Last updated: 17 June, 2014

International community to help Lebanon with Syria spillover

The international community pledged Tuesday to support the Lebanese armed forces by training them to deal with any spillover of the Syrian crisis.

“Countries including the United States, Saudia Arabia, France, Turkey and Italy, have committed to concrete projects, particularly in the area of training Lebanon’s armed forces,” Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini said after a conference on the issue in Rome.

Lebanon’s north and east have seen clashes and attacks between those who support the rebellion against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and those who back Damascus.

In March, Lebanon’s army vowed to battle “terrorism” after a suicide bomber killed three soldiers at a checkpoint near the border with war-torn Syria.

It has launched a new security plan aimed at quelling spillover violence by deploying more heavily in the east and the north.

The lightning assault by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is pushing close to Baghdad after seizing swathes of territory, is also a cause of alarm for Lebanon.

“The fear is that growing tension in Iraq could have repercussions on Lebanon,” Mogherini said.

The ISIL is seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate stretching from Lebanon to Iran’s Zagros Mountains.

Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil said his country’s armed forces “need global, political, technical and military support”.

“Terrorism has no face, no race, no borders, no limits. It hits everywhere and everyone,” Bassil said, adding that the support was needed “to fight terrorism, assure the country’s stability and control borders.”

The promise of international training for Lebanon’s troops came two weeks after the US announced $51 million in humanitarian aid to help the country care for refugees from Syria.

Italy heads up the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, and has already identified where troop training will take place according to Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti, though she would not specify where.