Pompeo says the United States can supply Belarus with 100 percent oil and gas

MINSK (BELARUS): US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday that the United States is willing and able to provide Belarus with 100 percent of its oil and gas, slapping Russia, which recently cut supplies .

Pompeo is the first secretary of state to visit Belarus in 26 years and arrived in Minsk amid new tensions between Minsk and Moscow on energy

In a meeting with authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko, Pompeo said he hoped to help provide an opportunity for Belarus to achieve the sovereignty and independence it seeks.

The United States wants to help Belarus build its own sovereign country, Pompeo said at a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister.

“Our energy producers are ready to deliver 100 percent of the oil they need at competitive prices. We are the largest energy producer in the world and all you have to do is call us.

Belarus fears that Russia is trying to absorb it and last month began buying gas from Norway after Russian supplies were cut. Last week, Lukashenko accused Russia, the country's leading supplier of cheap oil and gas, of suspending supplies to dissolve Belarus.

Pompeo said the United States wants to help fill the void and will continue to increase staff at its embassy in Minsk, which was severely reduced 12 years ago when the United States imposed significant sanctions on the country for human rights abuses.

The two countries agreed in September to exchange ambassadors for the first time since 2008. Pompeo said a new US ambassador will soon be appointed.

Noting the recent history of bad relations, Lukashenko lamented the absolutely unfounded misunderstandings of the previous authorities and welcomed Pompeo's visit.

Belarus had been a candidate to be included in the administration's expanded travel ban that was announced on Friday, but avoided it by taking steps to improve security cooperation and the potential information of passenger threats with the United States.

In addition to trying to increase US influence in Belarus, Pompeo urged economic and political reforms, as well as improving human rights conditions, a message similar to those that will lead to his next stops Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan later this weekend.

At each stop, Pompeo will warn of Russia and China’s attempts to assert themselves aggressively in Europe and Central Asia .

Russia stopped supplying oil to Belarus after December 31.

The two nations were unable to renegotiate an agreed oil price for this year during prolonged negotiations on deepening the integration of their economies.

Moscow argues that Belarus should accept greater economic integration if it wants to continue receiving energy resources at Russia's domestic prices.

This has caused fears in Belarus that the Kremlin conspires to form a single state with Belarus to keep the Russian president. Vladimir Putin in power beyond the end of his term in 2024.

Lukashenko has repeatedly rejected the idea, saying that Belarus would never become part of Russia.

The Russian suspension did not affect the oil that crossed Belarus to Europe or the supply of natural gas, but had consequences for Belarus, which depends on Russia for more than 80 percent of its energy needs.

Lukashenko promised to find alternative oil suppliers and said Friday that Belarus is negotiating additional supplies with the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

At the press conference, Pompeo also said that Belarus has made real progress in reforms, including human rights, but more needs to be done to achieve the lifting of US sanctions.

Further progress in those areas and others is the only way to lift US sanctions, he said.

Makei acknowledged that Belarus recognized the need to make changes.

Belarus is probably not an ideal country in this regard, and we understand that we must implement some reforms in many areas, including the area of ​​human rights, and we are doing this, he said.

Since Lukashenko came to power in 1994, Belarus has suppressed the opposition and its human rights record has been widely criticized.

The then Secretary of State of the United States, Condoleezza Rice, in 2005 called Belarus the last dictatorship of Europe.