Paris Invites Frangieh: Lebanon Presidential Settlement Imminent or Unlikely?

 March 31, 2023

Sleiman Frangieh, Head of Marada Movement in Lebanon (photo from archive).

The presidential election was back to the limelight on Thursday after news emerged that the leader of the Marada Movement Sleiman Frangieh had received an invitation to visit Paris.

The visit coincides with another one made by the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt who arrived in the French capital a few days ago to meet with Patrick Durrell, the French President Advisor in charge of the Lebanese file, Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported on Friday.

The paper quoted sources close to Jumblatt as saying that there won’t be a meeting between the latter and Frangieh in Paris.

This invitation comes days after a call between French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in which the two leaders discussed the Lebanese affairs.

It also comes, amid information about France’s shift in position towards backing Frangieh to the presidency, the daily reported.

“There is a high possibility that Paris is mulling informing Frangieh that it has failed to persuade the United States and Saudi Arabia to agree on the nomination of Frangieh as part of a settlement package,” the Lebanese paper said.

Al-Akhbar cited to diplomatic sources as saying that, France seemed to be strained over US and Saudi’s refusal to launch an initiative that both sides consider “appeasement of Hezbollah”.

“Paris reached this conclusion after being subjected to a campaign launched by US and Saudi’s allies in Lebanon, in addition to an Egyptian implicit message that the position of Saudi Arabia remains essential, and that Cairo cannot go ahead with any option that Riyadh rejects,” the daily reported, citing the diplomatic sources.

Following the last five-way meeting on Lebanon, which was held in Paris, disagreements emerged between the US, France, Saudi, Egypt and Qatar, the sources said, adding that Egypt was exerting efforts to activate contacts.

“Cairo counts on the Iranian-Saudi rapprochement to expand the external communications, although Tehran and Riyadh avoided talking about any direct reflections of the deal on the situation in Lebanon,” according to the sources.

For his part, Frangieh expressed, in front of his visitors, “great satisfaction about the way the things are going during the last two days.”

Frangieh visitors reported, according to Al-Akhbar, that the Lebanese politician believes France is still on its position towards his nomination, and that the visit may be in order to complete the discussion on details related to the presidential file, or to convey a Saudi message to Frangieh in order to request some guarantees or inquire about some issues. In this context, Frangieh visitors noted that he is not making great expectations over Paris’ invitation.

The visitors also said that Frangieh received yesterday Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Rudakov, who informed him that Moscow is exerting efforts in a bid to convince Riyadh with to proceed with a settlement that leads to the election of Frangieh.

In this context, remarks made by the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf were significant. The US official hoped that “the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement would reflect positively on Lebanon,” hailing and any development that “contributes to de-escalation in the region.”

Leaf, who recently visited Beirut on an official visit, met caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, and other officials. The US diplomat, who boycotted the Christian powers, was quoted by Lebanese media as saying, “I stressed in Beirut the need to elect a president, form a government with full powers and implement economic reforms in order to return Lebanon to the path of recovery.”

Source: Al-Akhbar Newspaper (Translated and edited by Al-Manar English Website Staff)

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