Lebanon's presidential deadlock: France's proposal met with resistance

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2023-03-27 | 04:06
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Lebanon's presidential deadlock: France's proposal met with resistance
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7min
Lebanon's presidential deadlock: France's proposal met with resistance

A Lebanese political source closely following the meetings held by US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Barbara Leaf, with a number of Lebanese leaders during her visit to Beirut last Friday, said that the presidential deadline was tackled during the talks and through her invitation to agree on a president being elected based on an understanding produced between the parliamentary blocs.

The political source paused at the US position regarding the presidential deadline that Leaf expressed in her meetings with officials, including five Sunni MPs: Fouad Makhzoumi, Abdel Rahman Al-Bizri, Waddah Al-Sadek, Ibrahim Moneimneh, and Bilal Hashemi.
 
 
The source confirmed to "al-Sharq al-Awsat" that her position was not in harmony with the French proposal, which calls for the election of leader of the Marada movement, former MP Sleiman Frangieh, as president, in exchange for naming former ambassador Nawaf Salam to form the upcoming government.

The source revealed that a number of Sunni MPs who met with Leaf expressed their objection to the principle of a trade-off between the presidency and the government, referring to the French proposal, which they claimed is closer to appointment than to election.

The MPs pointed out that Leaf did not address their objection to the trade-off in her comment, and she preferred to respond indirectly by saying that Washington does not have any candidate for the presidency, leaving the election to the parliament to agree on a name that pushes towards a settlement to resolve the presidential impasse.

These MPs considered what they heard from Leaf to be in the context of a diplomatic response to the French proposal, without engaging in a direct debate, and in light of Leaf's position, they confirmed that this proposal does not have US support.

Several of these MPs believed that Paris was almost alone in its proposal for a presidential settlement, especially since officials at the French Embassy in Beirut had begun to gather negative reactions to the French proposal, although the election of a new president takes into account the position of the Shiite duo in supporting Frangieh's nomination, without losing sight of the position of one of the two Christian blocs that refuse to support him and seek to find another candidate.

The MPs quoted French officials at the French Embassy in Beirut as saying that one of them told a colleague that some people misunderstood what Ambassador Anne Grillo had proposed, which indicated her desire to gather the opinions of parliamentary blocs in an attempt to revive the presidential file and get it out of the deadlock that surrounds it, especially since there is no call in the foreseeable future to hold a new session to elect a president.
 
As reported by the French official, he stated that Speaker Berri's initiative to support Frangieh's nomination and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, joining his strategic ally, did not serve the leader of the Marada party.

It would have been better to leave him to choose the appropriate timing to officially announce his candidacy, even though the Lebanese constitution does not require him to announce his candidacy to the parliament in advance.
 
In response to a question, these MPs clarified that Leaf's focus on the necessity of reaching a settlement that would bring a president from outside the traditional factions in light of the vertical division in the country does not mean that Washington is vetoing a certain name or preferring one candidate over others.

They confirmed that they have not heard from her any position that suggests that the US administration is vetoing a specific candidate. US Ambassador to Beirut, Dorothy Shea, had previously reversed the US position during her meeting with Berri.

They confirmed that Leaf has adopted the warning issued by the International Monetary Fund that the country is in a very serious situation. They emphasized the need to speed up an agreement with the IMF in conjunction with the election of a president today before tomorrow to be able to address the dangers resulting from the failure to complete other obligations.

This refers to avoiding a vacancy in the governorship of the Central Bank when the extended term of the current governor, Riad Salameh, ends because there is a need to manage the financial file based on compliance with the reforms demanded by the IMF.

One of the MPs revealed that the ambassadors of Arab countries to Lebanon, who belong to their respective countries in the quintet committee (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar), "speak the same language and read from the same book" that they have no candidate for the presidency.

This is what Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, Walid al-Bukhari, expressed after his meeting with the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, saying that he did not discuss names and emphasized the need to expedite the completion of the presidential entitlement and bring in a president from outside the factions.

Therefore, the political scene, in its regional and international aspects, surrounding the presidential election to end the vacancy that is leading the country into further collapse and confusion, and as the political source says, currently rests on an understanding between the Arab countries that are members of the Quintet Committee and the United States of America. This necessitates that France reconsiders its presidential proposal.

According to the same source, "al-Sharq al-Awsat" learned that bilateral consultations between the member states have not ceased and are still ongoing since the end of the committee meeting in Paris, in which they participated, in order to reach a unified position that is supposed to serve as a lever for lifting the presidential election out of the empty loop it is stuck in.

Will Paris reconsider its position? How will the parliamentary blocs act? Will they refuse to communicate with each other in search of a consensual president because their division reinforces external division, unlike their unity, which could mature a settlement that is overseen by the international community through the Quintet Committee without closing the door to other countries joining the efforts to save Lebanon before it's too late?
 
 
 

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