Representatives and officials from Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt sign gas import agreement at the energy ministry in Beirut, Lebanon on 21 June 2022. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)
The final deal to import gas to Lebanon from Egypt through Syria was signed by officials from the three countries on 21 June in Beirut, Lebanon.
The deal states that Egypt would send gas to Syria, which will then be piped into the Deir Ammar power plant in northern Lebanon. The total amount of gas would add around 450 megawatts, which would add around four more hours of state-provided electricity per day.
Lebanese residents are meanwhile suffering through rolling blackouts, with locals having to pay a second electricity bill for the use of private generators, which are far more costly than state electricity services.
The announcement of the plan to finalize and sign the deal was made a few days ago in a statement by the Lebanese energy ministry, despite both the lack of funding from the World Bank and the sanctions waiver approval from the US government.
The plan to import energy to Lebanon from Egypt and Jordan via Syria was brokered by the US just after Hezbollah sought to import Iranian fuel to avert the man-made fuel shortage plaguing the country.
The IMF recently refused to finance the project.
Following the signing of the deal, when asked by Reuters when the gas will start to flow into the country, Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayyad answered: “Ask the World Bank. As soon as they approve the financing, we’re good to go.”
To this day, Washington has yet to issue a sanctions waiver to remove liability to US sanctions under the Caesar Act for the countries involved in the deal.
The so-called Caesar Act, passed by the US congress in 2019, prohibits individuals and companies from conducting any business with the government of Syria.
The deputy secretary general of Hezbollah, Sheikh Naim Qassem, stated that the US sabotaged its own plan by pushing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to block the loan for this project, and by delaying the sanctions waiver.
“The US administration does not have a problem with starving the Lebanese population to achieve its plan, which also serves Israel,” Sheikh Qassem said.
Hezbollah has repeatedly warned that promises made by the US are false and will never come to fruition.
In a speech on 8 March, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned of the lack of assurances from the US on this energy-sharing project.
“Have the Lebanese officials obtained [something] from the Americans who are only offering false promises? To this day, the US State Department has not given Egypt and Jordan documents exempting them from the Caesar Act,” Nasrallah said.
Hezbollah has repeatedly requested that the Lebanese government accept standing infrastructure offers from the Iranian, Russian, and Chinese governments, which would help resolve the energy crisis in Lebanon.
The governments of Iran, Russia and China would also accept payments for infrastructure projects in Lebanese lira instead of foreign currencies, which would ease pressure on Beirut, given the dwindling foreign currency reserves of the Lebanese Central Bank.
However, to date, the Lebanese state has ignored all such offers, despite the compounding crises affecting the nation.