US and French ambassadors to Lebanon travel to Saudi Arabia for armed forces plea

Rare joint trip will ask Saudis to aid Lebanese military

The French and US ambassadors to Lebanon will make a rare joint trip to Saudi Arabia on Thursday to ask Riyadh to support Lebanon’s armed forces as well as put pressure on those responsible for political deadlock in the country.

Ambassadors Anne Brillo of France and Dorothy Shea, the US representative in Beirut, are expected to ask Saudi Arabia for substantial aid for the Lebanese Armed Forces as the institution grapples with a financial crisis that has left it barely able to feed its soldiers.

The trip comes a week after a trilateral meeting between US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on June 29 on the sidelines of the G20 conference.

Ms Shea will “continue to develop [the US'] trilateral diplomatic strategy focused on government formation and the imperative of undertaking urgent and essential reforms that Lebanon so desperately needs,” a US statement released on Wednesday read.

The ambassadors were specifically looking for food and medical aid in a desperate bid to keep the armed forces functioning amid state decline, diplomatic sources told The National.

The duo will also ask for humanitarian assistance outside of the military.

The Lebanese military is considered to be one of the few uncompromised institutions in a country riddled with corruption, yet it has been devastated by a financial crisis which has cut salaries by more than 90 per cent.

The diplomats will also urge Riyadh to apply further pressure on those responsible for blocking government formation talks. Lebanon has been in the hands of a caretaker government since August, when Hassan Diab's Cabinet resigned after the Beirut port explosion.

The trip comes a day after Qatar announced it would provide the Lebanese military with 70 tonnes of food a month on Tuesday, following a visit by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

Updated: July 7th 2021, 3:27 PM