(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo suggested his country may help Belarus satisfy its demand for crude as the former Soviet nation scrambles to find alternative energy supplies after Russia reduced oil shipments this year.
“The U.S. wants to help Belarus build its sovereign country,” Pompeo told reporters on Saturday after his meeting with President Alexander Lukashenko in the capital, Minsk. U.S. energy producers stand ready to deliver all the oil Belarus needs at competitive prices, he added. “All you need is to call.”
Russia, which used to cover virtually all the demands of hydrocarbon-poor Belarus for oil and gas, halted crude exports in January amid a spat between the countries’ leaders over political integration and energy prices. While Belarus was able to secure one-time shipments from a company owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Gutseriev, the country also purchased its first-ever batch of Norwegian oil via Lithuania. Belarus wants to reduce its dependency on Russian supplies to about 40%, Lukashenko said last month, and get the rest of its crude from other countries.
Pompeo, who is the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Belarus in 26 years, also said it’s too early to lift the remaining U.S. sanctions on Belarus, even as he sees the country making some progress on human rights.
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