BEIRUT, June 15 (Reuters) - The United States will evaluate
if a delayed deal to sell gas from Egypt to Lebanon via Syria
violates Caesar sanctions on the Syrian government once Egypt
and Lebanon agree to the terms, a U.S. energy official said in
an interview aired on Wednesday.
The plan, first floated in summer 2021, is part of a
U.S.-backed effort to address Lebanon's crippling power
shortages using Egyptian gas to be supplied via an Arab pipeline
established some 20 years ago.
"We've given pre-approval for the project and as soon as
Egypt and Lebanon can agree on the terms, which hasn't happened
yet, then we can evaluate the project" for compliance with the
sanctions regime, U.S. global energy security envoy Amos
Hochstein said in an interview with U.S.-based al-Hurra TV.
Assuming the deal is in compliance, "then I believe we will
be in a place where we can say it doesn't violate the Casear
sanctions and have the gas finally flow," he said.
Egypt's ambassador to Lebanon and Lebanon's energy minister,
Walid Fayad, did not immediately respond to requests for
Fayad last week told Reuters that "politics" was holding up
the deal. He said the World Bank, which had said it would
finance the project conditional on reforms, was "tying it to
some kind of political diligence," without explaining further.
A World Bank spokesperson did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.
Fayad had previously pledged to have the gas flowing and
generating power in Lebanon by spring 2022.
The formal agreement with Egypt has yet to be signed.
Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla told Reuters last
week that "an important milestone that we need to get through is
the American approval plus the financing from the World Bank."
The United States enacted the Caesar Act in 2019 allowing it
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.
Lebanon has suffered power outages dating to its 1975-90
civil war, which ravaged the electricity infrastructure and has
left many families relying on private generators.
(Reporting by Timour Azhari; Editing by Chris Reese and Leslie