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Macron steers France to a new Mideast role

7 3 9

Shortly after Saad Hariri unexpectedly announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister in a speech from Saudi Arabia last month, French President Emmanuel Macron made a surprise trip to Riyadh. Regional tensions were escalating, with Lebanese leaders accusing the Saudis of holding Hariri hostage and Riyadh accusing Lebanon of declaring war against it.

Macron’s hastily-scheduled visit was to see Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and to discuss “ensuring the preservation of stability in the region,” according to a statement from the French presidency after the meeting. A week later, on Nov 16, Hariri arrived in Paris, where Macron welcomed the Lebanese premier to a family lunch at the Elysee Palace. By the end of the month, Hariri was back in office in Beirut, his bizarre resignation rescinded and the political temperature pulled down a notch – at least for the moment.

Macron’s mediation in the Lebanon crisis may not be surprising given that France takes a special interest in its former colony. But his successful intervention – along with his eagerness to address the broader Saudi-Iran rivalry that has destabilized the Middle East – is emblematic of the French president’s efforts to establish France as a leading power within the region and beyond.

Consider these signs of Macron’s more muscular geopolitical approach:

On Dec. 7, he went to Qatar to negotiate the sale of 12 French-made Rafael fighter aircraft to the Persian Gulf sheikhdom. While there, he used the official visit as an opportunity to try to mediate in the Gulf diplomatic crisis that had........

© Japan Today