Saudi diplomacy: Seeking solutions beyond Lebanon's presidential file

Press Highlights
2024-01-22 | 02:32
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Saudi diplomacy: Seeking solutions beyond Lebanon's presidential file
Saudi diplomacy: Seeking solutions beyond Lebanon's presidential file

One of the prominent faces of the Lebanese tragedy lies in the fact that a significant majority of the powerful forces and political figures practice denial regarding their lack of any influence in addressing the fundamental crises facing Lebanon.

This article is originally published in, translated from Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.
At every crucial juncture testing the balances of real power, this faction appears helpless but eagerly pursues any sign that hints at a role for them. Over time, it becomes clear that this ailment not only affects these Lebanese individuals but has spread to a group of diplomats dealing with unemployment amid challenges faced by the region.

They join the Lebanese chorus in discussions – the seriousness of which is unknown – about activating the role of the Quint Committee that plays a part in the presidential elections file in Lebanon. The conversation begins with efforts seeking to divert the course of this file from equations taking shape due to the Gaza war and its regional implications.

Under these titles, rumors circulate about a Qatari role equivalent to a French one and an anticipated date for the committee to convene in Riyadh (said to be in early February), all subject to conflicting interpretations.

Some believe there is an opportunity for a presidential breakthrough in a regional environment not conducive to political settlements, while visitors from the capitals of the "Quint" return with impressions completely different from what is being said.

The Saudi Ambassador to Beirut, Walid Al-Bukhari, was the first to hint at a development. He discussed it in meetings at the end of last year, involving political figures mostly connected to Saudi Arabia or aspiring to internal roles.

Subsequently, the French were brought into the picture, as Paris is always infused with the idea of presence, and information was circulated about the presence of its envoy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Riyadh, preparing for visits to Cairo and Beirut.

This is accompanied by speculations that the Qatari envoy, Jassim bin Fahad Al Thani, will soon arrive in Lebanon for the same mission. This opens the door to various analyses.

In the same context, it turns out that some have sent representatives abroad to investigate the facts, only to discover later that the result aligns with the saying that "the funeral is warm, and the dead..." – nothing stops at it.

One Arab diplomat succinctly answered a visitor's inquiry about the Lebanese file, decisively stating that his country's focus today is on the situation in Gaza, like all other capitals. He clarified that "no state can solve the file alone, and Riyadh, like Washington, puts it at the bottom of their agendas or even outside."

This was the case before the "Al-Aqsa Flood" operation, so how will their approach be now, with the field being their primary concern? The same diplomat reveals information reaching his country, saying that "the only step Saudi Arabia has taken recently is to ask Doha to withdraw names from the nomination market, ensuring that any candidate considered by Qatar conforms to the general specifications of the future president and stops paying money to pave the way for any candidate that Qatar considers equal."

He also pointed out that the initial agreement among the five countries is "issuing a joint statement emphasizing the need to elect a president with the specifications previously confirmed by the committee's statements," and beyond that, "nothing is up for discussion"!

The content that reached the relevant authorities in Lebanon did not differ from the content of the Arab diplomat's words. Some Western officials even considered talk of separating paths as "naive," suggesting that an approach of this kind means one of two things: either there are those in Lebanon who do not realize the sensitivity and danger of the situation, or they do not know how to prioritize the interests of a country in the situation we are experiencing.

Washington sees nothing in Lebanon "except the southern front ablaze, and only seeks a political agreement to ensure it does not slide into a major confrontation with the Israelis," while Tehran and Riyadh know well that this settlement has "its temporal contexts, internal, regional, and international conditions that are not available."

As for the direction of internal developments, it doesn't seem to lead to any conclusion other than this. It is not surprising that the head of the "Free Patriotic Movement" Gebran Bassil, at the peak of the analyses, speaks about the political gains that any internal party can reap from the results of the aggression on Gaza, to emphasize that "Michel Aoun's movement will not elect Marada President Sleiman Frangieh at any time and under any circumstances."

This step was a direct and precise response to the announcement of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri that Frangieh is the only declared candidate, indicating his continued support for him. 

Even those who bet on the pragmatism of the man or the possibility of him taking another option for reasons related to external pressure and the country's inability to endure the void for the coming months return to the logic that Berri will not deviate far from his choice of Hezbollah at this critical moment.

As for Hezbollah, nothing compels it to leave its presidential square supporting Frangieh, and it does not find anything forcing it to do so, according to information that Frangieh heard this talk from Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah himself in a meeting held two weeks ago.

In addition, Hezbollah is not interested in focusing on any matter other than the open front with Israel, and it does not want to open any file before the path in Gaza becomes clear. 

Therefore, the accurate description of the international, regional, and internal movement in the presidential file, which is heard with much noise, is that it is a media and political bubble.

Press Highlights

Saudi Arabia





Sleiman Frangieh








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