Hollande Says Election of President Lies in Hand of Lebanese, Promises Swift Military Aidإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
French President Francois Hollande said during a visit to Beirut on Saturday that he was eager to make a third trip to Lebanon to meet with the country's new head of state, calling for the swift election of a president.
"I want to visit Beirut again when there is a president in Lebanon but the issue lies in the hand of Lebanese lawmakers ... who should resolve the deadlock and elect a head of state," said Hollande following talks with Speaker Nabih Berri.
"France stands by Lebanon and is keen on consolidating security in Lebanon through military cooperation," he said during a short press conference that he held with Berri.
Hollande first visited Beirut in 2012.
The speaker said he discussed with Hollande military aid to Lebanon, the demarcation of the maritime border, terrorism and the regional tension.
Following their meeting, the French president headed from the parliament in downtown Beirut's Nejmeh Square to the nearby Grand Serail where he held talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam.
Salam said at a joint press conference that Hollande stressed to him "French keenness on Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty, and the functioning of state institutions which requires a president first."
The PM also hoped that Paris would "resume its efforts to push for the election of a new head of state."
Hollande praised Salam and said France stands by Lebanon due to their historic ties, geographic proximity and relations that were developed between the two countries one generation after the other.
He reiterated that a president should be swiftly elected and said France will provide "immediate" military assistance to Lebanon.
The French defense minister will hold talks with his Lebanese counterpart to hear the demands of the Lebanese army, Hollande told reporters.
Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian "will define with his Lebanese counterpart (Samir Moqbel) material resources to strengthen Lebanon's ability to ensure its security".
His pledge came a month after Saudi Arabia suspended a grant to finance $3 billion worth of French weaponry for Lebanon.
He also revealed that French assistance to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon will reach 50 million euros this year and 100 million euros in the coming years.
The official welcome ceremony for Hollande, who was on a two-day visit to Lebanon, was held at the parliament building since Lebanon has been without a head of state for almost two years.
Hollande carries a message that will urge the Lebanese and its regional partners to distance the country from regional turmoil, a senior French official at the Elysee Palace told the National News Agency.
“Hollande carries with him a stern message that includes calling the Lebanese and the regional partners to take some steps in order to separate the situation in Lebanon from the regional tension particularly in the security files,” the unnamed source said on condition of anonymity.
“The institutional crisis and the divisions over the regional situation have been weakening the state's policies because of the presidential vacuum,” it added.
Lebanon has been in a presidential vacuum since the term of President Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014.
Efforts to fill the post have been thwarted over conflicts between the March 8 and March 14 camps.
“Hollande will confirm France's support for Lebanon which is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis," said the source.
Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrian refugees, the equivalent of a quarter the country's population of 4.5 million. There also about 400,000 Palestinian refugees spread in 12 camps.
Visiting a Syrian refugee encampment is one of the French President's plans where he will meet with a family from Syrian origin. He is set to meet another two families residing at the International Red Cross headquarters who are preparing papers for residency in France.
The French president will reiterate that “his country assumes responsibility towards the refugees and countries neighboring Syria. Paris has announced in September 2015 that it will grant 100 million euros of additional aid to these countries, of which 40 million are for Lebanon,” the source said.