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Conflict Incident Report
Drivers of refrigerated trucks block Chtoura international highway
Farmers and truck owners blocked a major road in east Lebanon Saturday to protest government inaction concerning an export crisis that resulted from the closure of a key Syria-Jordan border crossing.
The Traffic Management Center announced on Twitter that the owners of refrigerated trucks blocked the road linking the Bekaa Valley to Beirut. Media reports added that farmers and exporters joined the protest.
The industrial and agricultural sectors in Lebanon were dealt a blow this month after ministers failed to discuss a plan to finance the maritime export of locally produced goods during the last Cabinet session.
Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, who stormed out of the session in protest, had urged the Cabinet to help farmers export their goods by sea after land routes were closed in Syria.
This proposal would give every truck owner $2,000 per trip to help them take the marine route instead of the traditionally used land roads, and then also provide help in their return to Lebanon.
The project would cost $21 million over seven months, he said, explaining that the peak of agricultural production in Lebanon is coming soon which makes a government policy urgent.
Lebanese exporters were hit hard in April when the Nusra Front and other Islamist groups took over the Nasib crossing between Syria and Jordan. It was the last major crossing controlled by the Syrian government.
In comments published Saturday by Elnashra.com, Economy Minister Alain Hakim voiced his support to the proposal and said the funds could be made available by the Higher Relief Committee until the Cabinet convenes and approves them.
However, the minister expressed doubt that there was "any real intent to resolve this crisis," saying he saw no good signs in the horizons over the ongoing Cabinet deadlock.
The executive body's three last regular sessions were all canceled after Free Patriotic Movement's ministers vowed to prevent any decision before the appointment of successors to the country's top security officials.