "rapid negotiations in September, within a precise timeframe."
"The proposed negotiations would start from scratch, with no prior suggestions," Boustany added. "The first step would be to agree on a program, then on a candidate. These negotiations, which would take place within a specific timeframe, would end with consecutive parliamentary sessions to elect a president."
Boustany said that Bassil was "open and positive" to this suggestion.
Later on Wednesday, the FPM issued a statement echoing Boustany's comments.
In a statement published on the Lebanese Forces' website, Geagea said he has "not proposed new names [for the presidency], apart from the candidate that [the Lebanese Forces] supports," referring to former minister and senior IMF official, Jihad Azour.
In remarks reported by several local media, Geagea also accused the Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri of "paralyzing Parliament, which is supposed to elect a president."
Le Drian arrived in Beirut on Tuesday afternoon for his second visit in a bid to find a way out of Lebanon's presidential impasse.
Le Drian also met with MP Faisal Karami (National Accord Bloc/North II).
The country has been without a president since Michel Aoun's term ended on Oct. 31.
On the first day of his tour, Le Drian held talks with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Taymour Joumblatt, Kataeb party leader Sami Gemayel and opposition MP Michel Moawad. He made no comment following these meetings.
Le Drian's visit comes a week after the meeting in Doha of the Group of Five (France, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt), during which he won the support of Paris' four partners for his mediation efforts, this time on the basis of coordination within the group.
The Quai d'Orsay issued a press release ahead of the emissary's visit, stating that "this second trip to Lebanon is part of his mission of facilitation and good offices, with the aim of ensuring that all the stakeholders concerned create the conditions conducive to the emergence of a consensual solution for the election of the President of the Republic, an essential step in restarting the political institutions that Lebanon urgently needs to embark on the road to recovery."
While Hezbollah and the Amal Movement are backing the candidacy of Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh for the presidential election, the majority of Christians and the rest of the opposition are backing the candidacy of International Monetary Fund official Jihad Azour.
Paris had initially proposed a deal on the presidency, which would go to Frangieh, and the post of prime minister, which would go to the candidate of the opposing camp, the judge and diplomat Nawaf Salam.
This proposal was rejected not only by some local players, but also by the country's international partners.