In Beirut, French FM urges Israel and Hezbollah de-escalate

This handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra shows France's Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne (L) meeting with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, in Beirut, on April 28, 2024. (DALATI AND NOHRA / AFP)
This handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra shows France's Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne (L) meeting with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, in Beirut, on April 28, 2024. (DALATI AND NOHRA / AFP)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — France’s top diplomat urges de-escalation between Israel and the Hezbollah terror group during his second visit to Lebanon since cross-border tensions flared alongside the Gaza war.

“We refuse a worst-case scenario… No one has any interest in Israel and Hezbollah continuing this escalation. This is my message here,” French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne tells reporters in Beirut.

He says he “will bring this same message to Israel on Tuesday.”

Hezbollah has repeatedly declared that only a ceasefire in Gaza will put an end to its attacks on Israel.

A French diplomatic source tells AFP that the volume of cross-border attacks has doubled since April 13.

Ahead of the press conference, Sejourne met Lebanese officials, including Prime Minister Najib Mikati, army chief Joseph Aoun, and influential parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally.

A return to stability “requires the redeployment of armed forces in southern Lebanon,” he adds, referring to a region where Hezbollah holds sway.

In March, Beirut submitted its response to the French initiative, based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended a 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

The resolution called for the removal of weapons in southern Lebanon from everyone except the army and other state security forces.

The objective of that roadmap, Sejourne says, “is to achieve the full implementation by all parties of Security Council Resolution 1701.”

Berri and Mikati both said that Lebanon was keen on implementing the UN resolution, according to separate statements following their meetings with Sejourne.

“The French initiative constitutes a practical framework for implementing Resolution 1701, which Lebanon is committed to implementing in full, while demanding Israel commit to it and stop its destructive aggression against southern Lebanon,” Mikati says in a statement.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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