Exclusive: Spain's Repsol suspended swap deal for Venezuelan oil under U.S. pressure
By Collin Eaton and Marianna Parraga HOUSTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Spain's Repsol suspended its swaps of refining products for crude with Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA, people familiar with the matter said, as U.S. officials weighed penalties for foreign firms doing business with Venezuela.
By Collin Eaton and Marianna Parraga
HOUSTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Spain's Repsol suspended its swaps of refining products for crude with Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA, people familiar with the matter said, as U.S. officials weighed penalties for foreign firms doing business with Venezuela.
The Spanish oil company has been swapping fuel and waiving payments due from a joint venture with PDVSA in exchange for crude, even as the United States rolled out new sanctions aimed at ousting Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
The arrangement made Repsol one of the OPEC-member nation's main fuel suppliers, alongside Russia's Rosneft and India's Reliance Industries, according to three sources and vessel-tracking data.
Repsol declined to comment on the matter on Wednesday.
On Thursday, a day after the United States decided not to take new actions against foreign companies doing business with Venezuela, Repsol said it had not suspended its programme.
"The operations are continuing normally," spokesman Kristian Rix said. "There has been no change from last week, the prior week to now."
The Trump administration blames Maduro for a severe economic crisis that has forced millions of Venezuelans to flee. The United States and dozens of other countries recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the nation's interim president. Maduro considers Guaido a U.S. puppet.
A final decision on whether Repsol will cancel the Venezuelan swap deal altogether, after it was first arranged in late 2018, has not yet been made, the sources said.
One of the sources said the company had been communicating with the Trump administration through the U.S. embassy in Spain, which declined to comment.
Repsol has said previously that it was complying with U.S. sanctions on PDVSA, which bar any use of the U.S. financial system or subsidiaries based in the United States for oil deals with Venezuela.
Companies have been given until April 28 to wind down their existing transactions.
Repsol's most recent shipment of gasoline arrived in Venezuela on March 25 aboard the Torm Laura, according to vessel-tracking data from Refinitiv Eikon and consulting firm Kpler.
As of Wednesday, the Achilleas, a Suezmax tanker chartered by Repsol, remained anchored off Venezuela's Jose oil port, after loading about 1 million barrels of heavy crude on April 6, the Refinitiv data showed.
Repsol's Rix said the Achilleas was not chartered by Repsol.
Another Suezmax chartered by Repsol has been anchored off Jose for at least a week after loading Venezuelan oil, according to shipping sources and the Refinitiv data.
The tankers are awaiting directions from Repsol before they set sail, according to one of the sources.
A separate group of 11 loaded tankers, chartered by U.S. firms Chevron Corp, Valero Energy and Citgo Petroleum have been anchored off Jose for over two months following payment complications from sanctions.
U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton told Reuters last month the administration was considering imposing sanctions on any companies outside the United States that do business with Venezuela.
On Wednesday in Miami, Bolton announced a series of new sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, ratcheting up pressure on Maduro and the countries that support him.
In February, Spain imported some 75,920 barrels per day (bpd) of Venezuelan oil, down from 84,650 bpd the month before, when arrivals were boosted by the Repsol-PDVSA swap. The European country imported an average of 12,630 bpd of the crude during 2018.
(Reporting by Collin Eaton in Houston, Marianna Parraga in Mexico City and Isla Binnie in Madrid; Editing by Tom Brown)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.