French FM in Beirut for talks on govt deadlock


French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian started talks with officials in Beirut on Thursday aimed at breaking the deadlock in forming a Lebanese government to grapple with the country’s economic woes.

The French official, who arrived in Beirut at midnight, met Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Thursday, Lebanon’s state news agency NNA reported, without giving details.

Le Drian is also scheduled to confer with House Speaker Nabih Berri, dpa news agency reported citing NNA as saying.

The French embassy in Beirut has not issued an itinerary for Le Drian’s visit.

According to a government official, Le Drian’s exact mission is still unclear, but it mainly aims to break the political impasse in Lebanon.

The official said the French Minister “will be very firm with politicians accused of putting obstacles towards forming a new government”.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was tasked with forming a new Lebanese government in October.

But, he has failed so far, and due to political divisions among rival factions also to form a Cabinet made of experts to tackle the country’s worsening economy.

Lebanon, a former French colony, is experiencing its worst economic crisis since its civil war ended in 1990.

The country has been under pressure from international financing institutions to introduce economic reforms and act against corruption.

France has been pushing for the formation of a new government since caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned following a devastating August 4, 2020, Beirut port explosion, which killed at least 190 people, injured 6,000 and displaced 300,000 others.

France and other countries have said that they would help Lebanon if a “government with a mission” is put in place to introduce much needed reforms in the country.