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French Foreign Minister to visit Lebanon to avert Israel-Hezbollah war

French Foreign Minister to visit Lebanon to avert Israel-Hezbollah war French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne (photo: Getty Images)

On Sunday, April 28, French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne will visit Lebanon, where he will present proposals to prevent further escalation and potential war between Israel and the radical group Hezbollah, according to Reuters.

Paris is attempting to refine a roadmap that both sides could adopt to reduce tension, as mutual shelling between Israel and the radical group Hezbollah has intensified following Iran's massive missile strikes on Israel.

France has historical ties with Lebanon and earlier this year Stephane Sejourne delivered an initiative that proposed Hezbollah's elite unit pull back 10 km (6 miles) from the Israeli border, while Israel would halt strikes in southern Lebanon.

France's proposal, which has been discussed with partners, notably the United States, has not moved forward, but Paris wants to keep momentum in talks and underscore to Lebanese officials that Israeli threats of a military operation in southern Lebanon should be taken seriously.

Hezbollah has maintained it will not enter any concrete discussion until there is a ceasefire in Gaza, where the war between Israel and Islamist militant group Hamas has entered its sixth month.

Tel Aviv has stated that they aim to ensure the restoration of calm along their northern border, allowing thousands of displaced Israelis to return to the region without fear of rocket attacks from Lebanon.

"The objective is to prevent a regional conflagration and avoid that the situation deteriorates even more on the border between Israel and Lebanon," said Deputy Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Christophe Lemoine at a press conference.

French officials say that the responses so far have been general and have not had consensus among Lebanon's leadership. However, they believe that it is still too early for any form of agreement. In their view, it is vital to participate in negotiations today so that when the right moment comes, both sides are prepared.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Nikati and Lebanese army chief Joseph Aoun met French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month, where they discussed the French proposal.

In March, the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to the French Embassy in Beirut. In it, Beirut considers the French initiative to be a significant step towards peace and security in Lebanon and the entire region. Local Lebanese media reported that the government has provided the French with a response to this proposal.

Israel remains cautious about the Paris initiative, although Israeli and French officials say that Tel Aviv supports efforts to de-escalate cross-border tensions.

"The flames will flicker and tensions will continue. We are in a situation of strategic ambiguity on both sides," said one Lebanese diplomat.

Officials say that UN forces are unable to fulfill their peacekeeping mandate, and part of France's proposals aim to strengthen the mission by bolstering the Lebanese army. In southern Lebanon, 700 French troops are stationed as part of a 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping contingent.

After he visits Lebanon, Sejourne will travel to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

It is also reported that foreign ministers of Arab and Western countries, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, will hold informal talks on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Riyadh to discuss the war in Gaza with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah

Hezbollah (Party of God) is a Lebanese Shiite organization and political party that was founded in 1982. It is a militarized group that advocates for the creation of an Islamic state in Lebanon. The group declared war on Israel due to the occupation of parts of Lebanon.

Since the start of the Israeli army's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in October 2023, Hezbollah militants have regularly attacked Israeli territory with rockets and American targets in neighboring countries.

Recently, the Israeli army shelled the Beqaa region in Lebanon and eliminated two members of one of the Lebanese militant groups that were firing rockets at Israel.

On April 24, Hezbollah militants shelled Israeli military bases north of the city of Acre in the Margaliot community. This shelling marked the deepest attack on Israeli territory since the war in the Gaza Strip began in October 2023.

Earlier, Israeli aircraft attacked Hezbollah infrastructure in eastern Lebanon.