French envoy Patrick Durel reportedly asked Hezbollah to ease the strained position of his ally, MP Gebran Bassil, encouraging him to facilitate the government formation mission of PM-designate Saad Hariri, Al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday.
The newspaper said that the internal circles close to the PM-designate encourage a reconciliation between Bassil and Hariri.
However, according to Al-Joumhouria Hariri seems to have an adverse position, supported by external parties related to the US sanctions against Bassil.
Replying to the French request, Al-Joumhouria reported that Hezbollah indicated that efforts are underway in a bid to persuade “Bassil and Hariri” to expedite the formation process.
Yet, Hezbollah also said it had “no knowledge of what Hariri was doing.”
Hezbollah also emphasized to “those counting on the U.S. sanctions to weaken Bassil,” that their efforts will go in vain.
“Your request draws attention to a very important issue. It is delusional to believe that the sanctions imposed on Bassil have weakened, or may weaken, him,” the daily reported quoting Hezbollah’s reply to the French request. “Pressuring him in this case will make his position more rigid.”
This comes after the United States imposed sanctions on Gebran Bassil, the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, for corruption and ties with Hezbollah.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has previously stated that the systemic corruption in Lebanon’s political system “exemplified by Bassil” has helped to erode the foundation of an effective government.
The US sanctions come as France, the former colonial power, is pressing Lebanon’s political leaders to rapidly form a new government to carry out urgent reforms as part of an initiative launched by French President Emmanuel Macron.
While the US appears to be supporting Macron’s initiative to rescue Lebanon from a series of multiple crises threatening its fate, the two countries are clearly poles apart over dealing with Hezbollah.