Saudi Arabia stops $3 billion aid to Lebanese Army upon “reevaluation of relations”
Saudi Arabia is halting a $3bn (£2.1bn) military aid package to Lebanon, as part of what one Saudi official called a “reassessment” of relations.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency said the money was to be used by the Lebanese army to buy French weapons.
A $1bn deal to equip the internal security forces is also being stopped.
The official said the Sunni-ruled kingdom had noted the “confiscation of the will” of the Lebanese state by the Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah movement.
Lebanon’s national unity government, which includes Hezbollah and its allies, declined to condemn attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran last month by protesters angered by the execution of a prominent Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia.
The $3bn aid programme announced in 2013 was intended to help the Lebanese army strengthen its capabilities against jihadist militants encroaching from neighbouring Syria.
The first tranche of weapons, including Milan anti-tank guided missiles, was delivered last April, but after that the programme ran into obstacles, according to the AFP news agency.
On Friday, SPA quoted an unnamed official as saying Saudi Arabia had always stood with Lebanon and supported the country through difficult times.
“Despite these honourable stands, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia had been met with Lebanese stands that are against it on Arab, regional and international arenas, in the shadow of the confiscation of the will of the state by the so-called Lebanese Hezbollah,” the official said.
At recent meetings of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, Lebanon had failed to condemn “the blatant attacks on the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad, which are contrary to international law and diplomatic norms”, the official added.
“Saudi Arabia considers these positions as regrettable and unjustified.”
The decision not to sign Saudi-drafted resolutions condemning the attacks was made by Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil. He is the president of the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, one of Hezbollah’s strongest allies.