France's President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Israeli interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid at the Elysee Palace on Tuesday for discussions about the Iran nuclear deal, Lebanese group Hezbollah, as well as the current tensions over Israel's maritime border with Lebanon.
In a televised news conference, Macron warmly embraced Lapid as he arrived in Paris to speak on many issues on the table.
It is Lapid's first trip to France after he took over as premier a week ago in light of the collapse of the coalition government of his predecessor Naftali Bennett.
Particularly up for discussion for Lapid was the attempt by Hezbollah to fly three surveillance drones toward an oil rig in the Karish gas field placed in ocean territory contested between Israel and Lebanon. Israel shot the drones down.
The oceanic swathe lies south of Beirut and north of Haifa, stretching into the eastern Mediterranean. Hezbollah claims the territory.
Lapid is seeking France's backing as he settles into his new role. France was once the administrator for Lebanon, appointed as such by the League of Nations just after World War II with the partition of the Ottoman Empire. Although no longer part of their colonial empire, Lebanon maintains close ties to France.
According to French news outlet Radio France International, Macron will also be discussing the tougher timeline Lapid seeks in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. France is among several world powers trying to revive the deal with the Trump administration squashed. Israel deems that the caps in place in the deal are insufficient.
Macron also spoke on the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the need to continue communication.
"We need to restart the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. I know that you can launch again this process," Macron said at the press conference.
"I don't ignore the obstacles, I am aware of them. But I know that sometimes you can find a way. I speak from experience when I say that I think you have what it takes to respond to this challenge.
"I would like to see a timeline respecting of course what is the environment in Israel but you can count on me to accompany you in this process. I will mobilize the world opinion in favor of that."
On the Iranian nuclear program, Macron said: "Among the many crises affecting Israel's interests, as well as French-European security interests, is the Iran nuclear program. I would like to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion and return to the deal. I agree with Israel that the deal will not be enough."
TEL AVIV, PARIS DETERMINED TO BOOST COOPERATION
For his part, Lapid said Israel and France are strategic partners, cooperating in many fields ranging from economy to defense.
Israel's caretaker prime minister underscored the close cooperation between two countries, adding that Tel Aviv and Paris are determined to expand cooperation, particularly in technology.
He also thanked Macron for his "firm stance against anti-Semitism in France and around the world."
Touching on the negotiations with Iran on the nuclear deal, Lapid hailed the important role France is playing as one of the E3 countries, including Germany and Italy, leading the negotiations with Iran.
He recalled that in 2018 it was Macron who was the first leader talking about the need for a new deal with Iran. "A deal that is more efficient and better defined, and with coordinated international pressure that would prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state."
Lapid further claimed Iran is violating the nuclear deal and it continues to develop its nuclear program, as it is "hiding information from the world."
Talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), were stalled amid key disagreements between Tehran and Washington.
The US walked out of the deal in May 2018 and reinstated sanctions on Iran. In response, Tehran ramped up its uranium enrichment process from 3.65% stipulated in the deal to 60%.
On Hezbollah's recent drone attack on the disputed Karish gas field, Lapid said: "A few days ago, Iranian-made UAVs tried to attack an Israeli gas rig near the Lebanese coast."
He warned that Hezbollah "threatens Lebanon's stability, violates its sovereignty, and pushes it towards a dangerous escalation with Israel."
Lapid claimed that the Hezbollah has "more than 100,000 rockets in Lebanon aimed at Israel."
He said Israel "won't sit back and do nothing" regarding Hezbollah's "repeated attacks."
On Monday, Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib announced that Hezbollah's move to fly drones into the Karish gas field was out of the state's responsibility.