France to provide $17m in aid to Lebanese army
The army, one of the few institutions not overtaken by the sectarian divisions that plague Lebanon, has few resources left to deal with the instability on its border with Syria, and has been seeking to modernise its hardware.
The aid is part of efforts to strengthen Lebanon’s institutions and boost security amid growing internal political tensions.
Lebanon was plunged into crisis in November when Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri abruptly announced his resignation - since withdrawn - thrusting his country to the forefront of a regional tussle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, whose Lebanese ally Hizballah is part of the Beirut government.
Lebanon-Saudi relations have been strained by a spell of diplomatic spats, court cases, and a widely-held view that Saudia Arabia is waging the proxy war against Iran on Lebanese soil.
“The new Saudi leadership doesn’t have the same relationship with Lebanon as in the past and no longer wants to invest billions in the country,” the French official said.
“So we are in a phase where we are consolidating the situation.”
Lebanon’s defence minister was in Paris on Thursday to prepare the first of three conferences aimed at helping different sectors in the country.
An event on March 15 in Rome is intended to support the army, one on April 6 in Paris to aid the private sector, and another on April 25 in Brussels to address the refugee issue.
Meanwhile, Lebanon is currently hosting around 1.5 million Syrian refugees.
Agencies contributed to this report.