WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Venezuela’s oil minister on Friday criticized the United States for promoting secure global energy supplies and at the same destabilizing oil producing countries like Iraq.
Venezuela’s Rafael Ramirez argued the United States’ war with Iraq “was an aggression for oil” and said that contradicted Washington’s call for the world’s energy supplies to be secure.
“How can big and industrialized consuming countries pretend to (want) stability in supply, if they are provoking destabilization in producing nations,” Ramirez told reporters on the sidelines of an energy and climate change conference in Washington.
Speaking on oil market issues, Ramirez said that OPEC should set production levels that keep crude costs in a price band of between $80 and $100 a barrel.
“We need to build a band between $80 and $100 a barrel. That should be the band,” he said.
Ramirez said OPEC ministers are discussing how to maintain stable oil prices, even though the price band he suggested would be much higher than the $85 price that oil has traded around in recent weeks.
Both Venezuela and Iraq are members of OPEC.
Ramirez is making his first visit to Washington in six years after relations between Venezuela and the United States soured during the administration of former President George W. Bush.
Ramirez said he wanted to restart communications on energy issues that have been cut off between the two countries. However, he seemed to backpedal from some of his comments made on Thursday when he said U.S. companies should invest in developing Venezuela’s vast oil reserves.
“We did not come here to look for investors. We came here to talk to governments,” he said.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu met with Ramirez after the conference ended. The two countries agreed to restart in the coming months dialogue on technical energy issues.
“While the U.S. and Venezuela certainly don’t agree on all issues, Secretary Chu and the administration believe that dialogue on energy and climate issues is important for our two countries,” the Energy Department said in a statement describing the meeting.
Chu and Ramirez were to focus on energy issues, but the meeting was seen by some as an important step in improving relations between the two countries.
That may have been true based on the other senior U.S. government officials who attended the meeting, including Richard Duddy, U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, and Cheryl Mills, Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It is rare that talks between a U.S. energy secretary and his visiting counterpart have included such U.S. diplomats.
“This is a step forward,” Chu told reporters before the meeting. “I think we’re going to be making good progress.”
Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio