French, Lebanese leaders discuss effort to quell Hezbollah, Israel clashes

By Thomson Reuters Apr 19, 2024 | 1:49 PM

BEIRUT (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron met Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and the country’s army chief Joseph Aoun in Paris on Friday for talks on how to end cross-border fighting between Hezbollah and Israel and ease a political stalemate in Lebanon.

A statement from Mikati’s office said he discussed with Macron a French proposal to end cross-border fighting that envisions increased support for the Lebanese army and the withdrawal of Hezbollah fighters from within 10 km (six miles) of the border.

Mikati thanked Macron for his efforts “to stop the Israeli aggression against Lebanon and support the army with equipment and expertise to enable it to fully carry out its tasks,” the statement said.

Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Israeli army have engaged in clashes across the Lebanese border since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7, marking their most serious hostilities since a war between them in 2006.

The fighting has fuelled concern about the risk of further escalation.

Macron and Mikati also discussed the need to elect a new president more than 1-1/2 after former President Michel Aoun left office, deepening political paralysis as Lebanon continues to suffer from an acute financial crises, the statement from Mikati’s office said.

(Reporting by Timour Azhari Editing by Cynthia Osterman)