By Ilya Kharlamov
Russia and Iraq are prepared to develop a ‘roadmap’ of bilateral cooperation in all fields, from the energy sector to the humanitarian sphere, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced during a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki in Moscow.
The Iraqi prime minister’s visit at the head of an imposing delegation of representatives of business and the authorities shows Moscow’s and Baghdad’s serious intentions to restore full-scale economic relations after the end of a conflict in that country.
Ten years ago, Iraq was one of Russia’s main trade and economic partners in the Middle East. The situation changed radically after the US and its NATO allies arrived in the region.
Since 2003, Russia’s losses due to the termination of cooperation with Iraq have exceeded $8bln. It seems to be high time to change the situation. Traditionally warm relations between our two countries will promote further friendship, Dmitry Medvedev said addressing the Iraqi prime minister:
“I am happy about our new meeting. Russians value our historical friendship with Iraqi people in spite of the dramatic events in recent years. We continue summit contacts and this will undoubtedly promote further friendship, cooperation and mutual understanding between Russia an Iraq. The current visit is part and parcel of this agenda.”
In turn, Nouri al-Maliki stressed Moscow’s and Baghdad’s readiness to develop and consolidate bilateral cooperation:
“Russian-Iraqi relations used to be very close and strong in the past and I am convinced they will continue to be the same in the future. Today, Iraq carries out an active policy of strengthening relations with friendly countries. The Iraqi delegation consists of representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Defence Ministry, the Ministries of Trade, Oil and Energy. All these are potential spheres for cooperation with Russia”.
If we speak facts, the Russian Lukoil company has won a contract for the development of the West Qurna-2 oil field. The contract stipulates reaching an output of 95mln tons of oil a year. The industrial production is due to start in 2014. An international consortium with the participation of Russian Gazprom Neft will carry out the exploration and production of oil in other Iraqi regions. In addition, the sides have agreed on a number of promising projects in electric power. As for partnership in defence technology, this year RosOboronExport signed contracts with Iraq worth over $4bln. Russia is also prepared to develop projects for delivering commercial aircraft to Iraq and training Iraqi personnel.
Even prior to Nouri al-Maliki’s visit, sources in Baghdad pointed out that the talks prove that the Iraqi authorities intend to diversify their economic and political relations and reject US control over their activities.