Saudi Arabia is halting a $3 billion arms deal with the Lebanese army to buy French arms, its state news agency said on Friday, over the country’s latest diplomatic position.
The kingdom has also cancelled the remainder of $1 billion in aid it had earmarked for Lebanon’s internal security service, the SPA agency reported quoting an official source.
An official described the step as a response to Beirut’s failure to condemn attacks on the kingdom’s missions in Iran.
“These assaults were denounced by all countries across the world, the UN Security Council and other international organizations in addition to the political and media positions led by the so-called (Hezbollah in Lebanon) against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its terrorist practices against the Arab and Islamic nation,” the statement said.
Saudi Arabia pledged the aid package for the Lebanese army in 2013 in what then-Lebanese President Michel Suleiman called the largest grant ever to the country’s armed forces.
The first shipment of French weapons and military equipment had already been delivered to Lebanon in April last year under the Saudi-funded deal to reinforce the Lebanese army’s fight against militants encroaching from neighboring Syria.
A Lebanese security source said Lebanon had not received a formal notification of the decision.
In the statement, the Saudi official said Riyadh had always stood with Lebanon and supported the country through difficult times.
“Despite these honorable stands, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia had been met with Lebanese stands that are against it on Arab, regional and international arenas, in the shadow of the confiscation of the will of the state by the so-called Lebanese Hezbollah,” the statement added.
Alleged leaders of Lebanon-based Hezbollah are under sanction by Saudi Arabia.
Hezbollah is backed by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, with whom relations have deteriorated this year.
In the statement, the Kingdom reproached Lebanon with “non-condemnation of the blatant attacks against the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its Consulate-General in Mashhad, which are contrary to international law and diplomatic norms.”
The Mediterranean country had not condemned the attack at recent meetings of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference last month.
“Saudi Arabia considers these positions as regrettable and unjustified,” the report said. The Lebanese decision is “inconsistent with the fraternal relations between the two countries and they are not taking into account their interests.”
It was referring to an attack by Iranian demonstrators protesting over the execution by Saudi Arabia of a senior Shi’ite cleric convicted of incitement to violence.
Saudi Arabia, in addition to several other Arab countries, severed diplomatic relations with Iran over the attacks on its missions.