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Damascus said it was “ready” to help Beirut with its energy supplies, with the approval of the United States, which will override their sanctions against Syria. Lebanon is going through one of the worst economic crises in the world and is experiencing severe fuel shortages and blackouts.
The Syrian government will help Lebanon. Damascus has agreed to authorize the transit through its territory of imports from the Cedar country in gas and electricity, a senior Lebanese official said on Saturday (September 4th) after the visit to Damascus of a large delegation, the first in ten years. .
Syria is “ready” to help Lebanon with “the passage of Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity through Syrian territory,” Lebanese senior official Nasri Khouri said at a press conference.
Short of foreign currency, Lebanon is experiencing severe fuel shortages and power cuts that largely cripple the services and activities of hospitals, restaurants, shops and industries.
With an exceptional green light from the United States, Lebanon will try to transport, via Syria and its infrastructures, Egyptian gas but also electricity from Jordan, despite the American sanctions targeting the Syrian power.
First official visit in 10 years
The Lebanese ministerial delegation, made up of the Deputy Prime Minister of the interim government, Zeina Akkar, the Minister of Finance, Ghazi Wazni, and the influential Director General of General Security, Abbas Ibrahim, had earlier met with the head of the Syrian diplomacy, Fayçal Moqdad, and the Minister of Oil, Bassam Tohmé.
This is the first Lebanese official visit at such a level in a decade. The Syrian conflict had deeply divided the Lebanese political class and opened a debate on the nature of relations to maintain with Damascus.
The two countries maintained diplomatic relations, but official visits remained almost non-existent.
US sanctions against Syria, no longer an obstacle
In a Syria with infrastructure devastated by the conflict that started in 2011, work will be necessary to allow the routing of energy imports from neighboring Jordan and via the Red Sea for Egyptian gas.
The joint committee will assess “the state of the infrastructures”, Syrian Minister Bassam Tohmé told journalists, because “the infrastructures, gas or electricity, suffered significant damage”.
Regarding the purchase of Egyptian gas and transport costs, the Lebanese presidency had previously referred to negotiations conducted by Washington with the World Bank to secure funding.
If Lebanon has been negotiating with Cairo for more than a year on the energy issue, US sanctions against Syria had always been an obstacle. But in August, the American position softened: the Lebanese presidency had mentioned a green light given by Washington to allow Lebanon to obtain energy and fuel passing through Syria, despite American sanctions.
Since the fall of 2019, Lebanon has been going through one of the worst economic crises in the world since the mid-19th century, according to the World Bank. With an unprecedented depreciation of the national currency and galloping inflation, nearly 80% of the Lebanese population now live below the poverty line, according to the UN.