BEIRUT: Saudi King Abdullah pledged to Tuesday to speed up the process of delivering military assistance to the Lebanese Army under a Riyadh-sponsored deal with France, hours after Gen. Jean Kahwagi urged Paris to quickly deliver the weapons.
France said it would move quickly to answer the call for faster arms deliveries.
"France is fully committed to supporting the Lebanese army, a pillar of stability and unity in Lebanon," deputy foreign ministry spokesman Vincent Floreani said, according to AFP.
"We are in close contact with our partners to quickly meet Lebanon's needs," he said.
In a phone call with former President Michel Sleiman, the Saudi king voiced his country's support and backing of the Lebanese Army to confront terrorism while condemning acts he said were not related to Islam or human values.
He also stressed that he was determined to speed up the implementation of the exceptional support for the military, pledged last year.
Kahwagi had earlier urged France to speed up the delivery of weapons under the $3 billion deal, stressing their importance in ending the “dangerous” clashes with militants in Arsal.
"This battle requires equipment, materiel and technology that the army doesn't have," Kahwagi told Agence France Press. "That's why we need to speed up the delivery of the necessary military aid by finalizing the list of weapons requested from France under a Saudi-financed deal backed by the Rome conference to support the army."
Kahwagi warned that the situation in Arsal was hazardous, pledging to continue the fight against the militants to free the 22 missing soldiers.
"The battle that the Army is undertaking in the mountains of Arsal is just one in a series of confrontations against terrorism in all its forms and wherever it is," he added. "The Army's fight against the takfiris is continuing, and the Army is determined to recover the missing soldiers.”
Former President Michel Sleiman announced last December that Saudi Arabia would provide the poorly equipped Lebanese Army with $3 billion to purchase new weapons from France.
Another promise of support came in a conference in Rome last June with the international community vowing to enhance Lebanon’s military capacities. However, the Army has not yet been supplied with any equipment, waiting for the finalization of the list of needs.
The Army chief’s comments came after at least 15 soldiers have been killed, 86 wounded and 22 gone missing so far in clashes in the eastern town of Arsal. Militants, mostly from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, have also attacked many civilians from the town, killing at least 12, including five children.