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Lebanon says reports on importing gas from Israel via US-brokered deal ‘completely untrue’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Hezbollah flags fly above a convoy of tanker trucks carrying Iranian fuel oil arriving at al-Ain village in northeastern Lebanon on September 16, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

The Lebanese government has dismissed as "completely untrue" an Israeli media report claiming that the Tel Aviv regime has signed a US-mediated agreement to indirectly pump natural gas to Lebanon to aid the fuel-strapped Mediterranean country.

Israel’s Channel 12 news claimed in a Saturday report that the fuel would be shipped to Lebanon via Jordan and Syria under the US-brokered deal, which as it further claimed was intended to provide Lebanon with an alternative to fuel aid from Iran, the news program said.

The news report said in order for the deal to advance, Washington had to make an exception to the sanctions it has imposed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Lebanon’s Energy Ministry adamantly dismissed the Israeli news report and said the natural gas will come exclusively from Egypt via Jordan and Syria.

“The Ministry of Energy and Water confirms that the gas supply agreement that is being worked on between the Lebanese government and the sisterly Egyptian government clearly and explicitly stipulates that the gas should come from Egypt, which owns large quantities of it, and consumes within the same country more than a hundred times what it will provide to Lebanon,” the ministry said in a statement cited by local media.

“What is being circulated about the fact that the gas will be Israeli gas is totally and completely untrue,” the statement added.

Israel’s Channel 12 news said the gas deal was brokered by Amos Hochstein, Washington’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs, and signed in secret over the weekend.

The report claimed that the deal would see Israel transfer gas from the offshore Leviathan field to Jordan, and from there it will be transferred to Syria and on to Lebanon.

Reacting to the Israeli news report, the London-based Rai al-Youm newspaper pointed to Tel Aviv's covert intentions of spreading such “blatant lies,” and said, “The Zionist regime aims to sow discord and division in Lebanon and then between Lebanon and its brothers in Syria, Jordan and Egypt.”

The paper added that the energy ministers of the four countries have already discussed all the logistical details of how Egyptian gas can be delivered to Lebanon.

“The spread of such rumors by Tel Aviv is an attempt to create confuse and aggravate the situation in Lebanon, which comes at a time that the crisis and stalemate surrounding the formation of the Lebanese government is being resolved following the return of pro-resistance ministers [to the cabinet] and their participation in government meetings,” the London-based newspaper said.

The paper further noted that the Syrian authorities who have paid a high price for the country's security, stability and territorial integrity in the confrontation with the occupying Israeli regime cannot accept that the gas stolen by Israel be transferred from their soil to Lebanese territory.

“The gas stolen by Israel is an important red line [for Lebanon] and will not enter the Lebanese homes as long as there is a resistance [front] to safeguard the Arab and Islamic values and [as long as it is] ready for a major military confrontation to protect what is right in the occupied Palestine,” the paper concluded.

In September last year, energy ministers from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt came together in the Jordanian capital, Amman, where they agreed that Lebanon, which is going through crippling fuel shortages, would import Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity via Syria.

The United States, with the intention of countering what it calls Iranian influence in Lebanon, also supported the agreement, with US Ambassador to Beirut Dorothy Shea announcing that some of what are known as the Caesar Act sanctions against Syria could be amended to deal with the fuel transports.

The plan came weeks after Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced the import of Iranian fuel to help Lebanon weather serious fuel shortages.

Hezbollah imported Iranian fuel at the time to ease the pain of the people in Lebanon, which is nearly paralyzed by fuel shortages amid an economic crisis. Iranian ships unloaded their fuel cargo at Syria’s Baniyas port, from where it was transferred to Lebanon with tankers.

The first convoy of the tanker trucks carrying Iranian fuel arrived in northeastern Lebanon on September 16, with people celebrating their arrival by lining roads, waving flags, distributing sweets and blasting heroic anthems.

Lebanon has been mired in a deep economic and financial crisis since late 2019. The crisis is the gravest threat to the country’s stability since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

The economic and financial crisis is mostly linked to the sanctions that the United States and its allies have imposed on Lebanon as well as foreign intervention in the Arab nation’s domestic affairs.


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