BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri Tuesday urged the international community to rapidly provide military assistance for the Army and security forces, underlining the Islamist threat faced by Lebanon.
During a meeting with the representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Berri asked the international community primarily the envoys of the council members “to swiftly support the Army and security forces, and overcome the traditional, protocol mechanism to meet the pressing demands as soon as possible."
He also spoke to the ambassadors about the threats facing Lebanon from terrorist groups, warning that such dangers could move to other areas, referring to clashes between the Lebanese Army and militants from Syria earlier this month.
Berri had summoned Russian Ambassador Alexander Zasypkin, British Ambassador Tom Fletcher, U.S. Ambassador David Hale, and the French and Chinese Charge D'affairs as well as U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Pumbly.
Last year, Saudi Arabia announced a $3 billion grant for the Lebanese Army to purchase military equipment from France, but as of yet no arms deal has been made.
Media reports have talked about complications preventing the Army from receiving needed assistance, including delays on Paris’ behalf.
Days after clashes in the northeastern border region with militants ended, Riyadh announced a further $1 billion grant to the Army and security forces to support their efforts in combating terrorism and the threat of militants.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, U.S. envoy Hale said that groups such as ISIS “seek to sow division and chaos in the region, and this poses a threat to Lebanon.”
“This is the extremists’ strategy because only amidst chaos do they have a chance to succeed. The obvious answer to that threat is order, determination, and unity: unity within Lebanon, and unity with Lebanon’s friends such as the United States,” he said.
He affirmed that Washington stood united with Lebanon to counter extremism and promote moderation.
“But without a president, the full unity needed to meet Lebanon’s challenges is missing. The president is the symbol of the unity of the country,” he said, adding that the vacuum in the presidency weakened the country.
“The process and choice of a president is for only the Lebanese, but Lebanon’s leaders must swiftly create the conditions to elect a president, for the sake of Lebanon’s unity and stability.”