Kazakhstan and Belarus to discuss oil supply deal

File photo. A part of the Druzhba (Freundschaft) pipeline seen at the PCK oil refinery in Schwedt, Germany, 30 April 2019. [Clemens Bilan/EPA/EFE]

Kazakhstan and Belarus will discuss an oil supply deal before 20 January, Kazakhstan Energy Minister Nurlan Nogayev told reporters on Wednesday (15 January), without explaining the significance of that date.

Belarus, having failed to agree terms with its main oil supplier Russia this year, has sent proposals to Ukraine, Poland, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and the Baltic states to buy oil from them.

Russian oil companies including Rosneft Gazprom Neft, Lukoil and Surgutneftegaz have suspended deliveries to Belarus since 1 January as Moscow and Minsk argue over contract terms.

Moscow and Minsk have had several oil and gas spats over the past decade in what has been described as a love-hate relationship between presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko.

Putin and Lukashenko have repeatedly toyed with the idea of political integration of the countries, but the autocratic Belarussian leader who came to power in 1994 has backtracked repeatedly.

Several years after Russia’s Putin took office in 2000, he asked the government to work on ending subsidies to Belarus, including cheap oil for its refineries as well as cheap gas prices.

Belarus depends heavily on Russian energy and also serves as an important transit route for Russian oil and gas to Europe.

About 10% of Europe’s oil – 1 million barrels per day – comes through the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline via Belarus. The pipeline, which was built during the Soviet era, supplies Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Russia’s Transneft said on 3 January that since the beginning of the year it had not received any applications from Russian oil companies to deliver crude to Belarus. “However oil transit through Belarus is continuing in full volumes,” Transneft spokesman Igor Demin was cited as saying.

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