France will work with Saudi Arabia to resolve the Lebanese crisis

France will work with Saudi Arabia to resolve the Lebanese crisis

France and Saudi Arabia had a joint phone call with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a move considered important in resolving an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between Riyadh and Beirut.
The appeal was made on Saturday as French President Emmanuel Macron visited Saudi Arabia after trips to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The kingdom and other Gulf states withdrew their ambassadors from Beirut last month, angered by a government minister who criticized the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The minister resigned on Friday.

Macron, who was in Saudi Arabia for talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, told reporters that Riyadh has pledged to re-commit financially in the short term.

“So now we’re going to work in a very concrete way to put this together between the two of us,” he said.

Macron said that during the call with Mikati, he and Prince Salman relayed “a clear message that Saudi Arabia and France want to fully engage.”

“We want to commit to supporting the Lebanese people and therefore do everything possible so that the trade and economic reopening can take place,” Macron told reporters in remarks before leaving the kingdom.

“We also want [Lebanese] government to be able to work in a normal way and therefore to meet as soon as possible, and to carry out useful reforms, ”he added.

The French president said France and Saudi Arabia will work together to provide essential humanitarian aid to Lebanon, which is facing an economic crisis brought on by government failures and widespread corruption.

Mikati said the appeal he had with Prince Salman and Macron was “an important step” towards restoring relations with the Gulf countries.

The Lebanese cabinet said in a statement on Facebook that Mikati underscored his government’s commitment to reform.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati attends an interview with Reuters at the Government Palace in Beirut, Lebanon, October 14, 2021 [File: Mohamed Azakir/ Reuters]

This marked another intervention by Macron in an attempt to help Lebanon, a nation that was once a French protectorate. It was also the first call between the Saudi crown prince and the Lebanese prime minister since Mikati took office in September.

Macron said he would call his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Aoun, upon his return to Paris.

Macron has led international efforts to resolve the political and economic crisis in Lebanon. But although he has staked much of his political capital on the issue for over a year, he has so far failed to push the country’s quarrelsome politicians to carry out economic reforms that would allow. to unlock vital foreign aid.

In October, Riyadh expelled Lebanon’s envoy to the kingdom, recalled its ambassador to Beirut and banned Lebanese imports following remarks by George Kordahi, an ally of the Hezbollah movement, whom Riyadh considers a “terrorist” organization. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain followed suit.

Kordahi said on Friday when he resigned that he was acting in his country’s best interests to help end the dispute. Iranian-backed Hezbollah is one of the most powerful actors in Lebanese politics.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have long battled for influence in the region, including in Lebanon, which is grappling with a deep economic crisis and in desperate need of financial support from regional and international donors.

Zeina Khodr of Al Jazeera, in a report from Beirut, said “there is no doubt that a new page has opened in relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia”.

“It’s really a change of strategy, of policy on Riyadh’s part. His policy has been “For us there is no point in engaging with a government controlled by Hezbollah backed by Iran.” And Mikati’s government is dominated by Hezbollah and its allies. So now the crown prince speaking to the prime minister of Lebanon, and the prime minister tweeting it’s a new start, it will help rekindle brotherly relations, ”she said.

“Because we have to remember that the Arab Gulf States were the traditional allies of Lebanon. But this relationship has been strained for years because of what Saudi Arabia sees as Iranian control and domination over Lebanese politics, ”Khodr added. “A first step has therefore been taken, but it is too early to say whether what it was will be restored or not. ”


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