Lebanon signs energy deal with Syria and Jordan

Agreement comes as Beirut grapples with severe energy shortages and nationwide blackouts

Jordan's Minister of Energy Saleh Al Kharbasha receives his counterparts from Syria Bassam Tohme and from Lebanon Walid Fayad during a meeting in Amman. AFP

Lebanon has reached a deal with Syria and Jordan to supply the country with electricity amid a power crisis in the country.

Walid Fayed, Lebanon's energy minister, said on Thursday the World Bank would finance a programme which had been approved by the US.

“The Americans have given the green light to the project,” he said.

Beirut has been searching for alternative power sources as an energy crisis has bought parts of the economy to its knees in recent months. Earlier this month, the country faced a complete power cut as the two power stations supplying the national grid ran out of fuel.

Syrian electricity minister Ghassan Al Zamel said his country's network rehabilitation would be completed by the end of the year, with engineers already undertaking maintenance and repairing damage caused by over a decade of conflict.

"The electricity line is not ready. It needs until the end of the year to be ready and our work teams are working round the clock," Me Al Zamel said.

Speaking to The National last week, Mr Fayed said that the proposed deal would provide Lebanon with six hours of power per day, and will see Beirut pay Egypt for gas, which would eventually be brought to Lebanon via Syria and the Arab Gas pipeline.

Yet the deal avoids paying Syria directly, which would probably violate US sanctions on Damascus.

“By virtue of the deal, the Syrians will have more gas flowing into Syria than gas coming to Lebanon in a way that is equivalent to the service rendered.”

“That is one way to do it that’s been [deemed] appropriate [to not] trigger any implications for the sanctions,” said Mr Fayed, a week ago.

The deal comes just days after the US's top energy adviser, Amos Hochstein, met President Michel Aoun in Beirut.

In September, the Iran-backed group Hezbollah announced the arrival of several tankers of Iranian fuel it had imported via Syria for distribution.

The country’s fuel crisis is a symptom of wider structural issues, with the central bank unable to release the foreign currency required to pay for tankers of crude fuel which have traditionally kept the country’s power stations running.

In August, the government announced a de facto lifting of subsidies on fuel.

Updated: October 28, 2021, 3:37 PM