BEIRUT – Officials in Beirut and Baghdad on Friday signed a preliminary agreement that would see Lebanon trade medical expertise for Iraqi fuel supplies, Lebanese state media reported.
The Lebanese state-owned electricity company faces severe cash shortages as the country grapples with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Oil-rich Iraq, which has seen Covid-19 cases skyrocket in recent weeks, suffers from a chronic lack of medicine and medical care, and decades of war and poor investment have left its hospitals in bad condition.
Acting Minister of Health Hamad Hassan and his Iraqi counterpart Hassan al-Tamimi signed “a framework agreement … which includes (the supply) of oil in exchange for medical and hospital services,” the National News Agency said. Lebanese (ANI).
Under the agreement, signed in Beirut, Lebanon would receive 500,000 tonnes of Iraqi oil per year, or one sixth of its needs, said acting Lebanese Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar.
Hassan said the agreement provided for cooperation in hospital training and administration, with Lebanese experts and specialist teams involved in the management of new facilities in Iraq.
Lebanese officials have made no secret of their desire to strengthen cooperation with Iraq in various fields. Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri described the most recent agreement as a lifeline for Lebanon. It comes as the Lebanese are losing hope in donor pledges due to the crisis in government formation and the veto imposed by several countries on the disbursement of aid in light of Iranian-backed Hezbollah domination.
During his meeting in Beirut with Iraqi Minister of Health and Environment Hassan al-Tamimi, Berri stressed the need to strengthen cooperation with Iraq, and felt that this would help Lebanon to resolve its crises.
“In light of the dangers threatening Lebanon, this cooperation can significantly help resolve the country’s crises,” he said.
He added that Lebanon risks collapsing if the situation remains as it is without the early formation of a new government.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun told Tamimi of “his country’s appreciation for the efforts of the Iraqi government and the latest agreement to provide Lebanon with oil in exchange for medical services.”
The bet on Iraq comes after the Lebanese lost hope of a return of aid from the Gulf, in the form of aid, loans, investment and tourism. In recent years, the situation has become more complicated due to the political crisis. Iran, in particular, contributed to the collapse of Lebanon, making the country a playground for regional influence with the help of its most powerful proxy in the region, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.
Lebanon was once nicknamed “the hospital of the Arab world”, with advanced private facilities and doctors trained in Europe and the United States.
But hundreds of doctors are now fleeing the country’s political and economic crises, and even basic medicines are out of stock.
Power cuts have been common in the country for decades, but Ghajar warned in March that Lebanon would plunge into “total darkness” by the end of the month if no money was guaranteed to buy fuel for the country. power plants.
The Lebanese parliament this week approved emergency funding of $ 200 million to keep the lights on.