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Lebanese Armed Forces

Volume 618: debated on Tuesday 13 December 2016

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 security. Our support to the Lebanese armed forces (LAF) aims to minimise contagion from the Syrian conflict and combat the spread of Daesh. 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). Lebanon faces a number of budgetary pressures, including the cost of hosting 1.2 million Syrian refugees, and would be unable to fund the LBRs without UK support. This project is the main pillar of our defence co-operation with Lebanon and our efforts to protect stability in the region. The mission of the LBRs is to observe, identify, deter and deny activities by illegal armed actors in the near border areas, in line with agreed international human rights standards. Between 2012 and 2016, approximately £38 million of conflict pool and conflict security and stability funds were allocated to provide observation, protection, mobility and communications equipment to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd LBRs, and to establish key elements of a 4th LBR, as well as a programme of training and mentoring.

The command element of the 4th LBR has been established, and is preparing its deployment plan to cover the remaining 25% of the borders with Syria, from Arsal to Masnaa. Recent Daesh actions in the Arsal area pose a threat to UK and Lebanese security, and make it imperative that the LAF completes the expansion of the LBRs southwards. This is part of an overall strategy to bring the entire eastern border with Syria back under the authority of the state.

We intend to provide a package of £4,867,665.18 of observation and operating equipment for the continued development of the 4th LBR of the Lebanese armed forces. It will be funded by the Government’s conflict, security and stability fund. The equipment has been assessed under the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. There are no objections to the release of these items to the LAF.

The proposed provision of equipment has been scrutinised and approved by a senior, cross-Whitehall conflict, stability and security fund (CSSF) approval board, which has confirmed that it is in line with the Government’s strategic objectives. FCO officials have also assessed the project for human rights risks, using the overseas security and justice assistance guidelines established by the former Foreign Secretary in 2011. They concluded that the risk of human rights violations arising from the project’s delivery could be successfully mitigated.

If, during the period of four parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which this statement was made before the House of Commons, 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 will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.