Le Drian in Beirut to convince parties to 'talk to each other'

French President Emmanuel Macron's envoy for Lebanon, Jean-Yves Le Drian arrived in Beirut on Wednesday to end a political impasse that has left the country without a president for more than seven months.

Le Drian is a political heavyweight who served as foreign minister throughout Macron's first mandate and previously as defense minister.

His mission is to facilitate a consensual and effective solution in his exploratory visit, after parliament failed for a 12th time to elect a new president amid bitter divisions in parliament that could mire the country in a protracted power vacuum.

Le Drian would not push for a certain option, a French diplomat told French daily Le Monde.

"He would not press for the election of Marada leader Suleiman Franjieh nor would he pave the way for a third-man solution," the source said, adding that Le Drian would rather urge all parties to "talk to each other" and "end the confrontation."

Last week, candidates Jihad Azour and Suleiman Franjieh both failed to get across the line, with Azour garnering 59 votes and Frangieh 51 in the 128-seat parliament. The winner needs two-thirds majority, or 86 votes.

The Shiite Duo considers Azour a confrontational candidate that the opposition and the FPM have agreed on only to block Franjieh's path to the presidency.

If both camps cling to their candidates, the most likely scenario is a prolonged vacuum.

Before leaving Saturday to France, Le Drian will meet with Lebanese military, religious and political officials, including Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker PM Najib Mikati, Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh and independent representatives.

Le Drian will return many times to Lebanon before submitting to Macron his proposals regarding the presidential file, Le Monde said.

Source: Naharnet

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