White House in talks with Venezuela to replace Russian oil Business

US officials are in talks with Venezuela and plan to visit Saudi Arabia in a bid to find other sources of oil ahead of a possible ban on Russian imports.

A delegation led by Juan Gonzalez, Latin America’s top White House adviser, and Ambassador James Story traveled to Caracas over the weekend for talks with Socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

The two sides discussed the possibility of easing oil sanctions against Venezuela in the first high-level talks in years.

It marks a sharp shift in policy from the White House, which cut ties with Caracas in 2019 after accusing Maduro of rigging the presidential election and recognizing opposition leader Juan Guiado as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

The meetings were seen as a chance for US officials to assess whether Venezuela is ready to distance itself from Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.

An easing of sanctions on Caracas would also open the door to more oil supplies, helping the United States find alternatives as relations with Moscow deteriorate further.

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said Washington was in “very active discussions” with European allies over a possible embargo on Russian oil imports.

European nations have been reluctant to target Russia’s energy sector with sanctions given the ripple effect on prices. However, the White House would consider acting alone even if it fails to secure the support of its allies.

Meanwhile, President Biden’s advisers are reportedly considering a trip to Saudi Arabia in a bid to mend relations and persuade the Gulf state to pump more oil.

Axios said the diplomatic excursion would take place amid a busy travel schedule for Mr Biden over the next few months, which includes trips to Japan, Spain, Germany and possibly Israel.

The meetings show how the crisis in Ukraine is triggering a complete overhaul of the map of global alliances.

US-Saudi relations have cooled significantly under Mr Biden’s administration after US intelligence officials accused Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of involvement in the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

However, the West has scrambled to reduce its dependence on the Kremlin for energy as sanctions mount and fears grow that Mr Putin could cut gas supplies in retaliation.

Brent crude jumped as high as $139 a barrel on Monday amid renewed supply concerns, while European gas prices soared 80% to a new record high of 345 euros per megawatt-hour, more than $600 per barrel of oil equivalent.

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This notice was published: 2022-03-07 10:57:39

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