Paris, Nov 16: France is making a diplomatic push to solve the political crisis caused by the snap resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri earlier this month, as the country’s foreign minister is expected to meet Hariri in Riyadh.
According to at least one analyst, however, Paris may have made a “risky bet” by getting involved in the ongoing diplomatic turmoil over Hariri’s fate, which has pit Saudi Arabia against its regional rival, Iran, and Tehran’s ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah.
“As no compromise in Lebanon will pass without an agreement between Riyadh and Tehran, Paris is looking to deal with both,” said Stephane Malsagne, a historian and professor at Sciences-Po in Paris.
The highest levels of the French government are getting involved in diplomatic efforts to resolve the political turmoil gripping Lebanon, which was under French colonial rule until 1943.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is expected to meet with Hariri in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, an aide said, according to Agence France Presse.
The meeting comes a day after Le Drian arrived in Riyadh and met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a week after French President Emmanuel Macron also flew to Riyadh to meet the Crown Prince.
High-level French diplomacy
Macron hastily flew to Saudi Arabia on November 9 from the nearby United Arab Emirates.
Macron’s stop in Riyadh came just as tensions were mounting between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the fate of the Lebanese prime minister.
Hariri, a Sunni Muslim politician and longtime ally of both Saudi Arabia and France, announced his resignation in a televised address from Riyadh on November 4.
Many, including Lebanese President Michel Aoun, have accused Saudi Arabia of forcing Hariri to step down and of holding him in detention.
The Saudis have denied the allegations and accused Hezbollah of creating a “state within a state” in Lebanon.
This week, Hariri said he planned to return to Lebanon soon, but did not specify when.
According to Malsagne, French diplomacy has so far “not succeeded in obtaining guarantees from Riyadh” on Hariri’s freedom of movement and speech, nor has it clarified when Hariri may be allowed to return to Lebanon or what the Saudis’ true political intentions are.
“It’s therefore a risky bet for France,” he said.