July 15, 2015 / 2:14 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Angola could produce oil off Cuba by 2017 - Cuban minister

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LUANDA, July 15 (Reuters) - Angolan state oil company Sonangol will produce oil off Cuba by 2017 if the United States lifts an economic embargo following a return to diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington, a senior Cuban minister said on Wednesday.

For over a decade, Cuba has asserted its Exclusive Economic Zone off the northwest coast holds more than 20 billion barrels of undiscovered crude. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated the region holds between 5 and 7 billion barrels.

A dozen foreign firms have explored in Cuba’s deep waters over the years, sinking four wells but finding no oil.

“The first hole would be ready for production between 2016 and 2017, depending on the location of the platform,” Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, Cuba’s vice president of the council of ministers, told Angolan state media.

The United States and Cuba formally agreed this month to restore diplomatic relations on July 20 but some bilateral disputes are likely to take years to resolve.

These include demands by Cuba that Washington end its economic embargo and return the naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

“It is important we continue to fight for the lifting of the trade embargo and financial restrictions,” said Ruiz, who was on a diplomatic trip aimed at boosting trade with Angola, Africa’s second-largest oil exporter. (Reporting by Herculano Coroado; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Louise Heavens and Pravin Char)

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