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Saudi-French Meeting in Paris Focuses on Lebanon’s Presidential Vacuum

Saudi-French Meeting in Paris Focuses on Lebanon’s Presidential Vacuum

Saturday, 18 March, 2023 - 11:00
The seat of the President of the Republic in Lebanon, which has become vacant since the end of President Michel Aoun's term at the end of last October (Reuters)

Discussions during Saudi royal envoy Nizar Al-Aloula’s recent meeting with French President Advisor Patrick Durrell in Paris centered on Lebanon. The counterparts’ meeting, hosted at the Élysée Palace, follows an official visit by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan to Paris earlier this week.

Prince Faisal met with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna to chiefly talk over the Saudi-Iranian agreement sponsored by China.

While the two top diplomats examined the deal, which stipulates restoring diplomatic relations between the Kingdom and Iran within two months, they also touched on the presidential vacuum in Lebanon.

Al-Aloula represented Saudi Arabia last month at a five-way meeting about Lebanon hosted by Paris. The panel included representatives from the US, Egypt, and Qatar, in addition to Al-Aloula and Durrell.

At the meeting, they agreed on each communicating with Lebanese bodies they enjoy the best ties with to try to end the presidential vacuum in the Mediterranean nation.

Sources observing developments in the region and their impact on Lebanon believe that the recent Saudi-Iran deal could bring about change needed to break the political stalemate preventing the election of a president.

Lebanon has been ailing from a presidential and institutional vacuum since last October. Moreover, the country is suffering from an economic and financial meltdown that keeps getting worse.

Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the French mobilization to end Lebanon’s crisis, what some call the “French initiative,” is based on proposing an “integrated basket” that includes a president, a prime minister, and a commitment to a reform program capable of putting an end to economic collapse.

Paris believes that the way out of the impasse is to accept the candidacy of former minister and lawmaker Suleiman Frangieh for president in exchange for naming Nawaf Salam as prime minister.

Salam is a championed reformist and enjoys good Arab and international relations.

Saudi Arabia’s official stance is that Riyadh would not intervene by backing any candidate for any position. For the Kingdom, the matter concerns the Lebanese alone.

Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia has expressed concern regarding the “characteristics” of any elected candidate, what policies they intend to pursue, and whether they incorporate the reforms needed for Lebanon to bounce back. The reforms mentioned by the Kingdom include the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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