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French Foreign Minister in Beirut Next Week to Produce a “Breach” in Presidential File | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault attends a meeting in Cairo. Photo: Reuters

Paris- The French diplomacy is again activating the file of the empty presidential seat in Lebanon by trying to produce a certain breach during the two-day visit of its Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to Beirut on July 11 and 13.

Ayrault’s visit was preceded by a series of high-level contacts that until now could not create any advancement in the presidential file. French President Francois Hollande had spoken with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Paris, while Ayrault had discussed the Lebanese file with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Lebanese presidential candidate deputy Suleiman Franjieh also paid a quick visit to Paris at the start of last week and spoke with French and non-French officials about the presidential file and the possibility of ending the deadlock that has been dragging for more than two years.

It was clear that Franjieh’s visit, which was not made public, aimed at learning from the French officials what were the results of the latest international discussions in this regard.

According to the diplomatic sources, the French Minister wants to produce a certain breach in the presidential file as the situation in Lebanon is not acceptable anymore due to the increasing number of security threats.

The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Ayrault spoke honestly with his Iranian counterpart during their meeting on June 22 by telling him: “We want you to play a positive role in Lebanon” to facilitate the election of a president. Ayrault added: “We realize the capacity of Iran to affect and facilitate the election operation if it wants to.”

However, the Iranian minister has not offered much when he reiterated Iran’s old position saying that the presidential file was in the hands of the Lebanese and particularly the Christians that should first agree on a president. In other words, the French sources said that Zarif “offered Paris nothing,” neither in the Lebanese file nor in the Syrian file.

Meanwhile, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubair had asserted during his meeting with Ayrault last Wednesday that Saudi Arabia had no problem when former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri supported the candidacy of Franjieh to the presidential seat, despite the fact that Franjieh was a member of the March 8 alliance. Al-Jubair said that on the contrary, “Iran through (Hezbollah) had foiled the operation because it wants a political vacancy in Lebanon and that (Hezbollah) controls the state’s parts.”

However, although Iran is not in a hurry to help remove the obstacles that would complete the election of a president in Beirut, the French foreign minister is determined to find a certain exit to the Lebanese crisis. Ayrault promised his Saudi counterpart to inform him about the outcome of his discussions in Beirut and work together on an initiative to save Lebanon from sinking more in the abyss.

Arab diplomatic sources in Paris do not expect any breach in the presidential file in the near future.