Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday that the United States will send its first shipment of 80,000 tons of crude oil to Belarus, which has sought alternative oil suppliers after a monthslong pricing dispute with Russia.
Pompeo said he believes this newest partnership “strengthens Belarusian sovereignty and independence.”
Russia cut oil supplies to Belarus in January after Belarusian officials disputed 2020 oil prices, along with Russia’s proposed increased integration of their economic ties.
The 80,000-ton shipment is expected to arrive at the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda in June and from there will sent by rail to Belarus.
Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said cooperation with the U.S. on oil is “an element of energy security.”
Tensions between Belarus and Russia have been heightened in recent months by stalled negotiations over deeper integration of their economies. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused the Kremlin of using oil supplies as leverage to push for an eventual merger of the two countries.
Belarus had long relied on discounted oil from Russia, but most shipments from there halted in January after disagreement over prices. Belarus subsequently received oil shipments from Norway, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia.
Russia and Belarus later reached a compromise agreement and Russian state oil company Rosneft said Friday it expected to ship about 9 million tons to Belarus this year — about half the amount Belarus had bought in previous years.
Belarus reportedly received 80 percent of its energy needs from Russia, along with discounted oil prices. But after oil shipments were halted from Russia, Belarus started receiving oil from Norway, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia instead.
In a statement Friday, Pompeo said: “The United States urges Belarus to build on the progress it has made to increase the access of American businesses to its market and undertake the market-oriented, trade-liberalizing reforms necessary to advance its World Trade Organization accession process.”
This new deal will be led by U.S. energy company United Energy Trading with assistance from U.S. logistics firm Getka, along with their Polish partner UNIMOT — a supplier in fuel, energy and gas.