Behind Closed Doors
The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner welcomed Hezbollah to Paris on Saturday, July 14 - a fitting date to choose for meeting with terrorists!
The meeting took place behind closed doors at La Celle-Saint-Cloud in the department of Yvelines, outside Paris.
Here are excerpts from an article in Nouvel Observateur:
The representatives of the Lebanese political factions met on Saturday, July 14, for two days of "informal" exchange at the invitation of France. Quai d'Orsay said explicitly that this summit behind closed doors had opened in the presence of all the invited participants, 2 representatives from 14 factions, including Hezbollah, which has nonetheless been named by President Sarkozy as a terrorist organization. The French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, and several diplomats will host the discussions, with no agenda or order of the day.
For Paris, this "good will mission" is intended to encourage inter-Lebanese dialogue and to help the country emerge from the crisis, even if these efforts encounter a certain skepticism in part of the Lebanese ruling class.
According to Denis Simonneau, assistant spokesman for Quai d'Orsay, France is "at the service of the different Lebanese factions in hopes of organizing an informal meeting (where they can) come together, talk, and break the ice, without any particular expectation."
The idea, insists a diplomatic source, is "not to solve the problems of Lebanon," but to seat people "around a table."
Hezbollah leaders in Beirut made known on Tuesday (July 10) that the pro-Iranian shiite party would participate in the week-end meeting, despite the fact that Nicolas Sarkozy called the organization "terrorist". Nicolas Sarkozy made this remark on Monday when he met with the families of the three Israeli soldiers kidnapped by armed groups, two of them by Hezbollah, last summer.
Sarkozy's remark was surprising considering that France had invited the Party of God to the meeting in La Celle-Saint-Cloud. Quai d'Orsay explained on Tuesday that the presence of Hezbollah, as a player in the drama of Lebanese politics, "posed no problem." Nicolas Sarkozy "completed" his original remark by saying that his objective was that the movement "renounce terrorist actions and become once again a political party like any other, and that it play the game of Lebanese parliamentary democracy."
Note: An article in Le Figaro responds to this meeting. I will try to post excerpts later today.
The photo shows Bernard Kouchner welcoming Nawaf El Moussaoui, Hezbollah's chargé for international relations.