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Paris: Franco-Saudi agreement for the Lebanese army almost finalized

BEIRUT | - September 10, 2014, 19h58
French President François Hollande and Prince Salman from Saudi Arabia, on September 1. Photo by the French Presidency.
The French Foreign Ministry got back to the issue of supplying arms to the Lebanese army in the framework of a three billion dollar contract with Saudi Arabia. This delivery is hotly awaited but it is not clear why it takes so long.
Following the recent official visit to France of Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia, in which many trade contracts (including arms) were discussed, no official statement has referred to the arms deal regarding the French equipment purchased by Saudi Arabia for the Lebanese army.

Last December, François Hollande and King Abdullah announced from Riyadh that Saudi would finance the purchase of French weapons for the Lebanese army, to the amount of three billion dollars.

Since then, the Lebanese army has chosen the equipment and ... that's it. The contract has stalled right at a time when the army is in sore need of modern weaponry due to the current security crisis.

So how is it that supplying arms to the Lebanese Armed forces can be so problematic? That's the question asked by a journalist in the press room of the Quai d'Orsay yesterday.

"It is not problematic, it requires some formalities and procedures," said the spokesman of the French diplomacy. "During the Franco-Saudi statement last week on the occasion of the visit of the Crown Prince, we reaffirmed our support for the unity, security and stability of Lebanon and we are finalizing this partnership for the benefit of the Lebanese armed forces."

It's true that support for Lebanon's unity was stressed when the joint statement was issued after the visit of Prince Salman, but without mentioning precisely this question of supplying weapons to the Lebanese army.

"This is a cooperation with Lebanon, in partnership with Saudi Arabia, which is very uncommon and which required some time since the policy decision was taken in December of last year during the visit of the President of the Republic, "continued the spokesperson.

Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain the slowness of the procedure: the veto of Israel, the enemy of Lebanon unable to imagine one day facing an army equipped by France. One journalist called out the spokesman of the Quai d'Orsay on the fact that certain categories of weapons are subject to an Israeli veto (the reporter was referring to an accusation recently expressed by the representative of the Lebanese community of Europe, speaking at a conference of the World Lebanese cultural Union last Saturday at Juan-les-pins)

Another possibility for explaining the delivery delay: the missing signature of the hospitalized Saudi finance minister.

Even more infuriating: a few weeks ago a rumor purported to the requirement of a commission charged by one of the intermediaries for an unacceptable amount. We were not able to verify this rumor.

The spokesman has in any case claimed himself "unaware of this information." For him, it is simply an "important transaction, for implementing a complex procedure. In view of the amounts and the equipment concerned, you should not be surprised that such an uncommon and significant partnership has taken a number of months to be implemented, "he said.

"I think implementation is imminent and that finalization is taking place. We're really at the end of the procedure."
#Saudi_Arabia, #France, #Lebanese_army, #Weapons
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