BEIRUT: French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged Lebanese political parties to reach an agreement on a new government and to elect a new president to avoid a power vacuum.
In remarks published Monday by pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, Fabius said Lebanon should not reach a stage where there is vacuum in the government or the presidency.
He urged the Lebanese to reach an agreement in order to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and independence.
Fabius spoke to Al-Hayat on the plane while travelling with French President Francois Hollande to Riyadh for talks with Saudi King Abdullah and Saudi officials.
He also said “what happens in Lebanon should be detached from what happens in Syria,” stressing Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.
Lebanon has adopted a policy of neutralization from the neighboring Syrian crisis in an agreement signed last year by rival political parties dubbed “Baabda Declaration,” although Hezbollah has declared earlier this year it is fighting alongside Syrian regime forces against opposition groups.
Hollande has voiced similar comments, calling for respect for constitutional deadlines, particularly the presidential election due in May 2014.
The French president told Al-Hayat in remarks published Sunday that Lebanon needs to stay united in the face of threats at home.
Hollande said he would discuss Lebanon and the constitutional deadlines with Saudi King Abdullah and other Saudi officials, adding that he supports President Michel Sleiman’s efforts to bring together all political parties to the Dialogue table.
He also said France would continue to mobilize its partners in the International Support Group for Lebanon in order to enable it to better deal with the presence of Syrian refugees on Lebanese territory.
Following talks with King Abdullah, Hollande and Fabius met later Sunday with former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at his home in Riyadh.
Talks focused on the situation in Lebanon and developments in the region, a statement from Hariri's office said.
Hariri thanked France for its support for the International Tribunal for the prosecution of his slain father, five-time Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the statement said.
It said Hariri also praised France for urging authorities to speed up an arms sale to the Lebanese Army as part of $3 billion Saudi grant to the Lebanese military.