Lebanon energy minister blames 'politics' for delay of electricity imports through Syria

250MW of Jordanian electricity was supposed to flow by March under a deal supported by the US

This file photo taken on April 3, 2021, shows an aerial view of Lebanon's capital Beirut in darkness during power outage, with the building housing Lebanon's Electricity Company (EDL). AFP
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Lebanon Energy Minister Walid Fayad has blamed “politics and bureaucracy” for a delay to a US-backed deal to supply the country with Jordanian electricity through government-held areas of Syria.

The three governments said that 250 megawatts would begin to flow to Lebanon by March, in a deal that was widely regarded as a delivering political and financial gains for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

Lebanon's economy collapsed three years ago, worsening decade-long electricity shortages that have contributed to falling living standards.

Mr Fayad did not rule out the possibility that US support for the deal might have waned since Russian invaded Ukraine three months ago.

“It is politics and bureaucracy,” Mr Fayad said while attending the Mena-Europe Future Energy Dialogue at the Dead Sea in Jordan on Wednesday. “The World Bank will be providing the finances and it is putting more conditions.”

Asked whether US support for the deal has lessened Mr Fayad replied: “Everything is possible.”

Lebanon has suffered shortages of electricity since its economy began collapsing three years ago and its financial system struggled under a heavy debt load.

The World Bank indicated that it would be willing to loan Lebanon hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for the electricity imports through Syria.

Such a loan would be impossible without tacit approval from the US, which is trying to modify its sanctions policy against the Syrian government to minimise damage to local allies.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, has prompted Washington to become less accommodating to Moscow and its allies.

Mr Fayad expected the shortages to worsen unless Lebanon finds a financial backer to pay for fuel oil that is available as spot cargo on vessels in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.

“We could buy spot cargo but we need a deferred payment schedule,” he said. “We do not have the funding.

“We are looking for a country that could help us with payment terms.”

Updated: June 08, 2022, 11:29 AM