(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Members of the Lebanese army are deployed during a protest against the lockdown and worsening economic conditions, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tripoli, Lebanon January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
PARIS (Reuters) – World powers agreed to provide support for the Lebanese army at a meeting on Thursday, aiming to prevent the military from collapsing, but stopped short of announcing tangible aid as the country’s economic and political crisis worsens.
France, which has led international efforts, has sought to ramp up pressure on Lebanon’s squabbling politicians, after failed attempts to rally them to agree a new government and launch reforms to unlock foreign cash.
Discontent is brewing among Lebanon’s security forces over a currency crash that has wiped out most of the value of their salaries. To tackle that, Paris organised a virtual meeting with partners including the United States, Russia, China and European powers and some Gulf Arab states.
Lebanon’s pound has lost 90% of its value against the dollar since late 2019 in a financial meltdown that poses the biggest threat to stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.
“The participants highlighted the dire and steadily degrading economic and social conditions in Lebanon. In this context, they stressed that the LAF, yet overstretched, remains a crucial pillar of the Lebanese State,” the French Armed Forces Ministry said in a statement.
“Their cohesiveness and professionalism remain key to preserving the country’s stability from more risks.”
The ministry did not respond to request for further information.
According to participants, Army Chief Joseph Aoun warned of the increasingly untenable situation, but said that the institution remained strong. Salaries have fallen five- or six-fold in value, forcing many to take extra jobs and some to leave the army altogether.
The kind of support countries were asked to provide was food, medical supplies, spare parts for military equipment and even fuel, but salaries would not be paid.
Two diplomats said the majority of countries had shown a willingness to provide aid bilaterally going forward and that a follow-up mechanism to monitor and coordinate would be used.
The army has long been seen as one of the few institutions in Lebanon that can rally national pride and create unity. Its collapse at the start of the civil war, when it split along sectarian lines, led to Lebanon’s descent into militia rule.
With few tangibles, world powers promise help to Lebanese army
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