France’s $17m worth of aid to help Lebanon boost security

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France will provide €14 million ($17 million) worth of aid to the Lebanese army, to include training and equipment such as anti-tank missiles, an official said on Thursday.
The aid is part of efforts to strengthen Lebanon’s institutions and boost security amid growing internal political tensions.
The army, one of the few institutions not overtaken by the sectarian divisions that plague Lebanon, has few resources to deal with the instability on its border with Syria, and has been seeking to modernize its hardware.
Lebanon’s defense minister was in Paris on Thursday to prepare the first of three conferences aimed at helping different sectors in the country.
An event on March 15 in Rome is intended to support the army, one on April 6 in Paris to aid the private sector, and another on April 25 in Brussels to address the refugee issue.
Lebanon is currently hosting around 1.5 million Syrian refugees.
Separately, sources said on Thursday that Lebanon and Israel have been holding talks nearly every day over a border dispute that has raised tensions between the two states.
“There is a full engagement from all the sides and there have been meetings almost on a daily basis. The dialogue is open. No one has ever walked out from these meetings,” said Andrea Tenenti, spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Tensions have spiked recently over an Israeli border wall, Lebanese offshore energy exploration, and the growing arsenal of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militia, which Israel sees as the biggest threat on its frontier.
Lebanon, Israel and UNIFIL were already holding three-way talks every few weeks in a building on the border near the peacekeepers’ base at Naqoura in southern Lebanon. They are now being held more often, Tenenti said, along with indirect talks conducted through UNIFIL.
Israel is building a border wall near the Blue Line, as the frontier demarcation between the two countries in lieu of a formal border agreement is known.
Lebanon has described the wall as an “aggression”, saying it intrudes into Lebanese territory. Israel says the wall will be entirely on its side of the Blue Line and in Israeli territory.
At the same time, Lebanon has begun oil and gas exploration in a block that includes a small area of sea along the maritime frontier that is claimed by Israel.
“There is a will to keep this dialogue open … I think now, beside the heightened rhetoric, the reality on the ground is different and there is no appetite for instability or for war,” Tenenti said.

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