Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Lebanese minister will pay high-level visit to Syria in power crisis

Beirut (Reuters)-A delegation from the Lebanese caretaker government will visit Syria on Saturday (September 4). This is the highest-level visit in many years and aims to help the US-supported plan to alleviate the power crisis in Lebanon through transmission Pave the way for the Syrian power grid.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian War in 2011, Lebanese government officials have mostly avoided Syria because Beirut has adopted a policy of staying away from regional conflicts, even though the heavily armed Shiite Hezbollah is fighting to support Damascus.

Lebanon is suffering from energy shortages, even forcing basic service institutions, including hospitals, to close or scale down operations.

This crisis is the result of the wider financial crisis that has destroyed the economy since 2019.

A Lebanese official said that the delegation will discuss plans for Egyptian gas to be used to generate electricity in Jordan and then sent through Syria.

The delegation will be led by Zeina Akar, who holds multiple positions including the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“We hope that the project can move forward quickly because the Lebanese need it under these difficult circumstances,” Akar told Reuters.

She added that the Syrian Embassy in Lebanon has notified Lebanon that Syria is ready to welcome the delegation to discuss issues related to natural gas and electricity.

A statement from the Syrian Ministry of Information stated that Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad will meet the Lebanese delegation at the border on Saturday, which will also include the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Energy.

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The United States said it is negotiating with Egypt, Jordan and the World Bank to help find a solution to Lebanon’s energy crisis.

The Lebanese president said last month that Washington has decided to help through the plan.

The US sanctions on Damascus are a complicating factor in any effort to help Lebanon through Syria, and the US senator who visited Lebanon this week discussed the issue. US Senator Chris Van Hollen told Reuters that despite the sanctions, he is considering ways to solve complex problems.

The US ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, expressed his willingness to implement the plan.

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US sanctions on Syria include the Caesars Act implemented by Washington last year, which can freeze the assets of anyone dealing with Syria, regardless of their nationality.

Their goal is to force President Bashar al-Assad to stop the war and agree to a political settlement.

For a long time, the relationship with Damascus has been a point of friction between Assad’s allies and opponents in Lebanon.

Ministers visit Damascus from time to time, but the government says they are visiting in their personal capacity.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah is classified as a terrorist organization by Washington and has long called for closer contacts.

Lebanese minister will pay high-level visit to Syria in power crisis
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