President Emmanuel Macron’s new special envoy for Lebanon heads to Beirut in the coming week as France seeks a new push to end a political crisis that has left the country without a president for over half a year, a diplomatic source said Sunday.
Former foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, appointed by Macron to the role earlier this month, is to fly to Beirut on Wednesday, the source told AFP, asking not to be named.
Another source close to the issue also said Le Drian would leave on Wednesday but it was not clear how long he would stay in Beirut or who he would meet.
His visit comes after Lebanese lawmakers last week failed for a 12th time to elect a new president, an impasse that is causing increasing exasperation in Paris as the country faces an economic and financial crisis.
France, the former colonial master, retains some sway in Lebanon but has to contend with a host of other powers, notably Saudi Arabia, which is influential among the Sunni community, and Iran which can count on the Tehran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah.
Former president Michel Aoun’s term expired last October with no successor lined up. The bitter divisions between Hezbollah and its opponents now risk miring Lebanon in a protracted power vacuum at the worst possible time.
Macron and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after talks on Friday called for a “rapid end to the institutional political vacuum in Lebanon”.
The prolonged absence of a president “remains the major obstacle to resolving the country’s severe socio-economic crisis,” the French presidency said.
Macron won praise from observers for heading to Beirut in the immediate aftermath of the deadly 2020 port explosion to push Lebanon’s leaders into radical reform.
But he now faces pressure to follow up on these promises. Le Drian is a political heavyweight who served as foreign minister throughout Macron’s first mandate and previously as defense minister.
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