BEIRUT: British Ambassador Tom Fletcher revealed that his country was joining forces with France, the United States and Saudi Arabia to end the presidential void in Lebanon.
The Vatican too, has stepped up efforts to resolve the impasse over the Lebanese presidency; political sources told The Daily Star on Sunday.
The sources said that Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, in close coordination with the Vatican, will start contacts with the international community over the presidency. The Vatican is also preparing for Rai’s upcoming visit to Washington, where he is expected to discuss the Lebanese presidential election.
A Vatican envoy is also expected to pay a visit to Beirut during the course of this week to convey to Lebanese officials Pope Francis’ concern over the stalled presidential election, the sources said.
The political sources added that a recent meeting between influential Vatican bishops and top Russian diplomats at the Vatican discussed Christian presence in the Middle East in light of the armed conflicts that plagued the region, in addition to the Lebanese presidential election.
The bishops, according to the sources, called on the Russian officials to play a role in facilitating the election of a new head of state in Lebanon in light of the close ties Moscow maintains with several countries directly involved in the Lebanese presidential election, including Syria and Iran.
The sources said the Russian officials promised the Vatican bishops to exert all necessary effort for a new Lebanese president to be elected; particularly due to the fact Lebanon is the only country in the region whose president is Christian.
In comments to Al-Mustaqbal newspaper published Sunday, Fletcher said that contacts had been made between Britain, France, the United States and Saudi Arabia “to work toward ending the presidential void but without interfering in the operation of choosing the next president.”
Fletcher said London, Paris, Washington and Riyadh had agreed to take up a neutral role and not interfere in the choice of the next president nor go into the game of names.
He added that the choice of the president was a Lebanese domestic and sovereign issue par excellence and the international community must not interfere in that realm.
Fletcher noted that Rai had expressed his anguish as a result of vacancy in the presidency during a meeting with the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
The diplomat said Rai was exerting round the clock efforts with parliamentary blocs in a bid to convince them to head to Parliament and elect a new president. Fletcher said Britain endorsed Rai’s efforts to end the presidential void, adding that he had urged various parliamentary blocs to support Rai’s initiative.
Lebanon has been without a president since May 25, and several sessions to elect a new head of state have so far failed.