BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai met with Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri Tuesday, with the two urging Lebanese people to unite and stand in solidarity with the Lebanese Army.
“All Lebanese and especially political officials should reinforce the air of national unity and unite their ranks against conspiracies targeting Lebanon,” said Rai, before holding prayers for Army members who were killed during the clashes.
Rai reiterated the need for Lebanese people to trust in the Army, describing them as the protectors of Lebanon's dignity, and ensure the country’s freedom and independence.
In a phone call with Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi, Rai declared his full support for the Army and lauded the institution’s strength and valor.
Shortly after, Rai met with Asiri in a farewell visit at the Maronite patriarchal headquarters in Bkirki.
“I strongly hope we see all the Lebanese unite despite current conditions, and [I hope] they will unite their ranks and unite their words to protect Lebanon and its stability, standing together like one man,” said Asiri.
Asiri pointed out that the Saudi kingdom’s support of the Army was tangible and not just verbal, referring to a recent pledge to give the poorly equipped Lebanese Army with $3 billion to purchase new weapons from France.
The Saudi Arabian Ambassador pointed to the donation as proof of his country’s concern for the stability of Lebanon.
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.
However, the Army has not yet been supplied with any equipment, waiting for the finalization of the list of needs.
Saudi King Abdullah pledged Tuesday to speed up the process, hours after Gen. Jean Kahwagi urged Paris to quickly deliver the weapons.
Asiri concluded by urging Lebanese political blocs to elect a president as soon as possible in light of the pressing security situation.
Rai also met with Foreign Affairs Ministers Gebran Bassil to discuss developments in Arsal and the rest of the country.
Kahwagi has warned that the situation in Arsal is hazardous, pledging to continue the fight the militants to free some 22 missing soldiers.
At least 16 other soldiers have been killed and 86 wounded since clashes in the eastern town of Arsal began over the weekend. Militants have also attacked civilians from the town, killing at least 12, including five children.