(Photo credit: The961)
According to a Lebanese media report released on 20 August, the World Bank is continuing to procrastinate its approval of funding a US-sponsored gas deal to import electricity into Lebanon through Jordan and Syria.
The report details that, over the last few days, World Bank representatives held a number of meetings with Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate and Energy Minister, Najib Mikati and Walid Fayyad, adding that these meetings did not result in any clear progress.
The newly appointed Regional Director of the World Bank’s Levant Department, Jean-Christophe Carré, reportedly refused to acknowledge the steps taken by Lebanon, put forth by the World Bank itself, to approve funding for the agreement.
Carré reportedly said that, despite Lebanon’s maintenance of gas and electricity lines and its finalization of contracts with Jordan and Egypt, the country “is not serious about the deal.”
Despite Carré’s claim, the agreement has mainly failed to materialize as a result of Washington’s refusal to provide the companies and states involved in the deal with an exemption from the Caesar Act, which sanctions any country or company that does business with the Syrian state.
The plan to import energy to Lebanon from Egypt and Jordan via Syria was brokered by the US last year, just after Hezbollah sought to import Iranian fuel to avert the man-made fuel shortage plaguing the country.
Despite Lebanon’s implementation of the necessary steps, the World Bank said in April of this year that it needed to review the project’s “political feasibility” before approving the funds, something which Fayyad, who is in contact with the World Bank and the US and French embassies, had not been informed of.
The energy minister declared at the time that the ball is in the court of the US and World Bank, not Lebanon, when it comes to fulfilling this project.
Earlier this month, Mikati met with the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, Mojtaba Amani, and agreed to an offer of “free fuel” from Iran, an official close to Mikati told The Cradle.
Despite the agreement, however, the Prime Minister-designate has failed to provide the documents necessary for initiating the process to receive the Iranian fuel.