In an interview with L'Orient-Le Jour, the French President's special envoy to Lebanon has called on Lebanese politicians to find a "third way" to overcome the Presidential deadlock.
Lebanon has been without a president for eleven months and its government has been operating at caretaker capacity. French envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian, who visited Lebanon three times since his appointment, is leading France's efforts to end the impasse.
1. Le Drian's denies divisions among France, US, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar
Asked about the effectiveness of his mission, Le Drian acknowledged that he cannot impose a solution on the actors if they are unwilling to find one themselves. He denied the rumors of deep divisions within the quintet (France, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar) and affirmed that there is no disagreement among the five powers involved in the Lebanon dossier.
2. The quintet are 'frustrated'
Le Drian highlighted the quintet's frustration with the ongoing denial and inability of Lebanese politicians to overcome their contradictions and divisions. He warned that if a solution to the crisis is not found soon, the officials responsible could face international sanctions.
Lebanese political actors have been pinning their hopes on a regional agreement to break the presidential deadlock. Le Drian described this approach as irresponsible and encouraged Lebanese politicians to take responsibility for finding a way out of the crisis. He stressed that the blockade is solely internal and called on the country's political actors to explore a third option.
During his most recent visit to Lebanon, Le Drian received support from Saudi Arabia, who believes that the presidential vacancy is detrimental to the regional economy and security. Le Drian commended Saudi Arabia's renewed involvement and its recognition of the need to resolve the stalemate.
3. Lebanese actors risk international isolation
Le Drian explained his role as a facilitator between the actors, conveying the thoughts of each party to the others. He expressed hope that through consultations and discussions, a consensus could be reached leading to consecutive and open parliamentary sessions, as previously proposed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. He warned that if consultations fail to produce results, the actors involved would be responsible for the consequences and risk being isolated by the international community.
Le Drian commented on Lebanon's deteriorating economic conditions and remarked that some actors are continuing to rely on the diaspora or potential gas resources to solve the financial crisis. He emphasized the urgency of the situation and criticized what he described "constant tactical considerations that hinder progress."
4. A "third way" to end the deadlock
When asked about the timing of the election of a candidate representing "a third way," Le Drian suggested there could be multiple options and that ultimately it is up to the Lebanese to decide. He confirmed that the solution should focus solely on the election of a new president. He said the country was in a "critical" state and expressed concern over the inaction of political actors.
5. France's stand on electing a President
Regarding the French government's stance, Le Drian denounced the accusations that Paris supports Hezbollah for its own interests in Lebanon and the region. He reiterated that France's only objective is to see Lebanon stand on its own feet and implement necessary reforms for its survival.
Responding to criticism about the French approach, He emphasized that France is mediating at the request of the Lebanese and has been received positively by political leaders. He stressed the importance of electing a president to defend Lebanon's sovereignty.
Le Drian rejected the idea of using power dynamics similar to those used with Moscow and emphasized the need to find a solution that allows different communities in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, to coexist peacefully. He expressed hope that Lebanon could have a new president before Christmas, citing a growing understanding that the fundamental existence of Lebanon is at stake.
Despite the challenges, Le Drian's efforts continue and he plans to return to Lebanon for further discussions. He intends to bring all actors together to "find common ground."