US denies brokering deal for Israel to indirectly pump gas to Lebanon

State Department disputes ‘false’ report that energy envoy facilitated agreement for Jewish state to supply gas to its northern neighbor

Amos Hochstein in Athens, Greece, on May 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Amos Hochstein in Athens, Greece, on May 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

The US State Department on Sunday denied brokering an agreement for Israel to indirectly supply natural gas to Lebanon.

“Media reports that the United States has brokered an energy deal between Israel and Lebanon are false,” the department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs wrote on its Twitter account.

The tweet did not address the veracity of the reported agreement, which Channel 12 news said was brokered by Amos Hochstein, Washington’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy.

According to the unsourced report Saturday, the agreement was signed in secret over the weekend, and will see Israel transfer gas from the offshore Leviathan field to Jordan, From there it will be transferred to Syria and on to Lebanon, though the network said the move will require repairing and extending a gas line that flows between those countries, which could take several years.

The report said the agreement was approved by the United States and was also coordinated with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It also said the deal was partly designed to provide Lebanon with an alternative to Iran, as it seeks to recover from a deepening economic crisis.

View of the Israeli Leviathan gas field gas processing rig as it seen from Dor Habonim Beach Nature Reserve, on January 1, 2020. (Flash90)

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.

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, 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 supporters wave an Iranian and Hezbollah flags, as they celebrate the arrival of Iranian fuel tankers to Lebanon, in the eastern town of Baalbek, Lebanon, September 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

The Iran-backed 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.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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