MOSCOW, April 5 (UPI) -- Moscow agreed to pay Caracas $1 billion in bonuses to tap some of the largest oil fields outside of the Middle East, the Russian prime minister said in Moscow.
"Our partners have said they are ready to expand our partnership in the energy sector," said Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. "If an agreement is reached, Russia will pay Venezuela an additional $1 billion bonus for oil field development."
Putin met Friday with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to discuss trade issues in the military, energy and agricultural sectors.
Chavez told the visiting prime minister that a joint Russian-Venezuelan venture, the National Oil Consortium, would help his country develop petroleum products in order to stave off a regional energy crisis, Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti reports.
Chavez in February declared an energy emergency as lingering drought wreaked havoc on a Venezuelan energy sector dependent on hydroelectric power.
Venezuela holds some of the largest deposits of crude oil in the world, however, with the Orinoco belt considered one of the biggest reserve fields outside of the Middle East.
Moscow paid more than half of the $1 billion for work in the Junin-6 block in the Orinoco belt. The remaining bonuses would go for the development of additional fields in Venezuela.