France Prepares Suggestion for Weapons to Be Offered to Army, Part of KSA's USD 'Four' Billion Donation
Paris - Naharnet Exclusive Report
Officials concerned with Lebanese affairs in the French administration assured on Wednesday that the Saudi Arabian donation to the military institution has taken its first steps towards implementation.
"The first necessary technical and administrative steps to implement the deal came into effect last week,” a Paris-based well-informed source told Naharnet.
The source detailed: “The French administration has formed a team of advisers to President Francois Hollande and of officials in the ministries of foreign affairs and defense to put the legal, administrative and technical roadmap that should be followed by both Lebanese and Saudi authorities to implement the deal.”
"Few days after the Saudi-French summit between Hollande and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Saudi authorities informed French officials that the 3 billion dollars were already credited and are ready to be transferred any moment now,” it noted.
KSA pledged in December to donate $3 billion with the aim of purchasing French weapons for the Lebanese army.
According to information obtained by Naharnet, Lebanese and French army officials will kick off discussion over the list of military weapons and equipment that will be included in KSA's donation, noting that Hollande announced that his country will offer encouraging prices, less than 30 to 35% of the real market value of the equipment.
"As such, the donation will actually be worth 4 billion dollars instead of three.”
Regarding the types of weapons and equipment that will be offered to Lebanese troops, the source stressed that the Army Command will list its needs and that French officials will give their guidance and recommendations.
"The offered type of support will correspond to the military and security challenges facing the Lebanese state, and to the requirements of the upcoming stage in the country.”
The same source remarked that as the maritime border is supervised by the army and UNIFIL troops, and as the border on the South is under the control and protection of the United Nation's peacekeeping forces, this reality "requires providing the military institution with all needed equipment to monitor Lebanon's eastern and northeastern border that have been frequent sources of threat to stability."
"As for protecting the Lebanese airspace, French officials noted that this issue is subjected to the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, and therefore dealing with the frequent Israeli violations can only be dealt with through political and diplomatic channels, not by the army,” the well-informed source explained.
"The international community, not France alone, must find a solution that preserve Lebanon's rights in this concern.”
Therefore, according to the source, French authorities are inclined to propose a suggestion in correspondence with the plan set by the cabinet to arm the troops with USD 1.2, which will leave 2.8 billion dollars of the Saudi-French donation to be allocated to buying radars, surveillance equipment to monitor the border and the border crossings, as well as land and aerial rapid deployment vehicles that would allow an effective and fast troop deployment all along the border to thwart any possible violation.
"The French proposal will also suggest providing the military institution with arms and equipment that can be used for both security and military purposes, allowing hence the Lebanese state to face terrorism and security challenges inside the country through strengthening the official legitimate institutions' monitoring, probing and prosecution skills.”
French authorities considered that Lebanon is heading towards a new stage that requires its military and security forces to “keep up with all developments and that will exclusively serve the interests of the state and its institutions, which will eventually weaken the role of illegal armed groups and their effect on the security and military situation in the country.”