BEIRUT: France’s presidential envoy has told politicians in Lebanon that he will strive to help the country out of its presidential crisis but that solutions must “come from the Lebanese themselves.”
Jean-Yves Le Drian said during his two-day trip to Beirut that France did “not have any proposals” on how to get a president elected but that France would “always be there to support.”
His visit comes a week after parliament failed for the 12th time to elect a new head of state. It is now nearly eight months since Michel Aoun left the job with no replacement.
Hezbollah and the Amal movement support Sleiman Frangieh, while blocs representing Christians in parliament support former minister Jihad Azour. Neither side has been able to secure the majority to elect their candidate.
Le Drian’s second day in the country included meetings with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, opposition leader Samir Geagea of the Lebanese Forces, and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros Al-Rahi.
Mikati’s office issued a stock statement after his meeting, stating that Lebanon’s government had completed the “required reform projects and signed a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund, and the approval of these projects in parliament gives impetus to the desired economic and social solutions.”
After meeting the Patriarch, Le Drian said: “I will communicate with all Lebanese parties to find a way out of the crisis, and I will strive to establish an agenda of reforms that provides hope for Lebanon to overcome its crisis.
“I will listen to everyone, and this visit will be followed by another to find a way out of the impasse.”
Le Drian arrived in Beirut on Wednesday to warnings by some Lebanese politicians, including Geagea, not to interfere in the country’s affairs and amid Hezbollah’s claims that France wanted its preferred candidate in the presidential palace.
Geagea described his meeting on Thursday with the envoy as “exploratory.”
“With all due respect for France, we do not want its intervention, nor do we want Iran’s intervention,” he said. “We want a sovereign internal decision. We only want to elect a president.”
The issue of the presidential vacuum requires 128 MPs, and not international intervention, Geagea said after the talks.
Reformist MP Melhem Khalaf said that Lebanese officials needed to think rationally and solve the impasse before foreign parties started interfering in Lebanese affairs again.