France Faces Crisis of Presidential Candidates in Lebanon

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai is pictured in Bkerke, Lebanon October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai is pictured in Bkerke, Lebanon October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
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France Faces Crisis of Presidential Candidates in Lebanon

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai is pictured in Bkerke, Lebanon October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai is pictured in Bkerke, Lebanon October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

French President Emmanuel Macron met on Tuesday with Lebanon’s Patriarch Beshara Rai at the Elysee Palace and showed “remarkable hospitality” in a bid to assure the Lebanese, mainly the Maronite Christians, that France will always be their “caring mother”.

Through the distinguished reception of Rai in the courtyard of the Elysée Palace, Macron wanted to display a message to Lebanon’s Christians that his country is still committed to support them, despite the divergence with the majority of the Christian forces over the presidential file.

French diplomats are often criticized at events and meetings for the mismanagement of the Lebanese file. Some speak of “disregard” and others of French “neglect” of the Christians, while some go so far as to describe the French proposal to elect former minister Sleiman Franjieh as “treason.”

A senior French diplomat acknowledges this reality, but describes it differently.

He said: “Their primary concern is to fill the vacuum at the top state post."

According to the diplomat, France believes that the election of a president is the first step to revive the country’s constitutional and government work, which has been disrupted since Nov. 1, 2022, when President Michel Aoun left office without the political parties being able to agree on a successor.

The diplomat went on to say that the French chose Franjieh over the vacuum at the top state post, but were not insisting on him.

“We will work with any president that [the Lebanese] agree upon, because the next stage is the most important,” he underlined, pointing to the need to launch political reform and work with the World Bank to develop a road map that would help the country to overcome its financial crisis.

The French are aware of the importance of the opposition forces reaching an agreement over the name of a candidate. They consider the election of the president an absolute priority.

The French diplomat continued: “The most important matter is to preserve the institutions, and the presidency is the key.”

During their meeting, Macron and Rai agreed that the “political and constitutional impasse was the biggest obstacle facing the country.”

They both stressed the need for Lebanon to elect a new president as quickly as possible.

There was also an agreement, according to the French diplomat, that France continues to support the Lebanese educational sector, which is essential to preserve the country.

Since 2020, France has offered about 90 million euros for Francophone Christian schools, where the majority of students are Muslims.

Other points that Macron and Rai emphasized include the necessity of preserving “the health system and food security for the Lebanese, strengthening the judiciary, and expediting the investigations into the Beirut port explosion,” the French diplomat told Asharq Al-Awsat.

 



Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's Rapid Support Forces agreed with the United Nations on some steps to ease aid delivery in areas under its control, a member of the RSF told Reuters on Thursday.

The Sudanese army has not reached any understandings on aid delivers with the RSF, he added. It is unclear if these steps could be implemented without the army's participation.

Meanwhile, a key supply route into Sudan's Darfur region, deemed at risk of famine by a global monitor, has been cut off due to heavy rains, a World Food Program official told Reuters on Thursday.
The UN agency has described Sudan as the world's biggest hunger crisis, with the western Darfur region most at risk as Sudan's 15-month civil war that has displaced millions and sparked ethnic violence grinds on.
WFP's Country Director Eddie Rowe said thousands of tons of aid are stranded at the Tina crossing on the Chad border, prompting the body to reopen talks with the army-aligned government to open an alternative, all-weather crossing further south called Adre.
"You have these huge rivers. As I speak now, our convoy, which is supposed to move over 2000 metric tons is stranded," he told Reuters from Port Sudan. Asked on the status of the talks that resumed this week, he said: "It's 50/50.”
WFP is now seeking clearances to move a large 70-truck convoy via a little-used, over 1000 kilometer route from Port Sudan to Darfur which Rowe said will involve crossing the battle lines of both the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces and various militias.
He added that this mostly desert route has worked in the past but outside of the rainy season and that the last journey took weeks and was "fraught with a lot of challenges.”
In a separate interview, Mona Rishmawi, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan, told Reuters that she had met Darfur refugees in Chad who told her stories of escaping with virtually no water and eating grass along the route. "There's no doubt that people are starving," she said.