Extending the Olive Branch

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Senior US officials met with representatives of Venezuela’s government this week to discuss the possibility of easing sanctions involving Venezuelan oil exports as Washington considers a ban on imports of Russian oil and gas following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Hill reported.

The meeting is considered the highest-level US visit to the troubled state in years – the two nations broke off diplomatic relations in 2019.

At the time, the Trump administration recognized opposition lawmaker Juan Guaidó as the country’s legitimate leader. It also accused President Nicolas Maduro of winning the 2018 presidential elections through fraud and subsequently blocked all US revenue to Venezuela’s national oil company.

The visit also comes a few days after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maduro spoke over the phone about boosting the partnership between the two nations.

Venezuela is currently Russia’s most important ally in South America.

Analysts and officials related to the talks said the meeting aims to ease oil sanctions on Venezuela in order to fill the gap left by Russia if its oil comes under sanctions.

They added the talks also focused on releasing a number of imprisoned individuals, including two former Green Berets and six former executives of the Houston-based Citgo Petroleum Corp., an oil refiner formerly controlled by the Maduro government,

Questions linger as to how these talks will impact Venezuela’s battered opposition, which has failed to topple Maduro and has been recently in negotiations with the Venezuelan government. Opposition officials told the Washington Post they had no knowledge of the meeting.

Meanwhile, some observers noted that it’s unclear how much Venezuelan oil will help fill the void left by Russia: Despite sitting on top of the world’s largest reserves, Venezuela’s oil production and exports have been reduced by domestic mismanagement and crippling US sanctions.

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