Eyeing energy alternatives, US, EU 'welcome' Venezuela agreement
The United States and the European Union welcome the humanitarian agreement reached between Venezuela's government and the opposition.
A senior US administration official claimed that his country welcomes the "social protection" agreement reached Saturday in Mexico between Venezuela's government and opposition as the two sides resumed talks after a 15-month hiatus.
According to delegates, Venezuela's government and opposition have asked the UN to manage billions of dollars held in foreign banks, which will be gradually unfrozen to combat the humanitarian crisis in the oil-rich nation.
Last month, sources told Reuters that Venezuela's frozen funds amount to more than $3 billion.
The "social protection" fund could help improve Venezuelans' access to food, medicine, and medical care and finance infrastructure projects to repair the country's electricity grid.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the accord reached in negotiations represents "hope for all of Latin America."
The European Union considered in a statement that "this agreement provides the template for how further progress can be secured," urging the parties to work toward an agreement on ending the humanitarian crisis and "the restoration of democratic institutions."
Commenting on the talks in Mexico, the US official said, "We join the international community in welcoming the resumption of negotiations."
The official said the accord marked "important steps in the right direction" in Venezuela, which holds the world's largest oil reserves.
The United States is willing to provide targeted sanctions relief to Venezuela in order to encourage negotiations between the Venezuelan government and the opposition, the senior official claimed.
During a conference call, the official said, "We are willing to provide targeted sanctions relief based on concrete steps that alleviate the suffering of Venezuelan people and bring them closer to a restoration of democracy through free and fair elections."
US issues 6-months-license for Chevron to resume extraction in Venezuela
According to the official, the US Treasury Department issued a license authorizing Chevron to resume natural resource extraction in Venezuela for six months.
"Today, Treasury issued a time-limited general license authorizing Chevron to resume limited natural resource extraction operations in Venezuela. This general license will be effective for six months and the US government retains the authority to amend or revoke the authorization at anytime should [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro fail to negotiate in good faith or follow through on his commitment," the US official explained.
The senior US administration official also indicated that Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA will not receive profits under the new license issued by the Treasury. Instead, the profits earned will go toward paying off debt to energy company Chevron.
In the same context, the official pointed out that under the new US license, Chevron will still be required to provide the US government with significant reports of its financial operations of joint ventures in Venezuela in order to ensure full transparency.
Nevertheless, the senior US administration official clarified that "Venezuela-related sanctions and restrictions imposed by the United States still remain in place and should not be interpreted as a permissive environment on sanctions."
UN to have major role in agreement
According to the official, the United Nations will serve a major role in facilitating the humanitarian agreement between the Venezuelan government and the opposition, but some communication with the United States may be required.
"The UN is going to have a significant leadership role associated with this [humanitarian agreement]," the official said. "But again, this is not something that is being organized or stood up by the United States. It is something that is going to be run by the United Nations."
Elsewhere, the senior official indicated that "the United States will consider whether its policies remain open to further calibrating its sanctions on Venezuela, but it will require additional concrete steps by Venezuela agreeing on several key issues."