French diplomatic efforts: Seeking resolution for Lebanon's southern borders

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2023-12-06 | 00:59
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French diplomatic efforts: Seeking resolution for Lebanon's southern borders
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French diplomatic efforts: Seeking resolution for Lebanon's southern borders

During his attendance at the Climate Change Summit in Dubai, Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati learned from foreign and Arab officials what the Foreign Minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, had heard during his European tour a few days prior.

This article is originally published in, translated from Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar. 
The message was that Israel faces a dilemma in convincing settlers to return to settlements on the border with Lebanon as long as Hezbollah is present there.

The existing arrangement before October 7th is no longer valid, and there is a need to establish new rules of engagement through the implementation of UN Resolution 1701, even with the use of Chapter VII force or the introduction of amendments.

These Israeli messages were delivered by Western envoys to Lebanon, along with proposals to create a buffer zone to distance Hezbollah, specifically the elite Al-Radwan unit, from south of the Litani River.

Paris actively promoted this formula on behalf of the West and Israel through its envoys, French Presidential Envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian and the Director of French Intelligence Bernard Emie, who arrived in Beirut two days ago for an unannounced visit.

During the visit, he met with PM Mikati, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, and Acting General Security Chief General Elias El-Baissari.

Informed sources confirmed that Emie arrived in Beirut "coming from Tel Aviv," like Le Drian, he focused on "the situation on the southern front and the necessity of avoiding escalation and neutralizing Lebanon from events in Gaza."

He repeated the French warnings about the risks of escalation in Lebanon and Israel's reaction.

However, Emie's visit coincided with leaks in the Israeli media about the arrival of "a French delegation consisting of diplomats and high-ranking officials from the French army to Israel this week" and that "Paris is trying to reach a diplomatic solution regarding the northern borders with Lebanon."

The Israeli Channel 13 mentioned that the delegation will meet officials from the foreign and defense ministries and that "Israeli officials informed the French and Americans of their readiness to take a political step to avoid the need to start a campaign in the north soon."

However, they warned that "the opportunity for that is running out, and we don't have all the time."

This also coincided with statements by PM Mikati during his meeting with members of the consular corps in Lebanon, where he indicated that "in the coming months, negotiations will take place through the United Nations for further stability on the southern Lebanese border, starting with the implementation of Resolution 1701 and reaching an agreement, through the UN, on the disputed border points with Israel."

Israel ready to take political step to avoid starting campaign in the north

He emphasized that "this issue takes a fundamental place to prevent Lebanon from a war whose end we do not know. We hope to reach a stage of complete stability on our borders in the next three months."

In this context, diplomatic sources told Al-Akhbar that "any amendment to Resolution 1701 requires a context to reach it," either "through a hot approach by imposing such an amendment through escalation," without excluding the possibility that it could be part of the psychological war waged by Israel.

Alternatively, "through a cold approach by diplomatic proposals that may go as far as proposing withdrawal from occupied Lebanese areas and resolving the issue of disputed border points with Lebanon," recalling the surprise visit of US envoy Amos Hochstein to Beirut last month.

Emie and the term extension

Although the southern front, the war on Gaza, and the related developments in the region took precedence in Emie's discussions, this did not prevent the Director of French Intelligence from addressing the extension file for the Army Commander before the end of his term.

Parliamentary sources said that "political forces have not yet succeeded in reaching an agreement on the solution," confirming that Berri "will soon call for a legislative session, including an agenda of about 30 items, with indications that he will hold it over three days."

Furthermore, the sources said, "Berri, who confirmed his non-objection to the extension or the appointment of a new army commander, preferred the government to take responsibility for this matter, while Mikati still rejects it."
 

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