BEIRUT: Several prominent civil society organizations rejected Tuesday morning claims that they would be meeting with a French delegation to discuss the uprising and France's possible support to Lebanon.
Christophe Farnaud, the French foreign ministry’s envoy to the Middle East and North Africa, is due to arrive in Beirut Tuesday to meet with officials and protesters about the situation in Lebanon.
Ahead of his arrival, the NGO Legal Agenda, Sabaa Party, and the Beirut Madinati group issued statements denying that they would be meeting with Farnaud and his delegation.
Local newspaper Al Akhbar reported Tuesday morning that Legal Agenda and the Sabaa party had agreed to meet with the French envoy in their capacity as groups “representing civil society.” The paper also reported that the groups Kulluna Irada and LiWatani had agreed to meet the French delegation. Jad Chaaban, an economics professor at the American University of Beirut was also reported to have been invited to meet the delegation in his capacity as an expert on Lebanon’s economic and financial affairs.
According to the paper, Farnaud will later file a report on the current situation in Lebanon, the problems facing the political authorities, the aspirations of the people, and on France’s possible assistance to Lebanon.
Writing on Facebook, Beirut Madinati stated that the organization “reiterates its firm belief that the revolution is the revolution of Lebanese women and men only." It added that they had "declined the invitation extended to some of its members to meet with Mr. Farnaud" and that the party is "committed to the idea that Lebanese women and men are able to build a State without any foreign 'assistance' or intervention, without any internal or external mediation."
Legal Agenda clarified that, while they had been invited by the French Embassy to meet with Farnaud, they had declined to attend. “We would like to emphasize that Legal Agenda is an organization that strives to defend social issues using its own intellectual and human energies, without claiming or having any of its members claim to be a representative of the Lebanese people,” they wrote. “We reject the hegemony of powerful parties over society as much as we reject any foreign domination over it.”
The Sabaa Party similarly denied they had accepted to meet with the French envoy, writing on Twitter, “We would like to emphasize that we do not heed to any calls for meetings with any embassies generally, and especially not during this sensitive period. Anything published in the news related to this matter is untrue and fabricated to suggest that the people’s revolution is externally supported.”
Also keen to distance the movement from outside players, protesters have circulated images on social media and messaging applications calling for a demonstration in front of the French Embassy this evening.
The claim of foreign involvement in Lebanon’s popular uprising, now in its 27th day, is a sensitive one that establishment political authorities have deployed to divide protesters.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah claimed in a televised speech on Oct. 25 that groups are “exploiting popular protests to settle their account with Hezbollah and implement foreign agendas.”
Local television station OTV, which is owned by President Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, has similarly attempted to undermine the movement by questioning the sources of funding for snacks and refreshments distributed at the protests.