US delegation has met with Venezuelan government officials in Caracus for talks concerning energy supplies and to reduce its imports of Russian oil.
Venezuela’s opposition also said it had met with the high-level US delegation, whose trip to Caracas came as Washington seeks to isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
President Nicolas Maduro, with whose regime the United States broke off relations in 2019, has been among the few international figures to assure Russian President Vladimir Putin of his “strong support” in the wake of the invasion.
“As it relates to Venezuela, the purpose of the trip that was taken by administration officials was to discuss a range of issues including energy security,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
Maduro confirmed the meeting in a televised appearance late Monday, describing it as “respectful, cordial and diplomatic” without going into detail about the issues addressed.
“We did it in the presidential office,” he said. “We had almost two hours talking.”
“It seemed very important to me to be able, face to face, to discuss topics of maximum interest to Venezuela,” he said.
The United States has imposed a battery of sanctions on Caracas in a bid to force Maduro from power, with one 2019 measure preventing Venezuela from trading its crude oil — which accounted for 96 per cent of the country’s revenues — on the US market.
According to The New York Times, the visit by senior State Department and White House officials was linked to Washington’s alleged interest in replacing part of the oil it currently buys from Russia with the oil it stopped buying from Venezuela.
The White House has indicated it is examining how to reduce Russian oil imports without harming US consumers and while maintaining global supply — although Psaki said Monday no decision had been made on a possible ban on Russian oil.
Psaki said the delegation also raised the “health and welfare” of several Americans detained in the country — who include six oil executives jailed in 2017 — but stressed that energy talks and the detainees’ fate were “separate paths and conversations.”