Biden administration authorises US oil company Chevron to open talks with Maduro's government, temporarily lifting a ban on such discussions, senior administration officials say.

Chevron is the last US oil producer to maintain a presence in Venezuela, home to the world's largest crude reserves.
Chevron is the last US oil producer to maintain a presence in Venezuela, home to the world's largest crude reserves. (AP Archive)

The United States is easing some of its tough sanctions on Venezuela in order to encourage political dialogue between President Nicolas Maduro's government and its opponents, a senior official has said.

"The United States is undertaking a number of measures at the request of the Venezuelan interim government and the Unity platform of opposition parties negotiating with the Venezuelan regime, to support their decision to return to the negotiating table in Mexico City," the US official said on Tuesday.

One action permits US oil firm Chevron to negotiate with the state oil company PDVSA on the terms of any future activities in Venezuela, the official said.

The official said another action to ease sanctions would be announced imminently.

After a political stalemate of three years that has seen economic and social conditions in Venezuela drastically deteriorate, Washington wants to encourage Maduro's government to negotiate with its opponents.

They include opposition parties and opposition leader Juan Guaido. Despite international support, Guaido's side has not been able to oust Maduro from power.

The official said the easing of sanctions is being done at the request of the Guaido-led interim government and is directly tied to an agreement of both sides to return to the talks, "which they should be announcing very shortly."

"The United States supports a peaceful and negotiated outcome to the Venezuelan political and economic and humanitarian crisis," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Tentative overtures

Venezuelan talks had been stalled since October when the US took into custody Colombian businessman Alex Saab, who was accused of laundering money for Maduro's government.

But in March two US officials visited Venezuela and shortly afterward Caracas released two detained Americans, raising hopes for a thaw in relations between the two sides and a resumption of domestic political talks.

The US official stressed that the easing of sanctions would not permit Chevron to actually reach an agreement with PDVSA or undertake work inside or on behalf of Venezuela, where the oil sector has been hampered by international sanctions.

"Very clearly, none of these alleviations of pressure would lead to an increase in revenue for the regime," the official said.

"We are going to calibrate our sanctions policy accordingly to increase pressure or alleviate pressure on the basis of ambitious concrete and irreversible outcomes that empower the Venezuelan people to determine the future of their country through democratic elections," the official added.

Source: AFP