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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

France finds new voice in Libyan peace efforts

The country is leading a new conciliatory role in the Arab world, championing peace talks where it once waged war

In a country where foreign policy is an intrinsic part of national identity, Emmanuel Macron is on a journey to restore France’s conciliatory role. Claude Paris / AP
In a country where foreign policy is an intrinsic part of national identity, Emmanuel Macron is on a journey to restore France’s conciliatory role. Claude Paris / AP

In a country where foreign policy is an intrinsic part of national identity, Emmanuel Macron is on an ambitious journey to restore the country’s prestigious standing when it comes to foreign policy in the Arab world. The recent visit of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian to the UAE, after talks in Riyadh, Kuwait and Doha prompted by the current Qatar crisis, stood out as a moment of diplomatic conciliation.

The French state’s formerly interventionist stance on conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa under Mr Macron's predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, left it exposed to all sorts of complicated reprisals and consequences.

Following on a process initiated by the UAE and Egypt, the French president rolled out a plan for peace between rival factions in Libya, with plans to bring Fayez Al Sarraj, prime minister of UN-backed Government of National Accord. and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the country’s most powerful military commander, to the negotiating table, in the hopes of continuing a dialogue towards a political solution to the crisis and instability in Libya. Separately, Mr Macron has bluntly stated that the French military intervention in Libya was a mistake. The meeting on Tuesday in Paris reflects a significant gesture towards correcting that mistake.

Time has shown that actions abroad lead to reactions within. A self-proclaimed “Gaullo-Mitterrandist” when it comes to foreign policy, the French president is beating the rhythm of a new era in French foreign policy, to focus more on action within. If that helps bring an end to the conflict and chaos of post-uprising Libya, then his actions are to be welcomed.