Pompeo woos Belarus with cheap oil offer
The US State Department, which is struggling to cope with the oil price crash this week, says US firms could immediately sell oil to Belarus at “competitive market prices”.
Secretary of State MIke Pompeo had reportedly “reiterated US support for Belarusian sovereignty” and “discussed the potential to increase bilateral business ties” during a call with Belarus’ foreign minister, Uladzimer Makey.
Pompeo visited Belarus in January in the first visit by a sitting secretary of state since 1994.
He said Washington would restore staff numbers at its Minsk embassy, after a heavy reduction in 2008 when the US imposed sanctions over human rights abuses.
But he said it was too early to lift the remaining US sanctions on Belarus, despite progress on rights.
In September 2019 the US and Belarus agreed to appoint ambassadors for the first time since 2008 and Pompeo has said the appointment would be made soon.
He said Washington wanted closer links with Belarus but did want to choose between Minsk and its former colonial master, Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin this week successfully managed to win parliamentary support for his constitutional reforms which could allow him to remain in power past the end of his term in 2024.
Putin’s moves to form a new state, including Belarus, were seen as an attempt to bypass the 1993 constitution. It remains to be seen if this week’s success in altering the Russian constitution will mean Putin abandons his attempts to annex Belarus.
Before Moscow turned off supplies on New Year’s Eve, Belarus had imported 80 per cent its oil and gas from Russia. It also received billions in Russia subsidies to support its Soviet-style economy.
But President Alexander Lukashenko said in January that he wanted to reduce Belarusian dependency on Russian supplies to about 40 per cent and secure supplies from other countries.
The strongman president said Minsk was looking to sign oil supply deals with the US, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
There is also a disagreement with Russia over forming a bilateral political union that was vaguely agreed in 1999. The agreement predicted close political, economic and military connections without forming a single nation.
Belarus Prime Minister Syarhey Rumas said this week’s oil-price crash would allow the nation of 10 million to reach an agreement with Russia over energy imports.
Lukashenka has ruled in Belarus with an iron fist for more than 25 years.
Picture credit: Kremlin