France's Macron Holds Talks With Russian, Iranian Leaders Over Lebanon, Belarus
By RFE/RL August 13, 2020
French President Emmanuel Macron has held a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss postelection violence in Belarus and the situation in Lebanon following a devastating blast in Beirut.
Macron on August 12 also spoke by phone with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rohani, urging Tehran to avoid interfering in Lebanon or escalating tensions.
Iran wields influence in Lebanon through the militant Shi'ite Hizballah group, whose political wing was a major bloc in the outgoing Lebanese government and has an alliance with President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian.
Lebanon's government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned this week following days of demonstrations in the wake of an explosion at the Beirut port on August 4 that devastated entire neighborhoods of the city and left 171 people dead.
In his talks with Rohani, Macron emphasized the "necessity for all the powers concerned...to avoid any outside interference and to support the putting in place of a government which can manage the emergency," the Elysee said.
The blast has been blamed on a large stock of ammonium nitrate allowed to sit for years at the port in what many in Lebanon consider another example of the political elite's negligence and corruption.
Analysts say the political fallout from the blast may put pressure on Hizballah, the country's strongest faction with a militant wing considered more powerful than the Lebanese Army.
Macron visited Beirut in the wake of the blast and offered broad support for the former French protectorate, organizing an international donor conference that raised some $295 million in pledges to help Beirut.
In his talks with Putin, Macron urged Russia to cooperate with the international community in restoring stability to Lebanon.
Macron suggested that Russia should support Lebanon via collective efforts at the UN Security Council.
Putin and Macron also discussed Belarus, where protesters have faced a harsh crackdown following the August 9 presidential vote that the opposition says was rigged to grant strongman President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth-straight term.
Macron told Putin he was "very worried about the situation in Belarus and the violence that citizens have faced during the elections," the Elysee said in a statement. "He emphasized the need to find again the path of dialogue."
With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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