French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrived in Lebanon on Monday for a two-day official visit, during which he is scheduled to meet with the country’s top leaders, National News Agency (NNA) reported.
After his arrival at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, Ayrault boarded a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) helicopter that carried him to Naqoura to inspect French peacekeepers stationed there, the NNA said.
Ayrault will return to Beirut and meet with Lebanese officials on Tuesday, it added.
The French minister is scheduled to hold talks with Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi.
He will also meet with leaders of some political parties, including Future Movement, Marada Movement, Free Patriotic Movement, Kataeb Party, Lebanese Forces, Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, and Progressive Socialist Party.
Ayrault will also hold talks with Mireille Girard, the Lebanese representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Ayrault’s visit comes weeks after French officials held talks in Paris with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir over a political settlement in Lebanon.
In remarks to An Nahar newspaper on the eve of his visit to Lebanon, Ayrault said he would “urge all Lebanese parties to come together and allow the forging of an agreement involving the majority of the political forces in order to put an end to the presidential crisis.”
He also stressed the need to “isolate Lebanon from the Syrian crisis.”
The Lebanese parliament failed against last month and for the 41st time in a row to elect a president to replace Michel Suleiman whose term ended on May 25 , 2014.
As in all the previous sessions the parliament was unable to reach a quorum because the Iranian-backed Hezbollahmilitant group and its ally MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc MPs boycotted the session, because they could not reportedly guarantee Aoun’s election as a president.
Berri postponed the election to Wednesday July 13th.
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