Those who followed former French President Jacques Chirac’s era will see much of his diplomatic approach in the presidency of Emmanuel Macron. Chirac adopted a form of personal diplomacy where he built relations on the basis of personal and close knowledge of world leaders.
This successful approach was adopted throughout Chirac’s term in office, not only with late Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri, but also with the King of Morocco Hassan II.
Yasser Arafat called him Dr. Chirac, while the Kings and Princes of Saudi Arabia – the late King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, the late Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz and King Abdullah as well as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman – were friends to Chirac.
Even if the issue remains unresolved for some time, Macron has advised all sides in Lebanon to refrain from involving themselves in the various crises facing the regionRanda Takieddine
The truth is Chirac’s relations with world leaders deserve to be the subject of a book in itself. The young French president Macron seems to be adopting the same approach and although he acknowledges that he is new to the international scene he has made quick and intelligent moves, and possesses an inspirational form of leadership.
For instance, when Macron felt that Lebanon was on the verge of war after the resignation of Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri – given that tensions between Gulf states with Iran had escalated – he understood that this war could be ugly given the presence of one and a half million displaced Syrians, and so he hurried to prevent the fire from engulfing the Middle East.
Thus, Macron paid a visit to the UAE and met His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He then visited Saudi Arabia to meet with His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Thereafter, he invited Saad Hariri and his family to visit France after having established contact with Lebanese President Michel Aoun. He also called on all those he personally knew, including leaders of Iran and Israel, in an effort to calm the situation and prevent the outbreak of war in Lebanon.
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Thus, Macron saved Lebanon from a war albeit the country may remain subjected to a protracted phase of political crisis after Hariri’s resignation. Even if the issue remains unresolved for some time, Macron has advised all sides in Lebanon to refrain from involving themselves in the various crises facing the region.
He has also urged Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil – on receiving him as an envoy of President Aoun – for the need to inoculate Lebanon from the crises facing the region and thereby remain neutral towards Syria and Hezbollah.
Macron’s advice to Bassil was that although Hezbollah was a political player in Lebanon, one party should not exercise its authority in making all the decisions for the country on its internal matters and at international levels because of its alliance with President Aoun’s party.
Unfortunately for Lebanon, the hegemony of Syria and the Assad family in Lebanon has allowed Hezbollah to become the strongest variable in the power equation of the country.
France takes the lead
Hezbollah has prevented Lebanon from observing the principle of non-interference in foreign crises by involving it in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. The French president has urged Lebanon to pursue a policy of self-abnegation to protect itself. The strong links between France and Lebanon were demonstrated when Macron invited the Lebanese prime minister to his state for the first time during his presidency.
President Macron and his wife Brigitte greeted Hariri, his wife Lara and their eldest son Hossam, in front of the international media, and showed signs of intimate friendship by holding Hariri’s hand and embracing the family as if they were members of family. Suddenly, Lebanon is back to being in the headlines as international media starts to focus on Macron’s role.
The ingenuity of the young French president, which won him the presidency, at a time when most pundits thought he would not make it, is becoming evident each day as he begins to implement his reforms. Macron is determined to continue his role in the international arena.
He is scheduled to visit Iran later where he would warn the regime about its aggressive policies aimed at destabilizing the Gulf, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and will at least try to persuade it to change its policies. He will continue trying to contribute towards crisis resolution. For instance, he is trying to resolve the crisis in Syria, despite the difficulties and obstacles and in spite of the limited abilities of Russia and the US in the Syrian war.
His youthful dynamism may contribute to his success; especially since European countries remain in the grip of their own internal political crises. Britain is grappling with the Brexit issue, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is unable to form a government and Spain confronts the Catalonian problem. As such, Macron’s France currently remains the best European player for making its presence felt on the international stage.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Randa Takieddine is a Lebanese writer and the director of Al-Hayat newspaper office in Paris.