US blocks Egypt-Jordan energy plan for Lebanon until reforms implemented
White House official Amos Hochstein says the US will prevent international aid for a joint Arab energy project unless Beirut implements the demanded reforms
By News Desk - December 12 2022

White House advisor on Energy, Amos Hochstein, during an interview at the Internal Energy Forum on 20 February 2020. (Photo Credit International Energy Forum via YouTube)

In a special interview with Lebanese daily newspaper An-Nahar, the US Presidential Coordinator for Energy Affairs, Amos Hochstein, tackled the reasons behind the delays in supplying Lebanon with US-proposed electricity projects.

When asked about the remaining obstacles hindering the completion of the one-year-old promise, Hochstein stressed that the US has committed to three separate negotiations with Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, but what remains is Lebanon’s commitment to reform.

Hochstein added that the international organizations helped Lebanon rehabilitate and upgrade its oil pipelines, and have prepared the legal justifications for overcoming the US sanctions on Syria.

Nonetheless, the White House advisor revealed that until the US is confident that Lebanon has completed all the demanded reforms, it should not expect help, no matter how dire the situation is.

The US expects the Lebanese government to appoint a new board of directors for the national Lebanese Electricity Company (EDL), contract an audit firm to monitor the company, and ensure a way to collect electricity bills from all Lebanese cities.

According to a study issued by the Lebanese Ministry of Energy, the electricity sector in Lebanon faces an estimated loss of 36-40 percent in its budget.

The annual budget provides EDL with an estimated $1 to 1.5 billion a year – most of which is spent on fuel – amounting to a quarter of Lebanon’s budget deficit.

According to VDL News, EDL depends on four contractors to read electricity meters and collect bills, but has suffered immensely from their corruption and delays.

This costed EDL an additional $600 million in lost revenue before the collapse of the Lebanese exchange rate, in addition to the displacement of thousands of dollars worth of “smart meters” that were supposed to be installed.

With nothing more to elaborate on, Hochstein was asked about the current status of gas exploration in Lebanon’s Qana prospect gas field and the ongoing operations at Karish.

In brief, Hochstein revealed Israel’s Karish gas field is currently focused on supplying demand to the Israeli markets, and its resources are not expected to be diverted to European markets yet.

On the other hand, Lebanon has yet to bear the fruits of its maritime deal with Israel, as extraction might start up to 3-4 more years from now.

However, Hochstein stressed that the existence of mutually respected and internationally recognized maritime borders have attracted foreign investments into Lebanon for the first time in years.

In addition to France’s TotalEnergies and Italy’s Eni energy company, Qatar has shown an interest in joining the consortium to explore in Blocks 4 and 9.

Hochstein acknowledged his inability to negotiate a land border demarcation between Israel and Lebanon and stressed the complexity of such a task.

He revealed that the US made the utmost effort to separate the two tasks during this year’s indirect negotiations between the neighboring yet hostile states.

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