CARACAS, Feb 19, 2008 (AFP) - Venezuela has asked US oil giant ExxonMobil to resume World Bank-sponsored talks to resolve a nationalization dispute and to drop legal cases in New York and London, Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said Tuesday.
"We have heard various messages from Exxon -- what we are asking is that we return to the situation as it was under arbitration" under the auspices of the World Bank's mediation body, Ramirez said.
The move toward dialogue came almost a week after Venezuela lost a legal battle with ExxonMobil over the leftist Venezuelan government's nationalization of key oil fields in the Orinoco basin that included two ExxonMobil operations.
ExxonMobil says it has won court orders in New York, London, the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles freezing some 12 billion dollars of PDVSA assets in those jurisdictions in compensation for the expropriations.
A week ago Venezuela's state petroleum company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), said it had suspended oil supplies to ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company. The next day a New York federal judge affirmed a freeze of 300 million dollars of Venezuelan assets.
Ramirez said the government wants to pursue talks at the World Bank's autonomous mediation body, the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
The two sides in the dispute named their judges in December but a tribunal has not yet been installed.
Ramirez said that ExxonMobil "exceeded" the expected actions of the arbitration with its multimillion-dollar freeze on Venezuelan assets.
Those court actions "were outside the parameters of the arbitration," he said.
Ramirez was responding to an ExxonMobil offer to negotiate with Venezuela a settlement on the forced sale of its participation in an oil project in the Orinoco basin.
ExxonMobil is seeking compensation of up to five billion dollars, while PDVSA is offering about 715 million dollars, the minister said.
The South American nation is a significant supplier of oil to the energy-hungry United States and is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.