BEIRUT: The Russian ambassador to Lebanon confirmed Wednesday that the two countries are discussing possible formulas for military cooperation, without disclosing any details on the possible deal.
“There is some news on many media outlets about technical military cooperation, but I am not tasked with disclosing any detail about it,” said Alexander Zasypkin, after meeting Sports and Youth Minister Abdul-Muttaleb al-Hinawi. “I sum up by confirming that negotiations in this concern are taking place, and we hope that positive results come out in the near future.”
“The terrorist threat does not only target Lebanon, it is a problem for everyone,” Zasypkin said. “Henceforth, there is a necessity to concentrate efforts and form a coalition based on the UN’s capacities to develop international efforts [in this direction].”
U.S. President Barack Obama also announced Wednesday that his country will build a coalition to "degrade and destroy" the fundamentalist group ISIS, whose military victories in Iraq and Syria have topped global priorities.
Zasypkin’s comments came two days after political sources told The Daily Star that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has revived a 2010 arms grant from Moscow that would provide the military with helicopters and tanks.
The sources said that Hariri has contacted a number of Russian officials over the past two weeks, resulting in the reactivation of a military grant agreement he had signed during his official visit to Moscow as prime minister of Lebanon in November 2010.
Under the grant agreement, Moscow would provide the Lebanese Army with six helicopters and 77 tanks, as well as 1 million bullets and 37,000 shells of various calibers, the sources said.
The Lebanese Defense Ministry is working to form a delegation that could be headed by Kahwagi to visit Moscow for talks on outlining technical issues related to the grant, the sources said. They added that Kahwagi has met with Ambassador Zasypkin to prepare for the visit.
Hariri had announced a $1 billion Saudi grant in August, intended to help the Lebanese Army and security forces in their battle against terrorism. The announcement followed five days of ferocious fighting between the military and Islamist militants in the northeastern town of Arsal.
The $1 billion comes on top of another $3 billion grant to be used to buy weapons for the Lebanese Army from France, which was announced by Saudi King Abdullah last December.