BERLIN – Patrick Paoli, France’s Ambassador to Lebanon, hosted a dinner
reception in early November for two Hezbollah MPs and the political militia’s
international affairs representative.
The Lebanon Daily Star reported the
dinner gathering on Thursday. Hezbollah MPs Ali Fayyad and Nawwar Saheli along
with international affairs member Ammar Moussawi were honored by
It is unclear if the ambassador violated EU sanctions outlawing
contact with the military wing of Hezbollah.
The EU designated
Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization in July.
Navon, a French Israeli political scientist, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday
he assumes the meeting was with the “non-military wing” because it would “not be
a breach of EU policy.”
The Daily Star reported that sources said “that
the meeting was Europe laying the groundwork to reverse the boycott of a
political party that has national and regional influence, at a time when Takfiri
and fundamentalist movements have grown.
The sources said “Hezbollah’s
position would improve on the internal, Arab and regional stage after the
signing of a Western-Iranian agreement.”
The EU permits contact to the
so-called political wing of Hezbollah. The US, Israel, the Netherlands and
Canada reject the separation of Hezbollah into political and military wings and
have classified the entire Lebanese organization as a terrorist
Navon, the director of the Department of Political Science and
Communications at the Jerusalem Orthodox College, said “France was the former
colonial power in Lebanon” and it considers itself “the guardian of a delicate
balance that no longer exists.”
This is “not the first time France is
trying to play a pivotal role in the complicated Lebanese
Hezbollah plays the role of kingmaker in Lebanese coalition
politics and political parties depend on its power to enter the government. The
Lebanese Shi’ite group’s alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops
on the battlefield, working to oust rebels, has pushed Hezbollah’s military
apparatus into isolation.
Navon said that the event was hosted by the
French ambassador, this means he was “acting on behalf of the French ministry,
which always had a pro-Arab policy,” though “it is pretty common in France that
the foreign office and president have different policies.”
President Francois Hollande “might have blocked the event.”
for the French embassy in Tel Aviv referred the Post to the country’s embassy in
Jean-Christophe Auge, a spokesman for the French embassy in
Beirut, did not immediately return a Post press query.
The Daily Star
wrote, “Despite poor relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran undermining
political solutions in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, some European states have
reformulated their foreign policy to welcome the Western-Iranian rapprochement
and used it to rebuild relations with elements of Hezbollah.”
In response to the allegations, the French government issued a statement: "The French Embassy in Lebanon denies the allegations in relation with the Ambassador which were published on the 26th of November in Antoine Ghattas Saab's article in The Daily Star. The Embassy regrets that The Daily Star did not bother to check those allegations before publishing them. France's stances regarding its contacts with the various Lebanese political parties are well known. The dinner mentioned in the article did not take place actually. Hence, any speculation related to it is baseless."