Exclusive: US, Venezuela in talks for fresh oil sanction exemptions -sources

Venezuela and the United States are making significant progress in talks that could potentially provide much-needed sanctions relief to Caracas. The discussions revolve around allowing at least one additional foreign oil company to take Venezuelan crude oil for debt repayment. This positive development comes as President Nicolas Maduro shows willingness to resume negotiations with the opposition in Mexico.

Envoys from both Caracas and Washington have been engaging in talks in Doha since last year, aiming to find a solution to the long-standing political and economic crisis in Venezuela. The discussions have also touched upon the possibility of a presidential election. Following these initial meetings, separate talks between Maduro’s envoys and the Venezuelan opposition are expected to take place in Mexico in the coming weeks.

The United States has been actively encouraging negotiations between Maduro and the political opposition, particularly regarding elections in Venezuela and other demands. Sanctions were imposed after Maduro’s controversial reelection in 2018, which many Western nations deemed illegitimate.

Among the companies that may receive a U.S. comfort letter to accept Venezuelan oil as debt repayment is Maurel & Prom, one of state-run PDVSA’s joint venture partners. This French company has already made a formal request to the U.S. authorities. While no official comments have been made by the U.S. State Department, Venezuela’s foreign affairs ministries, Qatar’s foreign affairs ministry, or PDVSA, sources suggest that talks have progressed significantly in recent weeks.

The potential easing of sanctions by the U.S. could have a direct correlation with the resumption of negotiations in Mexico. The White House has stated that if Venezuela takes concrete actions towards restoring democracy and holding free and fair elections, corresponding sanctions relief will be provided. However, it is important to note that no final agreements have been reached yet, as discussions are still ongoing.

These negotiations have once again put Qatar, a prominent energy and investment powerhouse, in the global diplomacy spotlight. Doha has previously hosted talks between the U.S. and Iran, resulting in prisoner exchanges and fund releases. In addition to potential sanctions relief, the agenda for the U.S.-Venezuela meetings also includes the release of prisoners, election guarantees, and possible solutions to the influx of Venezuelan migrants in the U.S.

The U.S. recently announced its decision to restart deportations of Venezuelans who unlawfully cross the U.S.-Mexico border, following an agreement reached with Maduro’s envoys in Doha. This move aims to address the record number of migrants and ensure a structured approach to immigration.

Earlier this year, U.S. officials drafted a comprehensive proposal to ease sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector. The proposal suggested reframing oil sanctions by amending existing executive orders or issuing new ones, allowing more companies and countries to import Venezuelan oil in an organized manner if the nation moves towards holding free elections. If new authorizations are granted, they will provide much-needed relief to energy firms that have been struggling to receive payment from Venezuela. Furthermore, these authorizations could contribute to Venezuela’s goal of doubling crude output in the long term.

It is worth noting that Chevron has been permitted to expand operations in Venezuela and export its oil to the U.S. since November, showcasing the positive impact of such authorizations. Other energy companies, such as Repsol and Eni, have also received U.S. comfort letters, enabling them to resume imports of Venezuelan crude and recover their debts.

As negotiations continue, the potential for sanctions relief and increased collaboration between Venezuela and foreign oil companies offers hope for the country’s economic recovery. The positive developments underscore the importance of diplomatic efforts in resolving Venezuela’s crisis and fostering stability in the region.

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