Syria ‘ready’ to help Lebanon with gas, electricity transit

Filed on September 4, 2021

Harsh fuel shortages and power cuts inflicted by Lebanon’s economic collapse have paralysed businesses.

Syria has agreed to help crisis-hit Lebanon by allowing gas and electricity transit through its territory, an official said Saturday during the first high-level visit from Beirut to Damascus since Syria’s civil war erupted 10 years ago.

Harsh fuel shortages and power cuts inflicted by Lebanon’s economic collapse have paralysed businesses such as restaurants, shops and industry as well as vital services like hospitals.

Now Beirut hopes to strike a deal to import gas from Egypt and electricity from Jordan using Syrian infrastructure — with Washington’s blessing despite US sanctions against the Damascus regime.

Syria is “ready” to help Lebanon with “transit for Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity via Syrian territory,” senior official Nasri Khouri told reporters, after the delegation led by interim deputy prime minister Zeina Akar met Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Al Meqdad and Oil Minister Bassam Tomeh.

“The parties agreed to set up a joint team to track technical details” of the plan, added Khouri, who is secretary-general of the Lebanese-Syrian Higher Council.

Work will be needed to get Syria’s war-ravaged infrastructure up to the task of moving the energy.

Meanwhile Lebanon’s presidency has previously spoken of US-led talks with the World Bank to finance its imports.

Lebanon has maintained diplomatic ties with Syria but it adopted a policy of dissociation from the conflict since it started in 2011, which put a dampener on official dealings.

Lebanese security officials and politicians have made several visits to Syria in recent years, but almost exclusively in a personal capacity or on behalf of political parties that support President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

They include representatives of the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement which has been battling alongside Assad’s forces in Syria since the early stages of the war.

The visit comes after the Lebanese presidency last month said that Washington has agreed to help Lebanon secure electricity and natural gas from Jordan and Egypt through Syrian territory.

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