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Saudi Arabia, France pledge aid to Lebanon

Saudi Arabia and France announced aid for humanitarian projects in Lebanon, as the country struggles to deal with the financial crisis. The two countries pledged an initial amount of $32 million for a series of humanitarian projects in Lebanon.

The deal was announced on 26 April. It was announced by the French foreign ministry, the French Development Agency, and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre. The three institutions will release about 30 million euros ($31.9m) for the first humanitarian initiatives; more such announcements are expected in the coming months.

Post the announcement, the Saudi Ambassador Waleed Bukhari informed the media that “This support comes as Saudi Arabia and France’s commitment to stand with the Lebanese people and to contribute to its stability and development.” The diplomat also added, “The kingdom is striving to support anything that eases the suffering of those in need.”

The initial aid announced will focus on food security and stabilising the healthcare system. It will also provide monthly cash assistance for food targeting 7,500 people. The aid will reach hospitals in Tripoli and in northern Lebanon. Aid will also be used for distributing baby formula to families with small babies.

The rest of the aid programmes will focus on education, water, energy, and also the country’s Internal Security Forces.

Lebanon has been reeling under a severe economic crisis for the past two years, causing the loss of lives and livelihoods of hundreds of people. Their currency has lost about 90% of its value, a large section of the population lives in poverty, and the inflationary spike is one of the highest in the world.

In late February this year, France and Saudi Arabia agreed to set up a joint action plan for helping Lebanon.

Two weeks back Saudi Arabia reappointed its ambassador to Lebanon, hinting at rebuilding its bilateral ties with the crisis-hit Beirut. 

Experts believe that while the aid shows commitment by Saudi Arabia and France to get involved in the country’s recovery process, however, it does not mean that Riyadh and Paris are going to announce a comprehensive financial rescue package.

It may be noted that Saudi Arabia was once a key political supporter and economic aid provider of Lebanon. Riyadh had invested billions of dollars to build its tourism economy. However, with growing Iran-backed Hezbollah political clout in recent years, Saudi took a step back. Lebanon has a substantial Sunni population. 

Relations between Beirut and Riyadh deteriorated after the then Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi made critical statements about Saudi’s role in the civil war in Yemen in October 2021.