Russian delegation discusses oil cooperation with Iraq
Russian plane flew out from Baghdad airport for Moscow Sunday on the return leg of a round trip to embargo-hit Iraq that was not authorised by the United Nations, the official INA agency reported.
The plane, a Yak-22, was ferrying home an official delegation after a 24-hour visit, the agency said.
The delegation held talks here Sunday with the under-secretary of Iraq's oil ministry, Fayez Shahin, about prospects for Russian companies in developing Iraq's energy resources, the official INA news agency reported.
"The two sides discussed ways to increase the contribution of Russian oil companies to the development of Iraqi fields and implementing the agreement to train Iraqi oilmen in Russia," INA said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Defense Minister Sultan Hashem Ahmad met with Russian Deputy Emergencies Minister Ruslan Tsalikov who headed the Russian delegation here, INA said.
They discussed "how to strengthen ties between Russia and Iraq, in the interest of the two friendly peoples." The United Nations forbids any military cooperation with Iraq, as part of its sanctions against Baghdad.
Russia is anxious to resume cooperation with Iraq, in the hope of recovering the huge debts estimated at several billion dollars which Baghdad contracted with the Soviet Union.
A Russian oil consortium, headed by the country's biggest oil company, LUKoil, won a tender in 1995 to develop Iraq's West Qurna field.
The two sides signed a production-sharing agreement in 1997 and scientific work has already been carried out at the site.
However, no development can take place until the stringent UN sanctions against Iraq have been lifted which were imposed in 1990 in the wake of its invasion of Kuwait.
Baghdad is anxious to see the work underway, and last year accused Russian and Chinese companies which had won tenders to develop its southern sites of breaking their commitments, and threatened to review their contracts. LUKoil called for sanctions to be lifted to enable it to honour its agreement.
Iraq has put at $30 billion the amount of investment needed to develop its oil sector, of which $15 billion is to go to new fields to enable it to double its production capacity to six million barrels per day.
The Russian delegation arrived in Baghdad Saturday on a direct flight from Moscow, for which it did not request UN authorisation, the first flight to the newly opened Saddam International airport.
Iraqi Vice President Tareq Aziz praised Russia Thursday for the flight to Baghdad, saying, "This flight reflects the higher level of relations between the two countries."
The UN security council is divided over the interpretation of embargo resolutions on Iraq. The United States and Britain maintain that the resolutions include an air embargo on Iraq, while France says nothing bans the transport of passengers to Iraq, so long as they are not engaged in economic or financial transactions. – (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)