French President Emmanuel Macron will meet famed singer Fairouz and Lebanon's political leaders to discuss reform in the country during his visit to Beirut next week.
Macron flew to the Lebanese capital earlier this month following the August 4 explosion, which caused 181 deaths and left 300,000 people homeless. He has since warned that the country could face the return of the civil war if the crisis is left unaddressed.
The Elysee Palace announced that Macron will meet Fairouz in her residence on the day of his arrival on Monday, August 31. The next day, he is scheduled to meet with political leaders at Lebanese President Michel Aoun's palace to discuss how the government can move forward with reconstruction and reforms.
Despite being one of the most renowned artists in the Arab world, Fairouz has typically shied away from the public eye. She has more than 1,000 songs to her name and has retained her status as an influential figure since her beginnings in the 1950s.
Few details have been shared about the agenda for Macron's meeting with the 85-year-old singer, who currently lives in the town of Antelias.
Reactions on social media have been mixed. In a tweet, political science professor Karim Emile Bitar, who works between Paris and Beirut, approved of Macron’s move, calling it an “excellent decision”. “She’s arguably the most iconic, dignified and consensual Lebanese figure,” he wrote.
Critics, however, have said that the meeting may be motivated by publicity.
“Please, leave this symbol of Lebanon, the embodiment of elegance and discretion … far from your media show,” said one Twitter user.
Research adviser Quentin de Pimodan called it a “bad strategy” that will be “ridiculed” and seen as an attempt to bolster the president's image. Rima Tarabay, an academic and vice president of Lebanese NGO Bahr Loubnan, called it “PR”, and said “nothing will change”.
Macron’s second visit coincides with the beginning of parliamentary consultations regarding a new prime minister after Hassan Diab, who previously held the position, resigned due to political pressure and anger over the blast.
His interest in the country’s political process continues a long history of France’s involvement in Lebanon, which became part of the French colonial rule after the splintering of the Ottoman Empire in 1920.
On August 9, the French president led a video conference during which world leaders pledged more than $295 million (Dh1 billion) to Lebanon.