A statement issued by the French Ministry of Defense at the end of the “multilateral conference in support of the Lebanese Armed Forces”, organized by Paris on Thursday, in partnership with Italy and the United Nations, did not reveal the details of the aid pledged by the parties.
However, sources in Paris said this assistance will be all “in-kind”, and it will take place on a bilateral level between Lebanon and the concerned parties, while coordination will be undertaken by a Lebanese-UN body to avoid any confusion in the distribution of aid.
The statement did not detail the level of representation for the 20 countries and bodies that joined the virtual conference, but Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the participants were the permanent members of the Security Council and four Gulf states, in addition to Egypt, Jordan and Turkey.
From Europe, countries that took part in the meeting included Spain, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, in addition to the United Nations and the European Union.
The conference was inaugurated by French Minister of Defense Florence Parly and her Italian counterpart, followed by the Lebanese Minister of Defense Zeina Akar. Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun gave an overview of the emergency needs of the military establishment. Seven ministers participated in the conference, while other parties were represented at lower levels.
The statement noted that the goal of the conference was to “provide a coherent response to the urgent needs” expressed by the Lebanese army, in reference to the visit paid by Aoun to Paris in late May.
It also pointed to the deterioration of the economic and social situation in Lebanon and the diverse tasks assigned to the army, which remains a “basic pillar” of the Lebanese state.
The new international support for the Lebanese army is “an expression (by the participating parties) of commitment to the unity and sovereignty of Lebanon, and will thus contribute to maintaining stability,” according to the statement.
However, the statement cautioned that the purpose was not to provide financial resources to deliver weapons and additional equipment to the army, nor to provide funds to pay military salaries and pensions. Hence, the participants described the new aid as “exceptional” and a response to an “emergency situation,” warning the Lebanese authorities and politicians that it “is not a substitute for the necessary reforms that Lebanon needs for its stability and safety.”
The conference made an urgent call for the formation of a government as soon as possible, stressing that continued stalling was an “irresponsible act” and reminding of the need to dissociate Lebanon from regional crises.
In her opening speech, Parly said that all sides were keen on “ensuring that the Lebanese army remains able to carry out its tasks in maintaining security and stability.”
The Lebanese army commander, for his part, sounded the alarm and warned of the collapse of the army if the crisis continued. He also briefed conferees on the economic and social situation and its repercussions on the military institution, which continues to enjoy local and international support and trust.