French FM in Beirut on official visit

Beirut: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrived in Lebanon on Monday for a two-day official visit during which he is scheduled to meet the country's top leaders. Ayrault boarded a UN Interim Force in Lebanon helicopter that carried him to Naqoura to inspect French peacekeepers stationed there, Xinhua news agency reported. Ayrault will return to Beirut and meet Lebanese officials on Tuesday, it added. The French minister is scheduled to hold talks with Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi. He will also meet leaders of some political parties, including al-Mustaqbal Movement, Marada Movement, Free Patriotic Movement, Kataeb Party, Lebanese Forces, Hezbollah's Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, and Progressive Socialist Party. Ayrault will also hold talks with Mireille Girard, the Lebanese representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Ayrault's visit comes weeks after French officials held talks in Paris with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir over a political settlement in Lebanon.