Washington will provide an additional $59 million in assistance to the Lebanese army to help it defend Lebanon’s borders and people, US Ambassador David Hale said Wednesday. Hale also said America would stand by Lebanon whether through political support, military aid or humanitarian assistance to help it cope with the flow of Syrian refugees, while reiterating the US call on Lebanese lawmakers to meet and elect a president as soon as possible.
“For our part, America’s support for the Lebanese army continues to deepen. I am very pleased to announce today that my government is allotting an additional $59 million for border security equipment for the army,” Hale told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail.
Moreover, Hale said, Washington this week received the latest substantial transfer of funds from Saudi Arabia to buy more US equipment to help the Lebanese military.
“These funds, combined with US funding, will assist the Lebanese army to develop further a precision air force strike capability. We will announce the exact details as soon as they have been arranged,” he said.
“This latest transfer and project are yet another demonstration of the strong and effective partnership among Lebanon, America and Saudi Arabia to improve the Lebanese army’s capability to defend Lebanon’s borders and people,” Hale explained.
The United States has made a series of military aid donations to the Lebanese army over the past couple of years to help it fight Syria-based Islamist militants entrenched on the outskirts of Lebanon’s northeastern border with Syria.
Hale said the US investment in security assistance for Lebanon over the past 10 years has reached $1.3 billion.
“Whether through political support, military aid, or humanitarian assistance, America will stand by Lebanon,” Hale said, according to a statement released by the US embassy. “Only our actions are the standard by which to judge America’s commitment to Lebanese stability. Those actions include an American investment of more than $1.3 billion in security assistance for Lebanon in the past 10 years.”
“This year, Lebanon is the fifth-largest recipient of US foreign military financing. And Lebanon is also the fifth-largest annual recipient of US bilateral training for your military personnel,” he said.
He added that the US has provided nearly $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to host communities and Syrian refugees in Lebanon since the conflict began in Syria in March 2011.
“And our bilateral development assistance for the last decade will also exceed $1 billion, to help income generating opportunities, education, and provision of services such as water,” Hale said.
He welcomed the resumption of inter-Lebanese dialogue aimed at ending the 16-month presidential interregnum and getting the stalled government functioning.
“But when it comes to stability, there is no amount of foreign assistance or goodwill that can substitute for the stability that comes from good governance. That can only come from within,” Hale said.
“I know Lebanon’s leaders are working to reactivate a functioning Cabinet and to resume dialogue on the deeper issues. We welcome any such effort, and earlier this month we joined other members of the UN Security Council in reiterating that now is the time for Parliament to meet and elect a president as soon as possible and to schedule parliamentary elections,” the US ambassador added.
While voicing support for the right of civil society groups to free speech and assembly, Hale denied the US was directly or indirectly involved in a series of anti-government street protests that has jolted Downtown Beirut in the past two months over the failure to resolve the garbage crisis.
“As I said several weeks ago, citizens everywhere look to the state to protect their right to free speech and assembly; and citizens everywhere have a responsibility to exercise their right peacefully and responsibly,” he said.
“And accountability is expected when either side transgresses rights or responsibilities. We support these universal rights, and urge adherence to these responsibilities across the world. America supports these values here in Lebanon and the principle of civil society’s right to voice its views and frustrations, as does the prime minister.”
“But the United States is in no way involved, directly or indirectly, in the civil society demonstrations, nor do we condone violence or the destruction of property,” Hale added.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest the government’s failure to solve the garbage crisis. The protests, led by the “You Stink” group, started off with only a few dozen people but their numbers later swelled to tens of thousands. Some demonstrations descended into street clashes between riot police and protesters.
Hale said he discussed with Salam his trip to New York Thursday to attend the UN General Assembly’s meetings and the ministerial meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon.
“We very much look forward to the prime minister’s trip to New York and the opportunity to discuss with him ways the international community can be of further support for Lebanon and our shared goals of stability, security, and good governance,” he said.
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