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French envoy plans meeting to ‘create trust’ among Lebanese politicians

PARIS: France’s special envoy for Lebanon wants to convene in September the key actors with a role in appointing a president as a way of creating a “climate of trust” to break the months of political deadlock in the country.

Former foreign and defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was appointed by President Emmanuel Macron in June to come up with a method to convince Lebanon’s political elite to put rivalries aside and appoint a new head of state to carry out economic reforms to unlock vital foreign aid.

Le Drian has spent the last six weeks shuttling between regional capitals, holding talks with countries that hold sway in the country as well as stakeholders in Lebanon.

“In this context, he (Le Drian) proposed to all the actors participating in the process of electing the President of the Republic to invite them, in September, to a meeting in Lebanon intended to reach a consensus on the key stakes and priority projects that the future president would have to lead, and consequently, the qualities necessary to achieve them,” France’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Macron led international aid efforts after a massive explosion that killed more than 200 people in Beirut in 2019 and destroyed swathes of the capital city Beirut. But his efforts afterwards to resolve the political and economic crisis that followed failed.

Lebanon has had no head of state since President Michel Aoun’s term ended at the end of October, deepening institutional paralysis in a country where one of the world’s worst economic crises has been festering for years.

“The objective of this meeting is to create a climate of trust and allow Parliament to meet quickly afterwards with favourable conditions to hold an open ballot to quickly get out of this crisis,” the ministry said.

Le Drian, 76, was appointed by Macron a year after retiring, on the basis that the job would need somebody to dedicate as much time as possible to the issue.

In a decree published on Thursday, the French leader made Le Drian head of the French agency coordinating with Saudi Arabian authorities to develop the multi-billion dollar Al-Ula tourism project in the kingdom.

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