Israel has signed an agreement to indirectly pump natural gas to Lebanon to aid the crisis-hit nation, an unsourced television report claimed on Saturday.
Channel 12 news reported that the deal was brokered by Amos Hochstein, Washington’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs, and signed in secret over the weekend.
It will see Israel transfer gas from the offshore Leviathan field to Jordan, the report said. From there it will be transferred to Syria and on to Lebanon.
However, the network said, the move will require repairing and extending a gas line that flows from Syria to Lebanon, which could take several years.
The agreement was approved by the United States and was also coordinated with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the report.
It said the deal was partly designed to provide Lebanon with an alternative to Iran as it seeks to recover from a deepening economic crisis.
The country of six million is experiencing its worst-ever financial crisis, with a currency that has lost around 90 percent of its value, people’s savings trapped in banks, and qualified labor emigrating in droves.
It has been described by the World Bank as one of the most severe crises the world has witnessed since the 1850s.
Severe shortages in fuel have resulted in crippling power cuts and hours-long waits at gas stations.
Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, announced in August that Iran was sending fuel to Lebanon to help ease the crisis. The first Hezbollah-commissioned Iranian oil tanker arrived in the Syrian port of Baniyas in September and the diesel was unloaded to Syrian storage places before it was brought overland to Lebanon by tanker trucks, where it was welcomed with celebratory gunfire.
Hezbollah, often accused of operating a state-within-a-state, has been taking part in Syria’s civil war alongside government forces. It manages its own crossing points along the Lebanon-Syria border, away from formal border crossings.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said the shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty and are not approved by his government.
Israel has said it will not interfere with the shipments.
Under another initiative to bring some power to the country, energy ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon in September agreed to a plan to bring Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity to Lebanon via Syria.