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Belarus gets oil offer from US in growing list of alternatives to Russia

Moscow — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is ready to supply Belarus with all of its oil needs at competitive prices, adding to a growing list of potential new energy suppliers after years of dealing almost exclusively with Russia.

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"The United States wants to help Belarus build its own sovereign country. Our energy producers stand ready to deliver 100 percent of the oil you need at competitive prices," Pompeo said Saturday during his visit to Minsk, the country's capital, as quoted by the US Department of State.

Pompeo is the first secretary of state to visit Belarus in 26 years, and during his stay he held talks with both foreign minister Vladimir Makei and President Alexander Lukashenko.

"All you have to do is call us," Pompeo said.

Other possibilities

Pompeo's offer comes as Minsk continues to search for alternative crude supplies. Lukashenko named the US, along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as potential suppliers of oil to diversify sourcing of crude for Belarusian refineries, which traditionally sourced wholly from Russia. That reliance came into question recently as Russia briefly suspended supplies in early January amid crude supply talks for 2020. Russia has since restored supplies to Belarus.

Belarus is also in talks with Azerbaijan , Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Baltic states with the aim of limiting Russian oil deliveries to just 30%-40% of total imports, according to Lukashenko.

This week, a delegation from Belarusian state-owned Belneftekhim will visit Kazakhstan to hold talks on crude supplies.

Last Monday, the country's Naftan refinery received 80,000 mt of Norwegian oil to test out new routes and compare losses with the current price of Russian oil.

Lukashenko said in mid-December that Russia had agreed in principle to supply 20-22 Bcm of gas and 24 million-25 million mt of oil in 2020 to Belarus.