Lebanese energy minister says ‘politics’ behind delay in electricity supply plan

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Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister said on Wednesday “politics” was behind the delay of a US-backed deal to supply his country with electricity from Jordan via Syrian territory to ease crippling power shortages.

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Walid Fayad told Reuters that the World Bank, which had pledged to finance the project, was “tying it to some kind of political diligence,” alluding to external considerations without getting into specifics.

Speaking on the sidelines of an energy conference in the Jordanian capital, Fayad said the World Bank was also “adding more conditions although they were clear at the start.”

Fayad said the United States had demanded to “see the financing terms from the World Bank” to ensure that the electricity deal “is not sanctionable,” even though Washington had told Beirut in January not to fear sanctions over its regional energy supply plans.

The 2019 US Caesar Act in 2019 allows Washington to freeze assets of anyone dealing with Syria, with the aim of forcing President Bashar al-Assad to stop his war with opposition forces and agree a political solution.

A World Bank spokesperson was not immediately available for comment on Fayad’s remarks, and the US Embassy in Lebanon referred Reuters to the World Bank and Lebanese government for details regarding the deal.

Lebanon and Jordan signed a deal in Beirut last January to ease chronic Lebanese power outages by transmitting about 400 megawatts (MW) of electricity across Syrian territory.

The deal is part of a wider plan that also aims to pump Egyptian gas to a power station in northern Lebanon via a pipeline that runs through Jordan and Syria.

The agreement with Egypt has yet to be signed.

Fayad said the delay would worsen shortages as Lebanon enters its summer season, with higher energy demand and an influx of tourists.

Lebanon has suffered power outages dating to its 1975-90 civil war, which ravaged the electricity infrastructure and left many families relying on private generators

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