BEIRUT: The international community called on Lebanon Wednesday to launch intensive contacts to elect a new president urgently, saying a vacuum in the country’s top Christian post was a matter of concern, U.N. Special Coordinator to Lebanon Derek Plumbly said.
“We call ... on Lebanon’s leaders and Members of Parliament to engage intensively to ensure the election of a president without further delay,” Plumbly told reporters after meeting with Maronite Patriarch Rai in Bkirki, where the prelate hosted envoys of the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and the U.N. to discuss the presidential deadlock.
“Lebanon’s long standing democratic tradition and the challenges the country presently faces mean that this is indeed a matter of great importance to us all.”
Plumbly said the patriarch had underlined to the ambassadors his concern over Parliament’s continued inability to elect a new president and the resultant vacancy in the office.
“We share that concern,” he said.
“The process of selecting a new president must remain a Lebanese one. But Lebanon’s friends in the international community have a strong interest in its completion successfully, and as soon as possible,” he added. “At a time of conflict and instability in other parts of the region, and when Lebanon itself faces multiple economic, humanitarian and security challenges, a prolonged vacuum in the highest office of the Lebanese state would indeed be a matter of grave concern.”
U.S. Ambassador David Hale, Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin, Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon Jiang Jiang, U.K. Ambassador Tom Fletcher, the French Embassy's Charge d'Affaires Jerome Kochhar and U.N. Special Coordinator to Lebanon Derek Plumbly attended the meeting.
Papal Ambassador Gabriel Katcha also attended the meeting.
The meeting comes after Rai held separate talks with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and his main Christian rival, Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea.
While Geagea has declared his candidacy for the country's top Christian post, Aoun has said he will run only if he emerges as a consensus candidate.
Since April, lawmakers have botched seven attempts to elect a new head of state, with the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition boycotting election sessions over the lack of consensus on a presidential candidate.