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Days ahead of a long-awaited session to elect a president scheduled for June 14, the former French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian is expected to visit Lebanon in the near future to engage with the deeply-divided politicians and assess their stance on a consensus candidate in order to propose plans of action to his administration, a French diplomatic source told This is Beirut.

“For the moment, we do not have a final date for Le Drian’s arrival. It may occur prior to or following the electoral session. However, he will be meeting with all political actors before reporting back to President Macron and the Minister of Foreign Affairs,” the source said, adding that based on the outcome of his mission “Le Drian would also put forward actionable proposals.”

French President Emmanuel Macron appointed Le Drian, a veteran in “crisis management”, as a special envoy to Lebanon as part of a renewed effort to end a seven-month-long political crisis, the Elysees announced on Wednesday, June 7.

According to the source, “France is poised to set forth proposals” in line with France’s constant approach in Lebanon. This approach had resulted in a “political formula” that was presented a few months ago to facilitate the election.

Asked if France would consider endorsing former finance minister Jihad Azour for the presidency, the source reiterated that France “does not support any particular candidate,” noting, however, that Le Drian might propose “changing or modifying” France’s approach or “suggest more concrete measures to help Lebanon weather its current impasse.”

“Everything is possible,” he said, adding that “the previous formula proposed by France is still valid in the absence of another concrete and realistic formula.”

France had previously proposed a “solution” under which Hezbollah and Amal-backed candidate Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh would be elected president in return for appointing Nawaf Salam, a figure close to the anti-Hezbollah camp, as prime minister. The proposal was firmly rejected by leading Christian parties, as it failed to receive the approval of the Maronite patriarchate.

The camp opposed to Frangieh’s candidature endorsed Jihad Azour, the current Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the International Monetary Fund, as their candidate.

Adwan’s immunity

In another development, The Quai d’Orsay, France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has formally requested lifting the diplomatic immunity of Lebanese Ambassador in Paris Rami Adwan in relation to an ongoing investigation into allegations of rape and intentional violence involving Adwan, a French diplomatic source told This is Beirut on Thursday, June 8.

Adwan’s case was discussed by Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdallah Bou Habib and his French counterpart Catherine Colonna at a meeting held on the sideline of the Global Coalition against Daesh conference held in Riyadh on Thursday, June 8.

According to media reports, Bou Habib and Colonna “have reached an agreement” over Adwan’s issue.

Adwan is under investigation in France following complaints by two former embassy employees. He could face trial if Lebanon agrees to France’s request to lift his diplomatic immunity.

Earlier this week, the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs dispatched a fact-finding delegation to Paris to follow up on the case.

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