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Gifting of Equipment to the Lebanese Armed Forces

Volume 594: debated on Thursday 12 March 2015

I have today laid before the House a departmental minute proposing the gifting of equipment to the 3rd Land Border Regiment of the Lebanese armed forces.

Contagion from the worsening crisis in Syria is having a direct effect on its neighbours, particularly in areas adjacent to Lebanon’s eastern border. The UK remains firmly committed to Lebanon’s stability, and in supporting the Lebanese armed forces (LAF) to minimise contagion from the Syrian conflict, and to combat the spread of ISIL. As part of this commitment, since 2012, the UK has been assisting the LAF, through the rapid land border security assistance project, to establish and mentor the LAF land border regiments (LBRs). The mission of the LBRs is to observe, identify, deter and interdict activities by illegal armed actors in the near border areas, in line with agreed international human rights standards. Between 2012 and 2014 around £20 million of conflict pool funds was allocated to provide observation, protection, mobility and communications equipment to 1 and 2 LBRs, and to establish the lead elements of a 3rd LBR, as well as a programme of training and mentoring.

The command element of 3LBR has been established and equipped, and 3LBR is preparing its deployment plan for a 50 km area of responsibility south of Arsal to Tfail. Recent ISIL actions in the Arsal area, and the threat that ISIL poses to UK interests, make it imperative that the LAF completes the expansion of the LBRs southwards, as part of an overall strategy to bring the entire eastern border with Syria back under the authority of the state.

The departmental minute laid today therefore sets out our intention to gift a package of £3,056,975 of protection, IT and communications equipment to complete the establishment of the 3rd Land Border Regiment of the Lebanese Armed Forces. The proposed gift will be funded by the Government’s conflict, security and stability fund and will consist of the following UK sourced equipment:

Community outreach and LBR operations performance measurement IT hardware and software, with training (£349,997)

Three protected border observation posts and two mobile observation platforms, with observation aids and ballistic protection for fixed 3LBR positions (£1,207,027)

Radio equipment to allow the operational elements of 3LBR to link back to 3LBR HQ (£1,499,951)

Alongside the gift, the UK is continuing its existing package of training and mentoring with additional operational expertise worth £1,932,783. The combined total of £4,989,758 of equipment plus training and mentoring aims to complete, between April 2015 and March 2016, building the capacity of the 3rd Land Border Regiment of the Lebanese armed forces to observe, identify, deter and stop the illegal movement of weapons and personnel across the central sector of the eastern land border with Syria.

The proposed gift has been assessed against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. The proposed gift has been scrutinised and approved by a senior, cross-Whitehall Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) approval board, which has confirmed that it fits with the Government’s strategic and delivery objectives. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials also assessed the project for human rights risks, using the overseas security and justice assistance guidelines established by the Foreign Secretary in 2011. They concluded that the risk of human rights violations arising from the project’s delivery could be successfully mitigated.

The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle, and given the need to provide the LAF with suitable equipment at the earliest possible opportunity to allow them to retain the initiative in blocking and containing ISIL, has agreed the proposal to reduce the period for parliamentary scrutiny, pending the Dissolution of Parliament. If, during the period to 26 March 2015, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or a motion relating to the minute, or by otherwise raising the matter in the House, final approval of the gift will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.