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Russia Seeks to Boost its Influence in Lebanon, Eyes Gas, Displaced Files

Russia Seeks to Boost its Influence in Lebanon, Eyes Gas, Displaced Files

Friday, 15 March, 2019 - 10:30
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the Kremlin in Moscow, on June 13, 2018. (Reuters)
Beirut - Nazeer Rida
Russia’s recent moves on the Lebanese scene have reflected its desire to strengthen its influence and to expand its role in Beirut.

According to Lebanese ministerial sources, Lebanon has been a focus of interest for Russia since the latter’s direct involvement in the Syrian crisis. Moscow sees the country as a vital economic, political and security field.

The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that on the security side, “Moscow considers that any tension in Lebanon will affect Syria.”

“Therefore, Russia is working with Lebanon and Israel to prevent any battle between them. Any confrontation with Israel in Lebanon will extend to Syria, where the Russian army is deployed,” the sources explained.

According to the sources, this security factor is pushing Moscow to maintain a balance in Lebanon, considering that the “hegemony of Iran [meaning Hezbollah] will cause war with Israel.”

Moscow sees that any instability will “delay the return of displaced Syrians, therefore hampering the path towards political stability and reconstruction in Syria,” the sources noted.

Another economic-political for Russia’s growing interest in Lebanon: the gas sector.

In fact, the ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Russians are seeking to engage in the gas exploration and extraction in the Middle East and are participating in all relevant tenders.

“Their military presence will help them protect their interests,” they emphasized.

On March 26, President Michel Aoun will visit Moscow to meet with his counterpart Vladimir Putin. The agenda of talks will feature a list of items, including the revival of the Lebanese-Russian Joint Committee to resolve the issue of the displaced Syrians, as well as energy cooperation and the participation of Russian companies in the new licensing cycle to be opened by Lebanon for oil and gas exploration.

According to observers, Russia’s role is essential in the region. They noted that Lebanon could rely on Moscow to settle the file of maritime and land border disputes with Syria and the demarcation of the border, in addition to a series of other files.

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