BEIRUT: Arab foreign ministers approved Sunday a draft plan presented by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to support the Lebanese Army and bolster its military capabilities in its fight against terrorism.
The decision was taken by the Arab ministers during their meeting in Kuwait to prepare the agenda for this week’s Arab summit, the state-run National News Agency reported.
The ministers decided “to support Lebanon in resisting Israeli occupation and confronting terrorism by helping the Lebanese Army and supporting the Lebanese government’s efforts for this purpose.”
They also decided “to contribute toward meeting the Lebanese Army’s material and financial needs in line with current international initiatives and in the framework of the brotherly Arab support policy in terms of supplying the Army with arms, vehicles and the needed technical and logistical equipment in line with each state’s national legislation,” the NNA said.
Addressing the Arab ministerial council’s meeting, Bassil pleaded with Arab states to support the Lebanese military, saying a strong Army could serve as the army of all Arabs in fighting terrorism.
Citing the latest round of violence that killed 29 people and wounded more than 100 in the northern city of Tripoli, Bassil said: “Disaster has happened and the people of Lebanon are held hostage by blind, hateful terrorism and they can be freed of it only by Lebanon’s Army which will subsequently prevent [terrorism] reaching you [Arab states].”
“A strong Lebanese Army can serve as the army of all Arabs combined in confronting terrorism. A strong Lebanese Army is the basis of a strong Lebanon and a strong state in which it can be the strongest of all the parties,” he added.
Bassil said the joint battle against terrorism was the big challenge facing the Arabs.
“Lebanon is the first arena [for terrorism] whether it likes it or not. Lebanon has always been a test field,” he said.
Bassil said Saudi Arabia had pledged a $3 billion grant to equip the Lebanese Army with arms it needed from France. He added that an international conference to support the Lebanese military would be held in Rome on April 10 in line with a United Nations initiative in New York last year.
Earlier this month, Paris hosted an international conference that voiced verbal support for Lebanon’s Army and economy. However, the conference, convened by the International Support Group for Lebanon and attended by the foreign ministers of 10 countries, including Britain, China, France, Russia, the U.S., Germany and Saudi Arabia, fell short of pledging tangible assistance.
The ISGL was launched in New York last September to support the country’s national institutions and Army, along with helping Lebanon cope with the influx of close to a million refugees from Syria.
Lebanon has been rocked by a wave of deadly car bombings and suicide attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups mainly targeting areas in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley where Hezbollah enjoys wide support in retaliation for the party’s military intervention in Syria. The attacks also targeted the Iranian Embassy and the Iranian Cultural Center in Beirut.
Separately, Bassil assured Lebanese expatriates in Qatar about their presence in the Gulf state, denying rumors that Qatari authorities planned to expel a number of them.
Speaking to reporters after meeting his Qatari counterpart Khaled bin Mohammad Attiyeh in Kuwait, he said: “I want to reassure the Lebanese that all rumors and fears about their presence in Qatar are not true.”