Russia and Iraq hold 'fruitful' talks on energy co-operation

Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, and his acting Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov have held talks in Moscow and signed a memorandum of understanding. Both described the talks as 'fruitful'.

Iraq’s $US 12 BLN debt to Russia and the upcoming inter-governmental meeting in Istanbul in October were in focus. Iran’s nuclear programme and the situation in the Middle East were also discussed.

Iraq sees Russia as a guarantor of the Middle East process. Russia, for its part, has reiterated its commitment to mediation of national reconciliation in Iraq.

“Russia seeks to ensure national dialogue in Iraq and is looking to achieve national reconciliation in the country,” said Russia’s acting Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, after the meeting.

But resuming energy co-operation between the two countries dominated the talks.

Later, Hoshyar Zebari will meet Russian Industry and Energy Minister, Viktor Khristenko, and Lukoil President, Vagit Alekperov.

Previously, Russia occupied a favourable position on the Iraqi energy market, working very hard to make its presence felt there. For example, 43% of Iraqi oil was purchased by Russia in 1999 under the UN ‘Oil for Food’ programme.

From now on, according to Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, who visited Moscow in August, Russian companies will have to compete for Iraqi oil amongst the others.

According to Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, Mikhail Kamynin, the talks are also to examine progress in implementing decisions taken at a meeting in Iraq, held in Sharm El Sheikh in May, 2007