BEIRUT — Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib announced Thursday that “the United States has informed the Egyptians that they are going to grant Lebanon an exemption from sanctions” in order to facilitate a deal to import natural gas from Egypt to Lebanon through Syria, the Lebanese Presidency’s Twitter account stated.
Here’s what we know:
• A long-awaited Egyptian gas deal is aimed at improving Lebanon’s electricity supply and is part of the US-led initiative announced during the summer by US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea. This is one of two components of the initiative; the second consists of supplying the struggling Lebanese power grid with electricity imported from Jordan, also via Syria. Implementing both of these solutions requires the US to make exceptions to the sanctions regime it imposed on Syria under the Caesar Act, which targets individuals and entities collaborating with Bashar al-Assad’s government.
• On Monday, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Najib Mikati told L’Orient Today, after a visit by Mikati to Egypt, that Egyptian authorities have agreed verbally to sign the deal which would export gas from Egypt to Lebanon. “The deal still awaits Washington’s approval on whether or not it will let the deal take place considering the sanctions they impose on Syria,” he said.
• After meeting with President Michel Aoun at the Presidential Palace, Bou Habib also said that the mediator of the maritime border negotiations between Lebanon and Israel Amos Hochstein will visit Lebanon “in a matter of days to stimulate the maritime border negotiations file.” Hochstein is also Washington’s senior advisor for global energy security.
• On Dec. 30, Energy Minister Walid Fayad had said that the first phase of repairs to the Arab Gas Pipeline, a prerequisite to the execution of the deal, will be completed by the end of February. Fayad also claimed that the Jordanian and Egyptian energy deals would increase Lebanon’s electricity supply by 10 hours.