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Lebanon signs power deal with Jordan, Syria to boost grid

BEIRUT: Power-starved Lebanon signed an agreement yesterday to import electricity from Jordan via Syria with the aim of reducing chronic outages and heeding international calls for reform. The agreement signed by Energy Minister Walid Fayad with his Jordanian and Syrian counterparts is expected to give Lebanon two extra hours of mains electricity a day, doubling the supply currently provided by the cash-strapped government which has struggled to afford fuel imports for its power plants. “This is an important, historic moment for Lebanon… not because of its impact but because of its symbolism,” Fayad told a news conference.

He described the deal as a “modest but very important agreement for the Lebanese people, who need every extra hour of electricity.” Lebanon has not had round-the-clock mains electricity since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. But an unprecedented financial crisis has led to power cuts lasting 22 hours a day, forcing most Lebanese to rely on expensive private generators. Jordanian Energy Minister Saleh Al-Kharabsheh said the step comes as “our brothers in Lebanon face sensitive and difficult circumstances”.

Lebanon and Jordan also signed an electricity transit agreement with Syria, which said that it stands ready to connect its power grid. “We are ready to connect to the power grid at any time,” Syrian Energy Minister Ghassan Al-Zamil told reporters in Beirut. Lebanon’s parliament must now ratify the agreement, which was funded by the World Bank, Fayad said, adding that he expects payments to be finalized within two months before the start of implementation. Importing electricity from Jordan will cost Lebanon about $200 million per year, Fayad told AFP in an interview last week. Power sector reform is one of the key conditions set by international creditors for disbursing billions of dollars in desperately needed financial support. – AFP

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