Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the first shipment of U.S. crude oil to Belarus will depart this week.
It is the latest step in warming relations and expanding trade ties between the two countries and comes as negotiations between Belarus and Russia over the price and supply of oil became contentious.
Pompeo said on May 15 that the deal strengthens Belarusian sovereignty and independence and “demonstrates that the United States is ready to deliver trade opportunities for American companies interested in entering the Belarusian market.”
It also fulfills a commitment the United States made to Belarus when Pompeo visited Minsk in February -- the first visit to the country by a sitting U.S. secretary of state since 1994.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei confirmed the shipment, saying he did so “with satisfaction.”
A spokesman for the Belarusian state petrochemicals concern Belneftekhim told reporters the tanker will leave Beaumont, Texas, on May 17 and is expected to reach the port of Klaipeda in Lithuania in early June.
Pompeo’s statement said the United States stands ready to meet the needs of countries that, like Belarus, “want to benefit from enhanced energy security based on supply diversification and trade rooted in the U.S. commercial values of free enterprise, the rule of law, and transparent deals free of corruption.”
The United States also urged Belarus to build on the progress it has made to increase the access of U.S. businesses to its market and undertake reforms necessary to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), he added.
The oil shipment is part of a competitive deal by United Energy Trading with assistance from U.S. firm Getka and their Polish partner UNIMOT, Pompeo said.