A delegation of high-ranking Lebanese ministers visited Damascus Saturday for talks on importing energy via Syria, the first such official visit since its civil war broke out 10 years ago.
Lebanon’s economic collapse has resulted in severe fuel shortages and power cuts, paralyzing businesses such as restaurants, shops, and industries, as well as vital services such as hospitals.
In the face of US sanctions against the Syrian regime, Beirut now hopes to reach an agreement to import gas from Egypt and electricity from Jordan using Syrian infrastructure.
Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni, Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar, and General Security intelligence agency chief Abbas Ibrahim are one of the members of the delegation led by Zeina Akar, deputy prime minister of Lebanon’s interim administration.
The group travelled to Damascus after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad at the border, where state television announced the start of discussions at the foreign ministry.
Lebanon has maintained diplomatic ties with Syria, but since the conflict began in 2011, it has chosen a policy of dissociation from the conflict, which has official dealings.
In recent years, Lebanese security officials and politicians have visited Syria several times, although almost exclusively on their own behalf or on behalf of political groups that support Bashar Al. Assad’s
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.
This implies that the US is willing to waive Western sanctions which prohibit any official transactions with the Syrian government and which have hampered previous attempts by Lebanon to source gas from Egypt.
Following Hezbollah’s announcement that Iran will begin sending fuel to Lebanon, shipping website Tanker Trackers reported on Friday that the first two ships had set off.
Lebanon, a country of more than six million people, is stuck in one of the world’s worst economic crises in recent times, according the World Bank.
The central bank is having difficulty paying basic imports, such as fuel, leading in shortages and prolonged power cuts that are currently last as to 22 hours per day.
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