January 31, 2018 / 1:35 AM / 8 months ago

Cuba agrees Algerian fuel imports after Venezuelan oil shipment slide

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba said on Tuesday it had signed a deal with Algeria to import fuel over the next three years, as it seeks to offset a steep decline in oil shipments from its key ally Venezuela.

The Communist-run island has a close relationship with Algeria and annually imports oil products from the north African country but has relied almost exclusively on Latin American socialist partner Venezuela for crude supplies in recent years.

A drop in subsidized oil imports from Venezuela however in the wake of its economic meltdown pushed Cuba last year to resume importing large quantities of oil from Russia and buy 2.1 million of barrels of crude oil from Algeria.

An official at Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach told Reuters earlier this month Algeria would ship the same amount in 2018. [L8N1P54VX]

The Cuban foreign ministry did not break down details of the new deal, for the 2019-2021 period, and whether it would include crude.

However official news agency Prensa Latina wrote that “the commitment is one of the most significant between the two countries in recent times”.

It came as Cuba agreed to send more doctors to Algeria, Prensa Latina wrote, during the visit of Algerian Health Minister Mokhtar Hasbellaoui.

The cash-strapped Caribbean nation exchanges medical and other professional services for oil and oil products. The expansion of services provision to Algeria could suggest the energy deal entails increased shipments.

The drop in Venezuelan oil imports has weighed heavily on Cuba’s economy over the last few years, prompting it to ration fuel and electricity.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Alistair Bell

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