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Macron returns to former minister to help break Lebanon deadlock

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PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron appointed on Wednesday his former foreign minister as personal envoy to Lebanon just a year after he stepped down and having previously not been able to make any inroads in the political deadlock in the country.

Macron led international efforts after a massive explosion that killed more than 200 people in Beirut in 2019 and destroyed swathes of the capital city. But his efforts afterwards to resolve the political and economic crisis that followed failed.

“In the spirit of friendship that binds France to Lebanon, the President of the Republic continues to act in favour of a solution to the institutional crisis and the implementation of the reforms necessary for the recovery of this country,” the French presidency said in a statement.

“He appointed Jean-Yves Le Drian … as his personal representative in order to discuss with all those who, in Lebanon and abroad, can contribute to breaking the deadlock.”

Le Drian was foreign minister between 2017-2022 and had been in charge of putting several of Macron’s initiatives for Lebanon into motion and coordinating with the French presidency.

A former Socialist lawmaker and defence minister for five years under President Francois Hollande between 2012-2017, Le Drian is deemed a political heavyweight and is the latest politician to be brought back into Macron’s fold over recent months.

After almost four years, France has failed to use its historical influence in the country to push its squabbling politicians to carry out economic reforms that would unlock vital foreign aid.

Most recently it has faced criticism for its role behind the scenes as Lebanon attempts to find a new president.

Lebanon has had no head of state since President Michel Aoun’s term ended at the end of October, deepening institutional paralysis in a country where one of the world’s worst economic crises has been festering for years.

The appointment of Le Drian is also likely to undermine current Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, a former ambassador, but political novice.

(Reporting by John Irish)

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