Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia is not responsible for any delay in the delivery of French military equipment to the Lebanese military, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Lebanon told Asharq Al-Awsat, as former Lebanese prime minister Saad Al-Hariri announced that Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz has pledged to give 1 billion US dollars to the Lebanese army.
The promise of more financial assistance to Beirut came as clashes between the Lebanese military and Islamist militias in the eastern border town of Arsal were renewed on Wednesday after a negotiated truce collapsed overnight. Lebanese military and security forces have been seeking to dislodge Islamist militias, led by the Al-Nusra Front from neighboring Syria, from the border town since last week. Beirut had earlier called on France to speed up a promised delivery of arms as Saudi Arabia took the initiative to pledge the funds to strengthen Lebanese security.
According to the state Saudi Press Agency (SPA), former Lebanese prime minister Saad Al-Hariri announced on Wednesday: “King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz . . . has issued an order to provide assistance amounting to 1 billion US dollars to the Lebanese Army and National Security to support and enhance their potentials to preserve the security and stability of Lebanon.”
Hariri praised Saudi Arabia’s support for Lebanon, specifically saying that Lebanese military and security will use the money to combat terrorism, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and “terrorists” who have attacked the town of Arsal.
“This amount will be spent on the Lebanese army, internal security forces, and security services for fighting terrorism. There is no doubt that Lebanon is going through a difficult phase now, and the greatest danger now is what is happening in Arsal. There are thousands of families who have been attacked by these terrorists,” the former Lebanese prime minister said.
Also on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia denied being responsible for the French delay of arms to Lebanon. “Any delay in the delivery of the grant has nothing to do with the Kingdom. We have done our part and the ball is now in the court of the Lebanese and French [officials] who are currently in serious discussions,” Saudi ambassador to Beirut Ali Awad Asiri told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“The timing [of the delivery] is up to both sides,” he added.
In an effort to bolster Lebanon’s military capabilities, King Abdullah ordered a 3-billion-dollar grant of French military equipment to the Lebanese military establishment.
After Islamist extremists from across the border in Syria took over the border town of Arsal on Saturday, Beirut urged Riyadh to accelerate the delivery of the aid.
“The Kingdom has done its part in terms of securing funds for arming the [Lebanese] military. As for the requirements of the military and the kinds of weaponry, this issue concerns the Lebanese military [establishment] and should be directly discussed between Lebanese and French officials,” the ambassador said.
Asiri emphasized that Riyadh “does not interfere with the details of the [delivery] process nor the kind of weapons [being purchased].”
“The Kingdom will stand by Lebanon whatever the circumstances, supporting it in actions, not words,” he added.