Encouraged by US support, Macron had planned to dispatch his adviser for Middle East and North Africa affairs Patrick Durel to Lebanon in a bid to revive the stalled French initiative to rescue the crises-ridden country and accelerate the formation of a new government to deliver urgent reforms.
The postponement of Durel’s visit coincided with renewed political escalation between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri over the delay in the formation of a new government that shattered hopes for an early solution to the Cabinet crisis, now in its sixth month.
Durel was originally expected to visit Beirut last weekend for talks with rival Lebanese political leaders on the hurdles hindering the formation of a new government and also to prepare for Macron’s trip to Lebanon.
“Patrick Durel’s visit to Beirut has been postponed,” the official source familiar with the Cabinet formation process, the Lebanese Daily Star reported. Although the source did not give the reason for the postponement, it was clearly linked to the mounting tensions between Aoun and Hariri, who have locked horns over responsibility for blocking the formation of a new government.
The source said he was not aware of any contacts made by French officials with Aoun and Hariri in the past two days to defuse the tensions and the war of words between the two leaders over the obstruction of the creation of a proposed 18-member Cabinet of nonpartisan specialists to be tasked with carrying out a reform program contained in the French initiative designed to lift Lebanon out of its worst economic and financial crunch since the 1975-90 Civil War.
Macron, whose country has emerged as the main power broker in Lebanon since the massive Aug. 4 explosion that devastated Beirut Port and left half of the capital in ruins, last month announced he planned to make a third visit to Lebanon, saying that France's road map for resolving the deepening Lebanese crisis was still on the table. Media reports said Macron planned to also visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ahead of his trip to Lebanon to rally support for the French initiative.