Belarusian delegation in Venezuela
The Belarusian Delegation, headed by the First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko, visited Venezuela on 26 – 30 April.
The members of the delegation included Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Aleinik, Deputy Minister of Architecture and Construction Sergei Lastochkin, Deputy Industry Minister Gennadiy Sviderski, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Foodstuffs Leonid Marynich, Deputy Chairman of the Belneftekhim, Vladimir Volkov, as well as representatives of several Belarusian enterprises.
Comment. In addition to the existing extensive programme of the Belarusian-Venezuelan cooperation on the construction of Venezuelan sites, it appears that the parties will discuss other issues, primarily economic. However, given the current economic crisis in Venezuela, one should not expect significant funds coming to Belarus from them.
Belarus buys oil from Venezuela for almost $ 800 per tonne, while Russia supplies at $ 430. Moreover, the current contract with Russia obliges Belarus to buy 22 million tons of oil, which makes economically inefficient the purchase of 4 million tons of the overseas oil. It is possible that the subject of negotiations (given Vladimir Semashko’s role of Energy supervisor in the country) will concern the prospects and the outcome of the diversification of oil supplies to Belarus and the end of the “Venezuelan” project (Azeri oil supply was also virtually frozen, only 600 million tons of oil were supplied from the needed 800 million tons, Mozyr oil refinery is closed in April and for the following two months for repairs, i.e. in addition to the controversial economic effect of the project, Belarus is physically not able to process the Venezuelan crude oil). Last week Belarus tried to negotiate processing of Azeri oil at Ukrainian refineries. It also shows the reduced interest of Belarus in the Venezuelan-Ukraine-Azerbaijan oil transport project.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.