BEIRUT: France’s new special envoy for Lebanon arrived in Beirut on Wednesday for talks with Lebanese leaders, state media reported, as bitter divisions continue to plague the crisis-hit country.
Jean-Yves Le Drian’s three-day visit comes a week after Lebanese lawmakers failed for a 12th time to elect a new president, drawing condemnation from the international community.
Bitter divisions between the powerful Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah and its opponents now risk miring Lebanon further in a protracted power vacuum.
Le Drian would discuss the crisis during meetings with officials, party heads and other politicians after arriving at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport, the National News Agency said.
The former foreign minister was appointed France’s special envoy to Lebanon earlier this month by President Emmanuel Macron.
He was tasked with holding talks with all those able to “contribute to finding a way out of this impasse”, the French presidency said at the time.
A French diplomatic source told AFP Le Drian hopes his visit will be a “catalyst” for solving Lebanon’s leadership vacuum after former president Michel Aoun’s term expired last October with no successor lined up.
The latest vote for the presidency pitted Hezbollah’s candidate Sulaiman Frangieh against financial official Jihad Azour, who has mainly been endorsed by Christian and independent legislators.
On top of lacking a president, Lebanon, which has been reeling from three years of economic meltdown, has been governed by a caretaker cabinet with limited powers for more than a year.
The international community has long urged Beirut to elect a new leader capable of enacting reforms crucial to unlock billions of dollars in loans to save its flailing economy.
Macron visited Lebanon, formerly a French mandate, immediately after a deadly 2020 Beirut blast to urge leaders into radical reform.
Multiple attempts spearheaded by Paris to extricate the country out of its financial and political woes have ended in failure.
Le Drian, whose last official visit to Beirut was in 2021 as foreign minister to pressure Lebanese leaders into forming a government, is also set to meet Lebanon’s powerful parliament speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday.