France to deliver weapons to Lebanon in April, FM says

Published February 8th, 2015 - 03:38 GMT
France will be delivering weapons to the Lebanese military in April to help battle jihadists at its borders. (AFP/File)
France will be delivering weapons to the Lebanese military in April to help battle jihadists at its borders. (AFP/File)

France will begin delivering weapons purchased with a $3 billion Saudi grant to the Lebanese military in two months, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday.

“Prime Minister Tammam Salam was informed by the French Foreign Minister that the first shipment of weapons...will arrive to Lebanon in the first week of April,” read a statement by the premier’s news office.

The Foreign Minister’s comments were made during a meeting with the prime minister on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.

Fabius relayed to Salam France’s keenness on preserving the stability of Lebanon as well as the country’s national unity and state institutions.

For his part, Salam thanked Paris for its efforts regarding Lebanon’s presidential dossier. In response, Fabius stressed that his country would continue its talks with all relevant parties in order to reach a solution to Lebanon’s nine-month-long Presidential stalemate.

The weapons deal, first announced in December by former President Michel Sleiman, comes as the poorly equipped Lebanese Army battles jihadis in the north and along its border with war-torn Syria.

Salam also met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who expressed hopes that dialogue between Lebanon’s rival political factions would lead to “positive changes” in the country’s political climate.

The Russian Foreign Minister stressed Moscow’s continued support of Lebanon in managing the mass influx of Syrian refugees, announcing that his country would send direct aid through the UNHCR.

Salam also met with The UAE foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan; Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shokry and Iraqi Prime Minister, Haidar al-Abadi as well as Norway’s Foreign Minister.

Earlier Sunday, Salam met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the meeting. The Lebanese premier called on Tehran "to assist in the election of a Lebanese president," according to a statement released by the premier's news office.

“Every day that goes by without the election of a Christian Maronite President leads to the accumulation of negative effects that impact Lebanon and its image as a unique model of coexistence in the region,” Salam said.

Lebanon has been without president since May 2014, when former President Michel Sleiman left office at the end of his term.

For his part, Zarif said that “Iran is keen on seeing a new President in Lebanon, and is ready to support any agreement that is reached between the Lebanese and [between] the Christians especially,”

Iran’s interests involve the preservation of stability of Lebanon, Zarif said, noting that Tehran does not want any security breaches in Lebanon or on its borders.

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