Belarus seeks more Baltic ports for Venezuelan oil

RIGA, Latvia - Agence France-Presse

Land-locked Belarus said Thursday it wants to use more of its neighbors' Baltic Sea ports to import oil from Venezuela as Minsk seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian energy supplies.

"It is important not to pick one country but that the Baltic states as a whole became part of our oil transit network," Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorski told reporters during a visit to Latvia.

Belarus' hardline President Alexander Lukashenko has boosted ties with Venezuela in a drive to secure alternative oil supplies as he battles with his country's neighbor and energy giant Russia.

Belarus is currently using Estonia's Muuga seaport, Lithuania's Klaipeda and Ukraine's Odessa ports to unload Venezuelan oil.

Minsk also wants to use a Polotsk-Ventspils pipeline linking the Belarusian city and the Latvian Baltic sea port which is managed by LatRosTrans, 34-percent owned by Russia's Transnefteprodukt.

Belarus signed a contract with Venezuela in March 2010 for four million tonnes of oil, with annual deliveries to rise up to 10 million tons.

Like Belarus, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania won independence as the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991.

The Baltic trio, which joined the European Union in 2004, have pitched trade links as a way to help spur reforms in Belarus and bring the country closer to the 27-nation EU bloc.


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