Lithuania strikes Venezuelan oil-transit deal with Belarus

VILNIUS, Oct 11, 2010

The Baltic state of Lithuania has struck a deal to act as hub for an annual 17.5 million barrels of Venezuelan crude oil bound for landlocked neighbour Belarus, officials said Friday.

"We have agreed to sign the accord by the end of October for the transit via Lithuania of Venezuelan oil heading to Belarus," said the Lithuanian government's chief negotiator Deividas Matulionis.

The deal covers 2.5 million tonnes of crude a year, he said, or the equivalent of 17.5 million barrels.

Two to three tankers a month are expected to dock in the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda.

"The oil should start transiting via Lithuania by the start of next year, but it's possible that it could begin even earlier," said Rokas Masiulis, head of the state-owned oil terminal company Klaipedos Nafta which is based at the port.

Masiulis said the transit deal was set to run for two years but that Klaipedos Nafta aimed to win a longer-term contract.

In August, the port handled a trial shipment of almost 550,00 barrels of Venezuelan crude for Belarus.

Belarus's hardline President Alexander Lukashenko has boosted ties with Venezuela in a drive to secure alternative oil supplies amid regular sparring with neighbour and energy giant Russia.

Ex-communist Lithuania, which joined the European Union in 2004, has meanwhile pitched trade links as a way to help spur reforms in Belarus and bring the country closer to the 27-nation bloc.


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