France’s $3 billion Saudi-funded deal to provide military supplies to Lebanon has not been cancelled, the Saudi foreign minister said Wednesday, despite delays caused by concerns that weapons could end up in the wrong hands.
“There is an agreement… there is no blockage. Everything is proceeding normally,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a visit to Paris.
Lebanon received the first tranche of weapons designed to bolster its army against jihadist threats, including anti-tank guided missiles, in April, but press reports have since indicated that the $3 billion (2.7 billion euro) programme has run into obstacles.
On Wednesday, a French diplomatic source denied the deal had been cancelled but said there were delays.
“It is being evaluated at the request of the Saudis for political reasons because Saudi Arabia is extremely cautious on the issue that these materials go only to the Lebanese army,” the source said.
“The Saudis want guarantees that this material is not diverted to other forces.”
Lebanon’s Shiite militant movement Hezbollah, which plays a key role in Lebanese politics, is backed by Saudi Arabia’s chief regional rival Iran.
It backs the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the Saudis back the Sunni rebel opposition.
“The work is ongoing but we are confident that the programme will be put into practice in all its dimensions,” said the diplomatic source.