Pierre Duquesne (photo taken from Lebanese news agency 961)
The French diplomat is visiting Egypt to acquire “firsthand information” about talks pertaining to the previously signed agreement with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon to export Egyptian natural gas to Lebanon via Syria, through the Arab Gas Pipeline, in a bid to help Lebanon in its longtime crippling electricity problem amid the country's worst-ever financial crisis.
France wishes to act with international partners in the region, most importantly Egypt, to achieve Lebanon’s best interests, Duquesne said in an interview with MENA.
In a separate interview with Reuters earlier on Tuesday, Duquesne revealed that Lebanon was still awaiting the World Bank’s approval to release a $ 300 million loan to finance the first 18 months of gas exports.
Since the end of its fifteen-year-long civil war in 1990, Lebanon has been suffering from a shortage of electricity that has only been expedited by its economic meltdown in 2020.
Egypt currently aims to become a major gas supplier to Europe in the wake of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict as well as a regional energy hub in light of the 13-fold increase in its gas export revenues since 2014, especially since the outbreak of the war.
Egypt had made large strides in the natural gas field since the discovery of the Zohr Gas Field in 2015, which allowed the country to achieve self-sufficiency in 2018.
The Lebanon project currently awaits execution since Egypt’s government seeks to guarantee that the U.S sanctions, banning exports to Syria and blocking investment there, will be waived to start exporting gas to Lebanon through Syria, Duquesne told Reuters, stressing that there are no technical or pricing issues.
The US began to enforce further economic sanctions against the Syrian regime and several of its leading figures through the so-called Caesar Act signed by US President Donald Trump in December 2019. The US has vowed to freeze the assets of anyone dealing with Syria, irrespective of nationality, making the Caesar Act unique in its impact on third parties punished for dealing with an individual state.
Egypt, which has achieved self-sufficiency in electricity since 2015 with a surplus of 25 percent, has recently announced an energy rationalisation plan to save 15 percent of the natural gas used for electricity generation for the purpose of export to bring in more foreign currency amid the spike in the price of oil and basic goods.
Duquesne's visit to Cairo precedes subsequent visits to Jordan, Lebanon, and the US.