BEIRUT – Lebanon is seeking to acquire arms from Russia in order to bolster its armed forces currently deployed along the flashpoint northeast border to defend against Islamist militants.
“Lebanon needs arms to fight terrorism… in particular the Russian Kornet anti-tank guided missile,” Lebabnon’s ambassador to Moscow said in an interview Monday with Russia’s state RIA Novosti news.
Shawki Bou Nassar added that his country hopes to obtain a number of weapon systems within a year, including not only the missiles but artillery as well as Russia’s T-72 battle tank.
He explained that Beirut is still locked in negotiations with Moscow to acquire the Kornet missile, while also stressing the importance of the Russian guided missile.
“The main issue being discussed now is how to reach a final deal on the price of these weapons and military equipment,” the envoy said, adding that Moscow “promised to study Lebanon’s request to reduce the prices.”
A number of foreign powers, including the US and UK, already provide military aid to Lebanon’s Armed Forces, which in the past two years has reinforces its defensive lines in the eastern Beqaa along the Anti-Lebanon Mountain range, from where Syrian militants have launched probing raids into Lebanon.
Washington touts that it has provided $1.3 billion in aid to Lebanon’s security services since 2004, including Huey II helicopters, Cessna aircraft, small arms and artillery.
Jordan has also stepped into the mix, with King Abdullah II promising to aid Lebanon’s army and security forces in its defense against Islamist militants as his country escalates its campaign against ISIS.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, in 2014 promised to provide $4 billion in military aid to Lebanon to be purchased from France, but withdrew the grant in 2016 in anger over Beirut’s diplomatic positions at two regional conferences.