The Daily Star
U.S. Navy destroyer the USS Ramage docked in Beirut Port over the weekend. The country’s envoy said the visit spoke “volumes about the partnership between the U.S. and Lebanese militaries.” According to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy, USS Ramage, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, “entered the port of Lebanon for a one-day goodwill visit on the sidelines of its participation in ongoing efforts to ensure freedom of navigation and free-flow commerce in the eastern Mediterranean.”
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard and U.S. Navy Vice Adm. James Malloy hosted an onboard reception Saturday for U.S. and Lebanese officials.
Richard said the relationship between the Lebanese Army and the United States was not limited to the military equipment her country provides to Lebanon.
“Our military relationship is much broader than just equipment, and this ship’s visit is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how far our partnership has come,” she said during the reception.
In August, the Army received 150 Humvees donated by the United States via the Beirut Port.
The shipment was just the latest batch of military equipment donated to the Army. This year, the U.S provided the Army with 5 million rounds of ammunition in addition to night vision devices, radios and other equipment.
The U.S. has since 2006 provided over $2 billion in assistance to the Army. It is expected to give Lebanon at least $60 million more in military aid this year than it did in 2018, according to an official U.S. document obtained by The Daily Star in January.
“And yes, the U.S. military is a partner that can bring a ship like this to the Port of Beirut, even in the midst of all the maritime challenges and tensions happening in the world right now,” Richard added.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have affected Hezbollah in Lebanon, with Washington imposing sanctions on senior members of the Iran-backed group.
The U.S. also slapped sanctions on Jammal Trust Bank, accusing it of facilitating financial transactions for Hezbollah – a claim the bank has denied.
Richard said her country was committed to helping the Lebanese people “during a period of very difficult economic challenges. We are helping strengthen the Lebanese institutions that will defend the country’s sovereignty.”
“Our partnership with Lebanon is more than just military cooperation,” the ambassador added.
Richard also said that her country was strongly supporting the Lebanese Army’s efforts to enhance its naval capabilities, emphasizing that maritime security “will only become more important” as the “eastern Mediterranean’s gas resources are developed by countries in the region, and hopefully soon by Lebanon itself.”
Lebanon has been locked in a dispute with U.S. ally Israel over land and maritime borders.
Washington has been helping negotiate the border dispute after potential oil reserves were discovered between Lebanese and Israeli territory. There are close to 850 square kilometers of disputed waters between the two countries. This has discouraged international companies from investing in exploration in the area.
Lebanon also disputes 13 points along the United Nations-demarcated land border, known as the Blue Line.