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Venezuelan Maduro in Algeria with oil at the heart of talks


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro began Monday a 24-hour official visit to Algeria, with the oil issue crucial for these two OPEC member countries.

The Venezuelan president met at midday with President Nation (upper house), Abdelkader Bensalah, second personage of the State. The interview took place at the state residence in Zeralda, where President Abdelaziz Bouteflika lives, works and receives his foreign guests.

Among them were Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and Algerian Energy Minister Mustapha Guitouni, according to the Algerian national agency APS.

According to journalists accompanying the Venezuelan president, the talks focused on the oil agreement signed at the end of 2016, in which the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-cartel producer countries pledged to reduce their extractions until March 2018 to limit supply on the world market and try to correct the prices of the barrel.

President Maduro said there is “a climate favorable to the policy of the fair price of black gold”, according to statements reported by the Venezuelan government.

The bilateral cooperation between Algiers and Caracas in the oil sector was also on the agenda, the Venezuelan government said.

Algeria and Venezuela, both OPEC members, have suffered from the fall in oil prices since 2014, which supplies about 95% of their currencies to both countries.

The decline in crude oil prices caused Algeria’s foreign exchange reserves to melt about 45% in three years. Venezuela is stuck in a serious economic crisis, aggravated by recent US sanctions.

Mr. Maduro landed late in the night in Algiers on the way back from Astana, where he participated in a summit of Heads of State of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as Chairman-in-Office of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

The official program does not mention an interview of the two heads of state, but presidency officials did not expressly exclude it. “We do not know yet,” an official told AFP.

Bouteflika, 80, is weakened by the sequelae of a stroke in 2013 and his health is a source of constant speculation in Algeria. He has made only a few public appearances since the beginning of the year and received very few foreign dignitaries.

According to his agenda, the Venezuelan head of state must have an official dinner in the evening in the presence of the Prime Minister, raising questions about a possible interview with Mr. Bouteflika.

In February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to postpone a visit to Algiers at the last moment. And observers have recently estimated that French President Emmanuel Macron, expected in Algiers, had still not made the trip, failing to be received by his Algerian counterpart.

This is Maduro’s second visit to Algeria, where he had already visited in January 2015 for a visit focused on oil. His predecessor Hugo Chavez had made four official visits to Algeria.

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