Moscow, 1 February 2020 (dpa/MIA) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the highest-ranking US official to visit Belarus in more than a decade, suggested on Saturday that the United States supply all of the oil that the former Soviet republic needs, edging out neighbouring Russia.
Belarus’ long-time president, Alexander Lukashenko, who warmly greeted Pompeo on the pivotal visit, had last week accused Russia, the country’s closest ally, of overcharging for oil and natural gas.
Belarus has been seeking to secure commodity supplies elsewhere.
Pompeo told a press conference that the US can cover “100 per cent” of Belarus’ needs for oil at “competitive prices,” Belarusian state news agency BelTA reported.
Pompeo’s trip includes several former Soviet republics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as the US seeks to boost relations in the region, traditionally dominated by Russia.
Pompeo was in Belarus to “underscore the US commitment to a sovereign, independent, stable and prosperous Belarus, and affirm our desire to normalize our bilateral relations,” the US State Department said in a statement.
The US and Belarus have been restoring diplomatic relations in recent months. In August, then-US national security adviser John Bolton visited Lukashenko to discuss non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The US imposed sanctions on Lukashenko following the 2006 Belarusian presidential election on the allegation that he was involved in “human rights abuses related to political repression.”
The sanctions prompted Belarus to recall its ambassador from the US and insist that the US ambassador leave Belarus.
In 2008, the Belarusian government “unilaterally forced the US embassy to withdraw its ambassador and reduce its staff from 35 to five diplomats,” the embassy said in a statement.