Qatar’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Khulaifi held recently a number of meetings with Lebanese spiritual and political leaders, which highlighted the difference between Qatar and France’s approach in dealing with the presidential issue.
According to well-informed sources, Paris is likely the only side that is pushing for electing former Minister Sleiman Franjieh as Lebanon’s president, within the framework of a settlement that includes appointing Former Ambassador Nawaf Salam as prime minister, and IMF director in the Middle East and Africa, former Minister Jihad Azour, as governor of the Banque du Liban, to succeed Riad Salameh.
The sources also noted that the Qatari minister did not come to Beirut to promote any candidate for the presidency, instead, he stressed that Qatar shares the same view with Saudi Arabia on the presidential crisis, especially in terms of linking international and regional assistance for Lebanon with the election of a president, who will be able to launch an intra-Lebanese dialogue that will see the adoption of the required reforms.
The same sources quoted the Qatari minister as saying that the solution begins with the election of a president who enjoys the characteristics agreed upon by the international community, and opens the door to the formation of a coherent government to start implementing reforms.
Al-Khulaifi also believes that any progress within the quintet committee for Lebanon – which brings together representatives of the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar – will depend on dialogue between the Lebanese political forces.
In this context, the sources did not rule out that the five-member committee – in light of the questions raised by the Qatari minister – would discuss a set of ideas that would pave the way for a better political climate, provided that it coincides with the willingness of the political forces to resolve the differences that hinder the election of the president.
Meanwhile, the United States is watching the outcome of the French initiative, even if it believes that the Hezbollah-Amal duo has encouraged Paris to adopt the Franjieh-Salam barter, under the pretext of facilitating the election process.
Accordingly, Paris is giving itself an opportunity to push for the election of Franjieh, based on the fact that Hezbollah’s approval is necessary for the presidential election, despite the assertion of opponents that the party cannot unilaterally choose a president for the country.
France did not promise Franjieh to support his candidacy indefinitely, and instructed him to move at the local and foreign levels to address the objections to his election. However, the former minister had a positive impression following his meeting with French presidential advisor Patrick Durrell, as reported by former Minister Youssef Fenianos, who was dispatched by Franjieh to inform Speaker Nabih Berri and the Hezbollah leadership of the outcome of his meeting.