News Analysis: Will Macron's peacemaking efforts work in Lebanon crisis?

Source: Xinhua| 2017-11-21 20:49:14|Editor: Lifang
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PARIS, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Earlier this month, Saad al-Hariri's surprise resignation as Lebanon's prime minister while in Saudi Arabia threw Lebanon into political crisis. Since then, Macron tried to appease regional tension and "to contribute to the return to calmness and stability in Lebanon" by playing a new role of Mideast peacemaker. Will Macron's efforts work? Some analysts say if he won the first leg, the game would still seem to be more difficult.

On Nov. 4, al-Hariri announced he quit his post in a televised speech aired from the Saudi capital of Riyadh. He accused Iran, a major foe of Saudi Arabia, of interfering in Lebanese internal affairs through the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, and said his life is under danger. However, Lebanese officials claimed his decision was forced by Saudi Arabia, al-Harir's main political ally.


Macron's diplomatic action began with an unscheduled visit to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, sending his foreign minister to Saudi Arabia, followed by inviting al-Hariri and his family to Paris and then a series of calls with main partners to discuss "the situation in the Middle East, the interests and the means to stabilize the region and build peace."

"Macron has realized a double feat. He is emerging as an important player in the Middle East and at the same time he reaffirms the privileged ties between France and the Lebanese, and has managed to allow Saad Hariri to leave Riyadh while, several attempts including that of the Lebanese patriarchs had failed, and so to unblock the situation," said Hasni Abidi, a political scientist and expert in the Arab world.

Abidi told Xinhua in an interview that the diplomatic initiative of the French president who "has a voluntarist foreign policy" paved the way for Paris to return to the international scene after it lost its grandeur in the region.

Since he occupied the Elysee Palace on May 7, Macron, who never held an elected post, has palyed up his credibility as an experienced dipolamatic steward by increasing offensives mainly on climate and Iran nuclear deal.

The French president now invited himself at the heart of a regional power struggle between Riyadh and Tehran and put on test his foreign policy by trying to appease all sides in the region and create conditions to ease tension.


The 39-year-old head of state "wants to show that France is not only an observer in face of this crisis that is destabilizing several Middle Eastern countries," said Karim Emile Bitar, research director at French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS).

"The Iranians are beginning to find that France is a little too aligned with Saudi Arabia, but by making some opening signals to Tehran, Emmanuel Macron could truly play a mediating role between these two countries at the regional level, at a time when the United States are fully behind the Saudis," Bitar told France info radio.

Macron "is trying to rebalance French diplomacy and this Lebanese affairs could allow him to have an important leverage, because even the opponents of Saad Hariri in Lebanon have welcomed this French initiative," he added.

At the invitation of Macron, al-Hariri, a long-time ally of Saudi Arabia, has since Saturday been in Paris with his family. He was scheduled to fly to Egypt on Tuesday before returning to Lebanon by Wednesday where he would submit formally his resignation.

"If Emmanuel Macron won the first leg, the game would seem to be more difficult," Abidi, an expert in the Arab world, said referring to the consequences of al-Hariri resignation and the risk of institutional vacuum.

"The French president must... provide after-sales service. Otherwise, it will be perceived as abandonment. The search for a way to get out of the crisis requires a multilateral and inclusive approach. It is very important not to go from one interference to another," he added.