France, Saudi Arabia Finalize Arms Deal for Lebanese Military

Saudi Arabia and France inked on Tuesday in Riyadh a deal to provide the Lebanese army with $3 billion worth of French weapons, with Riyadh footing the bill.

The deal, first announced in December, comes as the Lebanese army is battling gunmen and jihadists, including from the Islamic State group, in the north and along its northeastern border with war-torn Syria.

Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji attended the signing ceremony at the Royal Palace in Riyadh after an almost 11-month delay.

The Lebanese army will be able to purchase French weapons under the $3 billion deal financed by Riyadh at the beginning of the year, the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported on Monday.

The daily said that Saudi Minister of Finance Ibrahim bin Abdul Aziz al-Assaf and the head of ODAS company Admiral Edouard Guillaud, will sign the deal on behalf of their countries in the presence of French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bertrand Besancenot.

ODAS is the French agency in charge of promoting defense sales in Saudi Arabia.

In December, OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia agreed to finance the $3-billion package of French military equipment and arms for the Lebanese army.

And in mid-June, at a conference in Rome, the international community pledged its backing for the Lebanese military.

Saudi Arabia had also pledged to grant Lebanon a $1 billion aid for the army.

Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on September 10 urged the international community to present a "common front" against the Islamic State group, saying his country was "impatiently" waiting for the French-made weapons.



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