Donor nations agree to provide emergency aid to Lebanon’s army

France’s Defence Minister Florence Parly hosted a virtual meeting on Thursday of an international support group for Lebanon which includes the United States, several EU member states, Gulf countries, Russia and China.

Friday 18/06/2021
A 2018 file photo shows Lebanese army special forces marching during a military parade. (AP)
A 2018 file photo shows Lebanese army special forces marching during a military parade. (AP)

PARIS – Twenty nations agreed Thursday to provide emergency aid to the ailing Lebanese military, a French ministry said on Thursday, noting the army is “essential for the country’s stability.” However, the donors stopped short of announcing tangible aid as the country’s economic and political crisis worsens.

The army is not looking for weapons but is unable to pay its troops enough to live on.

Milk, flour, medicine, fuel and spare parts were among the items on a shopping list drawn up by the military that adds up to millions of dollars.

France’s Defence Minister Florence Parly hosted a virtual meeting on Thursday of an international support group for Lebanon which includes the United States, several EU member states, Gulf countries, Russia and China.

“Even if numerous countries have already provided significant bilateral aid, the gravity of the Lebanese crisis calls for increased commitment and coordination from everyone,” to help the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), the French ministry said in a statement.

“The LAF remain an essential pillar of the Lebanese state” and “play a key role in maintaining security throughout the country,” the statement added.

“Their cohesion and their professionalism remain essential to preserve stability.”

French Defence Minister Florence Parly speaks to journalists as she visits the devastated site of the massive explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon, August 14, 2020.(REUTERS)
French Defence Minister Florence Parly speaks to journalists as she visits the devastated site of the massive explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon, August 14, 2020.(REUTERS) 

The statement added that the assistance, which was not detailed, “cannot replace indispensable reforms that Lebanon today imperatively needs for its stability.”

Lebanon is in desperate need of financial aid but the international community has conditioned any such help on the formation of a new government to launch sweeping reforms.

Because of that, the latest aid will go directly to the army and not via government channels.

Lebanon has been without a fully-functioning government for ten months since the last one stepped down after a deadly port explosion in Beirut last summer.

Politicians have failed to agree on a new cabinet line-up even as foreign currency cash reserves plummet, causing fuel, electricity and medicine shortages.

The World Bank has labelled the crisis one of the world’s worst since the 1850s, with the local currency losing more than 90 percent of its value on the black market.

This has eaten away at the value of soldiers’ salaries and slashed the military’s budget for maintenance and equipment.

Already last year the army said that due to rising prices it had scrapped meat from the meals offered to on-duty soldiers .

France, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey are among the army’s main food donors, while Iraq and Spain have offered medical assistance.

The United States remains the biggest financial backer of the Lebanese military and has bumped up funding for the army by $15 million for this year to $120 million.