Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister has travelled to Baghdad to sign a last-ditch deal the government hopes will alleviate the country’s deteriorating energy crisis.
Sources at the Ministry of Energy confirmed to The National that Raymond Ghajar had arrived in the Iraqi capital on Friday alongside General Security Chief Maj Gen Abbas Ibrahim to sign the major deal with Iraq on Saturday.
The deal, it is hoped, will provide Lebanon with one million tons of Iraqi fuel and diesel to power the country’s ageing power plants.
In return, Lebanon will provide Iraq with a range of services, including agricultural and medical services, preventing Beirut from dipping into its dwindling foreign currency reserves.
The fuel will have to be refined in Iraqi refineries before it is shipped to Lebanon, as the country does not have refining capabilities.
A shortage of fuel in Lebanon has pushed much of the country into an energy crisis in recent months, with Electricite du Liban (EDL), the state power company, able to supply much of the country with only four hours of electricity per day, forcing widespread rationing.
This month, EDL closed two electricity plants amid fuel shortages, while huge snaking queues outside petrol stations have become a regular sight across the country.
The rationing has caused blackouts, with many being forced to use private generators to keep the power on. Yet even private generator suppliers have struggled to source fuel in recent weeks, with an increasing number of homes and businesses being left in the dark.
A statement from the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi said that he had invited Mr Ghajar and Maj Gen Ibrahim in Baghdad to finalise the deal in a bid to resolve Lebanon’s electricity crisis before he travelled to Washington.
Mr Ghajar told The National this year that a fuel-for-in-kind-services deal had been under discussion for “two to three years".
At the time, he said the deal would involve Lebanon’s Central Bank depositing funds in a special account to be spent locally by Iraq.
“It’s not up to us; it’s up to them to decide what to do with the money,” he told The National in April.