Report: Newly Formed French Govt. Might Help Boost Halted Saudi Grant
A halted Saudi grant to provide the Lebanese army with French weapons, might be revived by the newly formed French government under elected President Emmanuel Macron, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday.
Macron announced the formation of his new government which includes ministers from various political parties and led by Rightwing Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
Socialist Jean-Yves Le Drian was appointed Foreign Minister, Sylvie Goulard appointed Minister of Defense replacing Le Drian, Gerard Collomb was appointed Minister of the Interior and Francois Bayrou was appointed as Minister of Justice.
Circles well-informed with France's politics, told the daily: “Appointing Le Drian as Foreign Minister gives strong impetus to the Lebanese-French ties in all areas.
“Le Drian knows the Lebanese file well, and will complete the policy of his predecessors in building strong ties with middle eastern countries mainly Lebanon. Paris sees relations with Lebanon as historic and strategic,” they added on condition of anonymity.
“Le Drian is well acquainted with the details of the $3 billion Saudi grant to the Lebanese army and the reasons behind its halt. Some regard that Le Drian's appointment at head of the French diplomatic mission is an incentive to motivate this grant, given the French-Saudi ties and the interest of both countries in Lebanon's stability.”
In February 2016 Saudi Arabia halted a military grant program for Lebanon in protest against Hizbullah's policies and diplomatic stances by the Lebanese foreign ministry.
The program, funded by Riyadh, would provide vehicles, helicopters, drones, cannons and other military equipment from France.
After Aoun's election, France's foreign ministry said it was in "close dialogue" with Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in hope of a deal.