Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have agreed to hold talks on restoring a $3-billion military aid package that Riyadh froze last year, a Lebanese source told AFP on Tuesday.
“The blockage is lifted,” said an official in the delegation of President Michel Aoun, who held talks in the Saudi capital with King Salman earlier in the day.
“It’s finished. There is truly a change. But when and how, we have to wait to see,” the official said, adding “a new page” had been turned and the aid was “going to move.”
The king’s son, the powerful Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will discuss with his Lebanese counterpart how to move forward with the package, said the official, who asked for anonymity.
However, other sources from the Lebanese delegation downplayed the official’s remarks.
“The issue of the Saudi grant was discussed but no decision has yet been taken to unblock the aid,” LBCI television quoted the sources as saying.
Earlier in the day, Lebanon’s National News Agency said Aoun asked King Salman for “continued support for the army in the face of terrorism and the other security challenges, including the issue of the grant.”
“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, said he will follow up on the issue with the competent ministers,” NNA added.
In February, the kingdom halted the military aid program to protest what it said was “the stranglehold of Hizbullah on the (Lebanese) state.”
The program, funded by Riyadh, would provide vehicles, helicopters, drones, cannons and other military equipment from France.
After Aoun’s election, France’s foreign ministry said it was in “close dialogue” with Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in hope of a deal.