“Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai’s visit to Paris to discuss Lebanese presidential elections and economic crisis”

2023-05-29 19:17:15

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai begins his visit to Paris tomorrow, Tuesday, in response to the official invitation addressed to him by President Emmanuel Macron, within the framework of France’s efforts to support Lebanon in its economic crisis and the vacancy of the presidency.

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai discusses with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, on Tuesday, the file of the presidential elections in Lebanon, seven months after the presidency was vacant in light of political paralysis and a deep economic crisis.

Al-Rahi’s visit comes at a time when several political forces are trying to agree to support a presidential candidate to block the arrival of former minister Suleiman Franjieh, who enjoys major support from Hezbollah, the most prominent political and military force in the country.

Lebanese officials, some of whom visited Paris recently, criticize France for supporting, according to them and several reports, Franjieh’s accession to the presidency, which is denied by French diplomats.

France, the former mandate power in Lebanon, has always enjoyed a privileged position in the country. Some Lebanese, especially Christians, refer to her as “the tender mother”, given that she supported Lebanon in several stages of its history.

According to a statement issued by his media office on Sunday, Al-Rahi will meet Macron at four o’clock on Tuesday afternoon in the Elysee Palace, in response to an official invitation, provided that the discussion will address several files, including the presidential elections.

Before Paris, Patriarch Al-Rahi visits the Vatican, and a number of Maronite patriarchs played an important role in several stages in the history of Lebanon, a country of many sects and religions, in which sectarian affiliation sometimes prevails over political affiliation.

Paris has been leading a movement for months to urge the Lebanese to expedite the election of a president for the country and carry out urgent reforms to obtain international financial support to get Lebanon out of its economic crisis that has existed since the fall of 2019. Representatives of five countries concerned with Lebanese affairs, including France, the United States and Saudi Arabia, held a meeting in Paris in February. February to discuss the situation in Lebanon, without achieving any progress.

Hezbollah and its allies support Franjieh’s accession to the presidency, while Hezbollah’s opponents, most notably the Christian Lebanese Forces and Kataeb parties, oppose his arrival. He is also opposed by the Christian Free Patriotic Movement headed by Gebran Bassil, an ally of Hezbollah, which considers itself a “natural candidate” for the presidency.

The head of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, Sami Gemayel, told AFP earlier: “I am convinced that France has good intentions and is trying to find solutions to break the stalemate, but we do not agree with the proposed solution.”

And he stressed that the basis is to “stop Hezbollah putting its hand on Lebanon,” referring to efforts being made to gather the largest number of parties around the name of another candidate.

No party has a parliamentary majority that enables it to field its candidate. There is an independent bloc in Parliament that does not tend to elect Franjieh as well.

Among the presidential candidates are opposition MP Michel Moawad and former minister Jihad Azour, who currently runs the Middle East and Central Asia department at the International Monetary Fund. The three Christian parties are seeking to agree on Azour.

Patriarch Al-Rahi said in a sermon he delivered on Sunday, referring to Azour without naming him: “We would like to thank God for what we hear about reaching some consensus between the parliamentary blocs about the personality of the next president, so that it does not constitute a challenge to anyone, and at the same time he has a personality.” It responds to the needs of Lebanon today and inspires internal and external confidence.

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