‘France is Lebanon’s friend,’ says President Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, greets Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri during their earlier meeting on April 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2019

‘France is Lebanon’s friend,’ says President Macron

  • French leader ‘working to calm the region, especially after the recent escalation’

BEIRUT: French President Emmanuel Macron met Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the Élysée Palace in Paris on Friday and stressed his country’s support for Lebanon, saying that the country is facing “delicate circumstances” and reiterating, “France is Lebanon’s friend.” Macron said: “The exchange of fire between Hezbollah and Israel at the end of August raised fears that regional conflicts could spill over into Lebanon. At the time, I personally intervened with the different parties, in close coordination with PM Hariri, to avoid escalation. Today, everyone must show full restraint. Lebanon can rely on France’s commitment toward it.”
Hariri was asked after the meeting whether the recent attacks on two Saudi Aramco oil facilities by Iran-backed Houthi militias had been discussed during the meeting. He said: “The Aramco crisis is very serious, and we should not take it lightly. It must not go unnoticed. What happened at Aramco has taken things to a much higher level of escalation. We hope there will be no further escalation. The Kingdom has a right to respond as it deems appropriate because, in the end, this is an attack on its territory and its sovereignty.”
When asked about France’s role in this regard, he replied: “Certainly, France has a permanent and ongoing role in this matter to reduce the escalation.”
Hariri visited Riyadh on Wednesday before heading to Paris to discuss ways to alleviate the economic crisis in Lebanon.
During his meeting with Hariri, Macron stressed France’s “commitment to the security and stability of Lebanon within the framework of UNIFIL, close cooperation with the Lebanese army and military forces, and what was agreed on at the Rome Conference in March 2018, including providing the Lebanese army with (necessary weaponry).”
The French president emphasized his country’s full commitment to implementing the decisions it made at the Cedar (CEDRE) Conference, held in Paris in April 2018, in addition to providing Lebanon with the means to carry out ambitious reforms to revive its economy with the support of international partners.
“€10 billion have been allocated for this,” Macron stated, “and I am happy we have reached an agreement with the Lebanese government to launch reforms as soon as possible. I hope this will allow the Cabinet to move forward with its projects, particularly in the electricity sector, infrastructure and administrative reform.”
Macron reiterated France’s support for Lebanon in dealing with the significant repercussions of the Syrian crisis as well as its full support for Syrian refugees, “taking fully into account the needs of host communities.”

We should not take the Aramco crisis lightly. It must not go unnoticed ... The Kingdom has a right to respond as it deems appropriate because, in the end, this is an attack on its territory and its sovereignty.

Saad Hariri, Lebanese prime minister

He said: “France will continue to work to reach a lasting solution to the Syrian crisis that allows refugees to return. It is the ultimate goal. No party should be (fooled into) thinking that this matter can be resolved within weeks, or forget the underlying reasons behind this displacement.”
Hariri told the French president during an open meeting with the media that Lebanon is committed to implementing Resolution 1701, which has maintained stability on its southern border for 13 years.
The prime minister also explained Lebanon’s first steps toward reform. “It is now about launching investments, and I hope to invite CEDRE’s Strategy Committee to meet in Paris in mid-November,” he said.
After the talks, which continued for an hour and a half, Hariri said: “For CEDRE, things are moving forward, and we have to make the necessary reforms,” adding that Macron is “working to calm the region, especially after the recent escalation.”
Hariri also announced plans to convene a meeting of the Saudi-Lebanese Higher Committee to sign economic agreements between the two countries. “We have completed about 19 agreements to be signed, and we will discuss how Saudi Arabia will help us with regard to our financial situation,” he said.
The Lebanese prime minister also met with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, and French business leaders to discuss potential investments in infrastructure projects in Lebanon. He claimed that “all” French investors are “eager to invest in Lebanon.”
He added: “A letter of intent was signed with the French government to purchase French equipment to enhance our defense and security capabilities. The bulk of it will be used to equip our navy and provide us with maritime air-transport capabilities to ensure the safety and exploration of our offshore oil and gas fields.”
He added, “France is showing its support by offering its guarantee for a loan of up to €400 million on generous terms.”

Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

Updated 22 min 28 sec ago

Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

  • EU Council President Donald Tusk said the halt of Turkish hostilities as demanded by the US is not a genuine cease-fire
  • He calls on Ankara to immediately stop military operations,

BRUSSELS/ANKARA: Macron critizes Turkey's aggression in Syria as "madness', bewails NATO inaction

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has bemoaned Turkey’s offensive into northern Syria as “madness” and decried NATO’s inability to react to the assault as a “serious mistake.”

“It weakens our credibility in finding partners on the ground who will be by our side and who think they will be protected in the long term. So that raises questions about how NATO functions.”

EU Council President Donald Tusk said the halt of Turkish hostilities is not a genuine cease-fire and called on Ankara to immediately stop military operations in Syria.

Dareen Khalifa, a senior Syria analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the cease-fire had unclear goals. 

There was no mention of the scope of the area that would be under Turkish control and, despite US Vice President Mike Pence referring to a 20-mile zone, the length of the zone remains ambiguous, she said.

Selim Sazak, a doctoral researcher at Brown University, believed the agreement would be implemented and the YPG would withdraw.

“The agency of the YPG is fairly limited. If the deal collapses because of the YPG, it’s actually all the better for Ankara,” he told Arab News. “What Ankara originally wanted was to take all of the belt into its control and eliminate as many of the YPG forces as possible. Instead, the YPG is withdrawing with a portion of its forces and its territory intact. Had the deal collapsed because of the YPG, Ankara would have reason to push forward, this time with much more legitimacy.”