BEIRUT — French envoy to Lebanon Jean-Yves Le Drian had meetings with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian and Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Bukhari, as well as Patriarch Rai on Thursday to discuss the presidential elections.
It's the third day of Le Drian's visit, which aims to unblock the nearly one-year presidential deadlock. The country has been without a head of state since October 31, 2022, when Michel Aoun's term ended.
What did Le Drian, Bukhari and Derian say during the meeting?
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian and Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Bukhari met Le Drian at Bukhari's residence in Yarzeh. Le Drian said that France and Saudi Arabia are "working hand in hand" for the progress of Lebanon and "hoped that the endeavors by the group of five [France, United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt] t0 solve the presidential crisis succeed." The group of five have had several meetings to try to find a solution to Lebanon's ongoing presidential vacuum.
Le Drian added that "Lebanon's situation is not good and my presence [here] is to help." Bukhari affirmed that the meeting aimed to "strengthen the unity and solidarity among all."
Derian, Bukhari and Le Drian also met Sunni MPs, except MPs Ibrahim Mneimneh, Ousama Saad, Jihad al-Samad, Yanal al-Solh, Melhem al-Houjairy and Halima Kaakour did not attend the meeting. Some were not invited and others abstained from attending.
Derian said that Sunni MPs are "keen" to solve the presidential crisis and they "did not boycott any electoral session." He added that "there must be an agreement on a dialogue and we have no objection to quick dialogues to reach understandings."
Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri recently pledged to hold open parliamentary election sessions, provided they were preceded by a seven-day dialogue bringing together various political blocs. On Tuesday, Le Drian said that Berri's initiative should be the "beginning of a solution" to the presidential vacuum.
Le Drian meeting with Patriarch Rai
Earlier on Thursday Le Drian met Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai in Bkirki.
"Le Drian presented the outcomes of his discussions and meetings during his visit to Lebanon, and the Patriarch expressed his perspective on the methods to invigorate the presidential issue", according to the National News Agency (NNA).
Rai declared that "the election of a President of the Republic remains the exclusive means to restore the functionality of constitutional institutions and return political life to a state of normalcy."
The Maronite Patriarch also met with US Ambassador Dorothy Shea, who affirmed that the US "will spare no effort to support Lebanon and help speed up the election of a President of the Republic, as maintaining the current situation will exacerbate problems at all levels."
Saudi and Qatar ambassadors to Lebanon