Russia Will Continue Economic Interaction With Iraqi Kurdistan

Russia has swiftly become the top funder of Iraqi Kurdish oil and gas deals, with as much as $4 billion pledged in less than a year, industry sources say
Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani (L) in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg in June.Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani (L) in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg in June.

Russia will continue economic interaction with Iraqi Kurdistan in coordination with authorities in Baghdad, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Sputnik on Saturday.

“We have been doing this, are doing and will be further doing this, but, for sure, in coordination with the Iraqi government,” Bogdanov said, commenting on future relations with Erbil.

During the referendum on independence that was held on September 25, the Iraqi Kurds voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence with the final percentage of those who voted yes exceeding 90%.

Iraqi authorities say the referendum was not legitimate and stress that they would not conduct talks with the authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan on the issue of the vote.

Baghdad has also taken a number of measures to prevent the region from declaring independence. Earlier this week, the Iraqi parliament gave a mandate to the prime minister to deploy troops in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

Russia has repeatedly voiced strong support for Iraq’s territorial integrity in the wake of the referendum.

Iraqi Kurdistan, a landlocked region, shares borders with Syria, Iran and Turkey, all of which oppose the referendum, along with the central government in Baghdad.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow was managing its relationship with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region with great care given the escalation of tensions following the Sep. 25 referendum, Kurdistan 24 reported.

Speaking at the 2017 Russian Energy Week forum in Moscow, Putin affirmed that Russia was pursuing a policy of “non-interference” and carefully managing its ties with Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad to avoid encouraging any further instability in the region.

He stressed that it was not in the interest of anyone to halt the Kurdistan Region’s oil exports which are shipped via pipeline and through Turkey’s Ceyhan port to international oil markets.

His speech came as Turkey has threatened to shut down the Kurdistan Region’s Ceyhan pipeline, currently the source of over 90% of the Region’s revenue.

Following the Kurdistan Region’s referendum, relations between Erbil, the seat of Kurdish Regional Government and Baghdad have deteriorated.

During a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on September 28, Putin said, “We believe that all disputes that may exist between the Iraqi federal government and the government of the autonomous Kurdish Region can and should be solved through constructive and respectful dialogue, with a view to devising a mutually acceptable formula of coexistence within a single Iraqi state.”

On Tuesday, Russian Minister of Energy, Alexander Novak indicated that Russia had no intention to scale back its investments and operations in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“Russia will continue to work with the Kurdistan Region and will maintain its operations, mainly in the energy sector, in the Region,” he said.

According to Reuters, Russia has swiftly become the top funder of Kurdish oil and gas deals, with as much as $4 billion pledged in less than a year, industry sources say.

In mid September, Russian state oil giant Rosneft announced its latest investment to help Iraqi Kurdistan develop its natural gas industry, for domestic supplies and eventual export.

The full value of the deal has not been disclosed officially, but according to industry sources familiar with it, it is worth more than $1 billion.

It is Rosneft’s third giant venture in the Kurdish region since February, transforming Moscow from an outsider with little profile in Kurdistan into the region’s biggest source of cash.

Publicly, Moscow says it supports Iraq’s territorial integrity while also recognizing the aspirations of the Kurds for a homeland.

“We are interested that the Kurdish people like any other nation on the planet can fulfill its hopes and aspirations,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in July. “We start from the fact that the legitimate aspirations of the Kurds, like other peoples, need to be fulfilled within the framework of existing international legal norms.”

Russia, meanwhile, is looking for more friends in the Middle East after returning in force to the region with a decisive military intervention in Syria. Its main regional allies are Iran and the Syria of President Bashar al-Assad, and having friends in Kurdish territory, located between Syria, Iran and Turkey, would be geopolitically useful.


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