Commander-in-chief of the Lebanese Army and potential presidential candidate, Joseph Aoun
(Photo Credit: lebarmy.gov.lb)
A French-Saudi diplomatic delegation held a meeting in Paris, France on 18 September to discuss Lebanon’s situation, with the aim of finding a political solution to the country’s crisis.
A diplomatic source in Europe revealed the meeting was attended by Patrick Dorel, the head of foreign intelligence, Bernard Emie, the French ambassador to Lebanon, Anne Greu, as well as the Saudi Minister Nizar al-Alula, and the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Walid al-Bukhari.
According to the Lebanese LBCI, the two sides discussed the presidential elections and the crises provoked by President Michel Aoun, as the French side was inclined to organize the presidential elections in Lebanon.
The French team said that it is crucial for the Lebanese parliament parties to democratically elect a president and preserve the Lebanese state, as this represents putting Lebanon back on track by implementing the required reforms.
However, according to the Saudi leadership, the ‘profile’ of the next president is of great concern, and priority should be given to the approved name with the required specifications.
The same source revealed that Saudi Arabia would only support Lebanon’s economy if the new president is not a part of the Hezbollah-Syria alliance.
Additionally, Riyadh informed Paris that it would return to exercising its role in managing the Sunni file in Lebanon, referring to the Sunni political parties. The Saudi project aims to restructure the Sunnis in Lebanon after the void left behind by the absence of Saad Hariri.
The source also disclosed that the French team put forth the suggestion of re-electing Najib Mikati as Prime Minister, to which the Saudis responded by saying the candidate should not be one of the politicians who are currently responsible for the crisis.
Moreover, the French approached the Saudis with the name of Suleiman Franjieh as a potential candidate, on the condition that Hezbollah guarantees Saudi Arabia a prime minister affiliated with Riyadh.
However, the Saudi team rejected the proposal in light of what previously happened in the case of Michel Aoun, noting that “the Saudis asked the French whether the Commander of the Lebanese Army, Joseph Aoun, was an acceptable candidate for the French, but the French preferred to leave the name aside.”
According to LBCI sources, the Saudi delegation clarified that the US, Qatar, and Egypt are all in favor of Joseph Aoun, and that Christian parties, led by the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb, and other independent representatives, have no problem with that choice.