France pledges to strengthen military co-operation with Lebanon

Minister's visit to French contingent in Lebanon comes two weeks after Irish peacekeeper was killed

French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu, centre, visits the base of the French contingent of the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon. AFP
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French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu said on Monday that France plans to strengthen military co-operation with Lebanon.

The announcement came after the minister met caretaker Lebanese Defence Minister Maurice Sleem.

Mr Lecornu said that French President Emmanuel Macron had ordered him to “come up with a military co-operation programme between the two countries to optimise the Lebanese Armed Forces' capabilities”, according to the state-run Lebanese National News Agency.

Lebanon is engulfed in an economic crisis labelled by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history, and the crisis has taken a severe toll on the country's armed forces.

The French minister was in Lebanon to spend New Year's Eve with French peacekeepers stationed in the south of the country.

His visit came about two weeks after an Irish peacekeeper deployed with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) was killed when his convoy came under attack in the southern village of Aqibya.

Unifil has been deployed in southern Lebanon since 1978 to maintain peace after the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

“My visit to the French contingent reaffirms our ability to carry out major peacekeeping operations within the framework of theUN,” Mr Lecornu said in a tweet on Saturday.

He also reaffirmed “his country's continued support for Lebanon” while “stressing the importance of electing a president for the republic”.

Lebanon is facing an unprecedented power vacuum, as the parliament has been unable to agree on a new head of state since September.

Updated: January 02, 2023, 7:25 PM