Lebanese political forces await a solution: Le Drian's visit under scrutiny

Press Highlights
2023-07-27 | 00:58
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Lebanese political forces await a solution: Le Drian's visit under scrutiny
Lebanese political forces await a solution: Le Drian's visit under scrutiny

No one was expecting anything from the visit of the French envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian. The previous Arab and international indications and contacts were enough to confirm that the man's visit was merely a formality connected to his promise to return to Beirut after his last visit.

In fact, he only said one useful sentence: "I will leave for my summer vacation before I sort out my affairs and come back in September with a proposal concerning the dialogue between you to agree on the identity of the next president."

This article was originally published in, translated from the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.
However, some internal political forces got preoccupied with unhelpful interpretations of what was heard at the Pine Palace or from the French envoy's visitors.

Some believed that Le Drian mourned the French initiative regarding the settlement of Sleiman Frangieh-Nawaf Salam. In contrast, others thought that his avoidance of mentioning names in his discussions meant that all options were still open.

Meanwhile, Le Drian considered his most important meeting to be with the head of the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, Mohammad Raad, at the bloc's headquarters.

Given the conviction that the obstacles facing Frangieh's winning still exist internally and externally and that the objectors to him are no longer effective, based on the experiences of previous sessions, the Quintet countries decided that everyone should return to the general issue concerning the program of the next president before proposing a suitable name for this program.

Therefore, evaluating Le Drian's visit positively or negatively seems exaggerated.

However, it becomes evident from the atmosphere of the meetings he held that he was entrusted by the "Quintet" to "manage" the next two months and extend the 'fragile' political truce under the title of "France's continuation of its efforts until new circumstances arise that may lead to a breakthrough."

Furthermore, Le Drian continued its meetings Wednesday with a meeting with Frangieh before visiting the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, and then moving to Bkerke to meet with the head of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea.

Later, Le Drian met with MPs from the Change bloc, Waddah Al-Sadek and Michel Douaihy, and Marc Daou, followed by MPs Ahmed Al-Khair and Abdul Aziz Al-Samad from the National Moderation bloc, Imad Al-Hout from the Independent Parliamentary Meeting bloc, and Faisal Karami from the National Accord bloc.

However, Le Drian's conversations with those he met were marked by complete frankness, as he acted as an envoy for the "Quintet" and refrained from mentioning specific names or the French initiative.

He also did not discuss a collective or general dialogue. Still, he confirmed that he would undertake a new tour in the region before returning in September to hold rapid consultations with the political forces, followed by consecutive parliamentary sessions to elect a president.

Moreover, he pointed out that the "Quintet" does not have specific names in mind but rather "criteria announced in the Doha statement, which set the standards upon which the new president should be elected."

In this context, some sources interpreted the information leaked about his meetings as follows:

First, there was a decline in Paris's enthusiasm for the initiative it presented due to internal and external objections. Consequently, Paris became more convinced of the difficulty of marketing it, so it reverted to discussing the criteria and the program.

Second, the absence of a decision to cover any internal dialogue that has been replaced by "quick" consultations that may not lead to any results. This means that transitioning to election sessions afterward will not change the outcome as long as each party clings to its position.

Third, new developments confirm that Paris no longer acts alone in its role and effort. The Qataris have become partners with Paris, starting from the rounds of Qatari officials' visits to Beirut and extending to the visit of the official responsible for the Lebanese dossier, Minister Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi, to Iran, amid information that he will "discuss the Lebanese crisis" there.

French enthusiasm for its initiative declines amid internal and external objection

Paris's enthusiasm for the initiative it presented faced internal and external objections, making political forces more confident that the time for a solution had not yet come.

Consequently, they have varied in their response to Le Drian's call for consultations. For example, parties such as the FPM, Amal Movement, Lebanese Forces, Socialist Party, and Sunni deputies supported the idea of holding consultation sessions within a maximum of three days to discuss the president's specifications and their agenda.

On the other hand, the Lebanese Forces adhered to their conservative stance about engaging in dialogue. Its leader, Samir Geagea, stated Wednesday that "the meeting with Le Drian was good, and we only put forward our declared candidate's name, but we have not made any decisions regarding consultations yet," primarily since "he did not provide any guarantees about holding election sessions," as indicated by LF sources.

However, until Wednesday, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri continued to insist on spreading positive vibes and told "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" newspaper that "a breakthrough has occurred," refusing to specify the reasons for his optimism.

Meanwhile, some political sources considered what is happening as a "distraction game," emphasizing that the focus should be on two main axes, any development which can have an impact on the presidential dossier:

- Dialogue between Hezbollah and Bassil, as any alignment between them on the presidential elections alone could rearrange the internal scene, and their agreement could encourage other parties to move towards a settlement.

- The course of the relationship between Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia, as the Saudi-Iranian understanding, has not yet succeeded in halting the ongoing "soft war" with Hezbollah. Riyadh is still pressing to produce a new model of governance that reflects what it considers new balances within Lebanon. However, this path could change positively at any moment, and it will impact the Lebanese dossier.

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