French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met on Thursday with Lebanese leaders in a bid to break the deadlock in months of talks on forming a new cabinet to pull Lebanon out of its economic crisis.
Last month, Paris said it was taking measures to restrict entry to France for Lebanese officials accused of blocking efforts to resolve the crisis, which has crashed the local currency, increased poverty and crippled the banking sector.
Le Drian met Lebanese President Michel Aoun and influential Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. Both are allies of the Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah, which is backed by Tehran and is a close ally of Syria.
Before flying to Beirut, Le Drian warned of punitive measures against those who were impeding progress. “It is only the beginning,” he wrote on Twitter.
There has been no official announcement of what steps Paris has taken, or against whom, and the possible impact is unclear as some Lebanese politicians hold dual nationality.
France has led efforts to rescue Lebanon from its economic crisis, but after 8 months it has failed to persuade bickering politicians to adopt a reform road map or form a cabinet to unlock international aid.
Le Drian has also asked to meet Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement and son-in-law of President Aoun, who was hit with U.S. sanctions last year for alleged corruption and his ties to Hezbollah.
Officials had declined to confirm a meeting with Saad al-Hariri, a 3-time prime minister who was designated to form a new government in October but has been locked in a stand-off with the president over the cabinet line-up.