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Saudi Arabia and France propose $30 million aid plan to Lebanon
The news comes after revelations that Saudi Arabia has been attempting to interfere in the upcoming elections through its embassy in Lebanon
By News Desk - April 27 2022
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(Photo credit: Al-Arabiya)

On 26 April, Saudi Arabia and France announced a joint development fund of $30 million to help Lebanon support its food security and its health sector, a French embassy statement read.

According to the statement, humanitarian projects will oversee the use of the funds for food aid, improvement of access to primary healthcare, and supporting the main public hospital in the northern city of Tripoli.

Some of the funds will also reportedly be used to support education, energy, water, and Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF).

“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 kingdom is striving to support anything that eases the suffering of those in need,” the kingdom’s ambassador to Lebanon Waleed al-Bukhari said at a news conference.

According to Saudi analyst Ali Shihabi, the joint Saudi-French aid plan suggests “moral rather than significant practical support at this point.”

“Unless substantive reforms are undertaken that include reforms in governance and substantive constraints on Hezbollah’s power in Lebanon, I do not expect any substantial material aid to be forthcoming,” he said.

The announcement of the joint Saudi-French aid plan comes as at the end of a long diplomatic spat between Beirut and Riyadh, and two weeks before Lebanon’s upcoming elections.

According to a report by Al-Akhbar released on 26 April, the Saudi embassy in Lebanon has been attempting to interfere in the elections through one of its employees, Marwan S., who has been working directly with former Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora to garner votes for his party and its allies.

Marwan S. and Siniora have allegedly been placing pressure on wealthy businessmen to finance Siniora’s party or candidates on his electoral list. The money is then used to buy influence among delegates, mayors, and more.

Another tactic used, according to the report, is the threat of placing people who do not agree to supporting Siniora on a Saudi visa blacklist, which would prevent them from traveling to the kingdom for business or pilgrimage.

At an iftar gathering on 11 April, held upon Bukhari’s return as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, he stated: “Saudi Arabia’s principles do not allow it to interfere in sovereign matters. We respect the parliamentary and presidential junctures and we call on everyone to run them based on competency,” contradicting statements in the report of interference by the Saudi kingdom.

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