A meeting held Tuesday in Rome to explore means to support the Lebanese Army did not offer more than logistical assistance, although some participant countries voiced readiness to “support the Lebanese Armed Forces during the capabilities building and reinforcement process.”
The talks, dubbed the Ministerial Conference on International Support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, were held under the auspices of U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.
The closing statement of the meeting said “participants confirmed their readiness to support the Lebanese Armed Forces during the capabilities building and reinforcement process through the established coordination tools of international assistance: the joint Coordination Mechanism, the Strategic Dialogue between the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL, the Executive Military Commission and existing bilateral mechanisms.”
The conferees “warmly welcomed the additional international support already being given in line with the Capabilities Development Plan from the United States.”
“The United States intends to provide increased assistance, including on counterterrorism, border security and on other relevant fields,” said the statement.
Participants also expressed “particular appreciation for the generous offer of assistance by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, implementation of which is now in preparation by the governments of Saudi Arabia, France and Lebanon.”
During Tuesday's conference, Brazil, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, France, Ghana, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Romania, Spain and Turkey also expressed willingness to offer “additional specialized training support in a number of domains, as well as reinforced cooperation with the LAF in other relevant security sector.”
“The EU will step up its support to LAF civilian-military cooperation tasks and its engagement in the areas of institutional capacity building, integrated border management, CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) threat and demining,” the statement said.
The conferees also acknowledged “the important assistance already provided by the UK including in support of the border regiments” and welcomed “the offer of the Government of Italy to establish a training center in Lebanon south of the Litani (River) in collaboration with the LAF and UNIFIL and in line with the Strategic Dialogue Plan.”
But the participants stressed that military assistance to the army must be “paralleled by action by Lebanon’s political leaders to ensure continuity of Lebanese State institutions.”
They expressed “deep regret” that the election of a new president did not take place within the constitutional timeframe, voicing their “full support for the Government of Lebanon to discharge its duties during this interim period in accordance with the constitution.”
The conferees noted that the speedy election of a new head of state is important for “confidence and stability.”
“Participants reiterated their strong support to Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence, noting the critical role played by the Lebanese Armed Forces in this context,” said the statement.
“They underlined the importance for security and stability in Lebanon of continued respect for the policy of disassociation, and recalled the (U.N.) Security Council’s appeals in its Presidential statements in respect of commitment to the Baabda Declaration.”
Lebanon was represented at the conference by Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil.
“The Lebanese Army is confronting increasing local and external security challenges in order to protect Lebanon's stability and preserve it, and it is in a dire need for arming and training,” Moqbel told the conference.
He emphasized that defending the land, naval and aerial borders and the protection of citizens “must be exclusively the responsibility of the Lebanese Army.”
Moqbel spoke of “two types” of threats – “the conventional threat coming from Israel and the non-conventional threats resulting from the war in Syria, which in turn has generated the threat of terrorist groups and financial and material threats produced by the refugee influx.”
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