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A New Era of American-French Relations and Its Implications for Lebanon

The visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Paris, where he met President Emmanuel Macron and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, came to confirm the new and emerging US-French relationship that has grown ever tighter under Macron and Biden. The foreign ministers of the two countries were keen to address each other repeatedly on a first name basis – “Jean-Yves” and “Tony” – as a testament to their close friendship. The rapprochement we are witnessing between the two countries was evident in Blinken’s speech at the conclusion of the meeting, in which he remarked that the United States and the international community are ready to help Lebanon witness real change. “We need to see real leadership in Lebanon,” Blinken added. Le Drian began speaking by addressing Blinken with “Dear Tony” and said: “We share the same assessment of the situation in Lebanon, from the catastrophic collapse of the country to the inability of the political leadership in Lebanon to face challenges … so we agreed to work together to place more pressure on Lebanese leaders to take the initiative to confront the political situation.” French and American sources say that these initiatives are still under consideration and have not yet crystallized but there is a point to putting more pressure on the Lebanese officials who are standing in the way of the government’s formation. There is no doubt that putting the issue of Lebanon on the table of the Macron and Blinken talks at the Élysée Palace indicates the two countries’ interest in Lebanon and preventing its disintegration. The Americans are clearly interested in pushing for the formation of a new government in Lebanon that will implement at least some reforms – even if they are few – in order to get the country out of its political stalemate. Le Drian’s warm welcome to his friend Blinken indicates a new era in US-French relations and deep French satisfaction with the US coordination with Germany and France on Libya, as well as the new US administration’s support for France’s stance in Mali. While the US has found itself rather isolated in its new “Cold War” with China – given Europe’s deep reliance on the Chinese market – the two sides are at the very least coordinated on Arab affairs. The meeting in Paris between Blinken and Le Drian confirmed that there is close American-French coordination on the Lebanese issue. –Randa Taqi Al-Din (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)