Home » French foreign minister in Beirut for talks to end gov’t deadlock

French foreign minister in Beirut for talks to end gov’t deadlock

Jean-Yves Le Drian vows to send ‘firm’ message in meetings with Lebanese leaders aimed at speeding up cabinet formation.

Beirut, Lebanon – French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is in Beirut for talks with Lebanese leaders in an attempt to end months of political paralysis that has stalled the formation of a new government in the crisis-hit country.

Le Drian met President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace on Thursday morning for about 30 minutes. He is due to meet Speaker Nabih Berri later.

According to the French Embassy in Lebanon, he is not scheduled to make a public statement.

In a Twitter post on Wednesday evening, Le Drian said he was planning to send a “message of great firmness to political leaders” during the talks.

“Firmness in the face of those hindering the formation of a government,” he said. “We have taken national action, and this is just the start.”

Lebanon has been functioning with a limited caretaker government since Prime Minister Hasan Diab resigned on August 10, days after a massive explosion at the Beirut port left hundreds dead and wrecked much of the capital. The country continues to reel from a crippling economic crisis that has rendered more than half its population into poverty.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri was tasked in October with forming a new government but has been at odds with President Aoun over ministerial positions and the size of the upcoming government.

Le Drian’s visit is one of several from French officials following the Beirut port explosion, including President Emmanuel Macron who has been urging Lebanese officials to form a government that will enact reforms and unlock international development aid.

Last week, Le Drian announced that Paris had begun imposing travel restrictions on Lebanese officials for alleged corruption and obstructing the formation of a government, without naming the affected individuals.

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs did not respond to an Al Jazeera request about the names of the sanctioned officials.

Le Drian is also due to meet leaders of opposition groups, notably the Kataeb, Taqqadom and The National Bloc.

As of Wednesday, the foreign minister had not yet scheduled a meeting with Hariri, Mustafa Allouch, vice president of Hariri’s Future Movement, told Al Jazeera.

Allouch and Future Movement MPs have admitted that a Hariri resignation is a possibility should the deadlock situation remain unresolved.

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