Venezuela to Keep Syria Fuel Exports, Deepen Ties With China

Venezuela said it will continue to ship fuel to Syria as Europe extends sanctions on the nation for using military force to quell civilian dissent against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

“We’ve sent Syria two cargoes of diesel and shipments will continue as they are needed,” Venezuela’s Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters during a signing ceremony with Chinese officials in Caracas yesterday. “We have a high degree of friendship and cooperation with Syria, a country under siege.”

European Union governments tightened sanctions on Syria yesterday by freezing the assets of the country’s central bank and forbidding Syrian cargo-only flights. Petroleos de Venezuela SA isn’t prohibited from shipping oil to Syria under current sanctions, said Ramirez, who is also the president of the state oil company.

The Syrian army has intensified attacks on civilians since a resolution supported by the Arab League aimed at installing a transitional government was vetoed at the United Nations Security Council by Russia and China on Feb. 4.

Ramirez made his comments on Syria after Venezuela and China signed $10 billion in agreements to finance oil, infrastructure and agricultural projects. The countries also renewed a joint economic-development fund for $4 billion, he said.

Orinoco Oil Ventures

China Development Bank Corp. will lend $4 billion to Petrosinovensa, a venture between PDVSA and the China National Petroleum Corp., to boost oil production in the Orinoco heavy-crude belt to 330,000 barrels a day from 120,000 by 2014.

PDVSA will get a $500 million credit line from China Development Bank to pay for drilling rigs and other equipment, Ramirez said. The company has no plans to sell bonds this quarter, according to Ramirez.

China’s Sinopec will work with PDVSA and Belarus to form a venture to develop the Junin 1 field in the Orinoco oil belt. CNPC will form a venture with PDVSA to conduct seismic studies on the Junin 4 block, Ramirez said.

PDVSA will also get a loan of $1.5 billion from Industrial & Commercial Bank of China for housing to be built by Citic Group Corp., China’s biggest state-owned investment company, Ramirez said.

PDVSA agreed to transfer 10 percent of the Petropiar venture in the Orinoco belt to Citic Group as well as a stake in the Las Cristinas gold mine. Chevron Corp., the second-largest U.S. energy company, owns a 30 percent share in Petropiar.

Hong Kong Listing

“PDVSA has 70 percent of Petropiar, and we are offering Citic 10 percent from our share,” said Ramirez.

Margarita Arango, a Caracas-based spokeswoman for Chevron, yesterday declined to comment on Citic’s entrance into Petropiar.

Citic will help PDVSA sell shares of a subsidiary on the Hong Kong stock exchange, PDVSA finance director Victor Aular told reporters yesterday at the signing ceremony, without saying when the listing will occur. PDVSA wants to list a subsidiary that has various stakes in joint ventures it controls, Aular said.

Venezuela is in talks to give Citic a 20 percent stake in Las Cristinas and wants to use Chinese technology and an investment of $500 million to develop infrastructure at the gold mine, said Ramirez.

President Hugo Chavez gave PDVSA the authority to mine for gold on Aug. 23 after he nationalized the industry. Venezuela took control of the Las Cristinas mine, which may hold 27 million ounces of reserves, in February last year after canceling a license held by Crystallex International Corp., a Canadian gold producer.