Lebanon will not be subject to US sanctions for importing electricity and gas via Syria

Lebanon is suffering from crippling electricity shortages

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The US mediator in the Lebanese-Israeli maritime border talks has said Lebanon will not be subject to US sanctions if it imports electricity from Jordan and gas from Egypt through Syria.

Diplomat Amos Hochstein and Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayad on Wednesday discussed Lebanon’s plan to import Egyptian gas and “its replacement in Syria through swap technology", as well as electricity from Jordan, the ministry said.

Officials did not clarify what technology they were referring to and Mr Fayad was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment.

“The US administration issued a message of reassurance that ensures the protection of the [electricity import] project and participating parties from the consequences of the Caesar Act sanctions,” the ministry said.

The Caesar Act, which came into force in June 2020, sanctions individuals and businesses that work with Damascus or contribute to rebuilding Syria after more than a decade of civil war. It is aimed at preventing normalisation with President Bashar Al Assad’s government.

Mr Fayad thanked Mr Hochstein and US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea "for the efforts made by the World Bank, especially since the USA is one of the institution’s largest contributors".

Ms Shea previously told journalists that there had been talks involving Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the World Bank.

A World Bank spokesperson was not immediately available to comment about the institution’s potential funding of Lebanon’s electricity imports.

A 2020 World Bank report said only one of Lebanon’s electricity plants is connected to the Arab Gas Pipeline.

Ms Shea recently hinted at the US administration’s willingness to overlook the Caesar Act restrictions when it comes to Lebanese energy imports via Syria. Lebanon’s only open land border is with Syria.

“There is a will to make this happen. There will be some logistical things that need to happen too, but I think that it will all fall into place fairly easily,” she told Al Arabiya English on August 19.

Mr Hochstein, who is also a senior US adviser for global energy security, was in Beirut on Wednesday for a 24-hour visit to discuss Lebanon’s energy crisis with top officials.

Israeli-Lebanese maritime border negotiations broke down months ago.

Lebanon is suffering from its worst economic crisis, which has caused crippling fuel shortages with a knock-on effect on power generation. Its state-run electricity company is on the verge of collapse and recently went offline for a day.

Lebanese militia Hezbollah has imported US-sanctioned Iranian fuel without the involvement of the government. This has not elicited punitive action from the US.

Updated: October 21, 2021, 6:11 AM