9 Jun 2017

Bahraini Ambassador to Russia Ahmed Al-Saati: I think oil production freeze agreement will be extended for another year

Bahraini Ambassador to Russia Ahmed Abdulrahman Al Saati has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the prolongation of the decision of OPEC and non-OPEC countries to freeze oil output, prospects of energy cooperation between Bahrain and Russia, bilateral military-technical cooperation and prospects for resuming diplomatic relations with Iran.

Question: Could you please comment on the decision of OPEC and non-OPEC countries on the freeze of oil output?

Answer: Of course, it is a significant deal to agree between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers, which will help to support the oil price and production. As you know, we had a very successful year to maintain the price since July 2016 to 2017. This agreement, of course, will support stabilizing oil prices for the coming year, giving a chance to all oil producing countries to fix their budgets and to maintain their development projects. Bahrain is very minor producer of oil, but we are supporting this deal, and hopefully the visit of the oil minister of Saudi Arabia to Moscow recently - and also the Saudi deputy crown prince meeting with Mr. Putin on the same day – will support this agreement, because this agreement is very important for us, for Russia, for Saudi Arabia and other producers.

Q.: The Russian and Saudi Arabian energy ministers earlier said they wanted more countries to join this agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC countries. Do you know what countries did they mean?

A.: I think it is important for us to have Iran stick to the production, to not exceed. It is very important for us. Also, other countries like Brazil and maybe India, because they are non-OPEC, but in general I think that we need all oil producers cooperate. And of course the main producers [] the United States as the oil producer, as they have a significant effect on the oil price and oil production on the market. So it is important for us.
It is important for the stability and security of the world that the oil price should be stable for another year, so that most of the countries can implement their program and finance their budgets, because deficit happened to the budgets of some countries and created so many crises inside the countries.

Q.: Is it important to prolong the agreement for another period, be it six months, nine months or one year?

A.: I think they will reach an agreement to extend it for one more year, because I expect that the oil price might rise maybe a few dollars in the coming period, because [] winter is coming, so there will be a high demand for oil. In general, we are looking for a fair price for oil. This agreement is ensuring a fair price for a producer and for a consumer, so for both sides.

Q.: Let me switch now to bilateral cooperation between Russia and Bahrain. What is your assessment of bilateral cooperation in economic and trade spheres? And what are the prospects for cooperation in the oil, gas and energy spheres?

A.: The level of cooperation is very high between our two countries in the sphere of oil and gas and energy in general. We have signed so many agreements between the two governments on exploration of oil both off the shore and on the shore, and also to import gas from Russia to the Gulf region. There is a joint committee now meeting frequently in Manama and in Moscow to exchange information and data. I think we are continuing this cooperation as Russia has very good experience and knowledge in the sphere of gas and oil and exploration. Also, Bahrain is a potential market for oil and gas.
Another aspect is that we have cooperation in trade and business and also in culture and tourism. We are picking up the relationship since the visit of His Majesty, the King of Bahrain last September, and we are working on how to implement all the agreements we reached. One of them is that we decided to give Russian citizens entry visas upon arrival to the airport for approximately $12, allowing them to stay for four week in Bahrain with a possibility to renew visas. We visited the St. Petersburg forum with a big delegation to meet all officials from governmental bodies and oil companies and banks to discuss how to establish joint venture companies or to encourage investors from both sides - Russian investors to Bahrain and Bahraini investors to Russia. We are working very hard to make trade exchange rate higher than the existing. I am very optimistic, because we have good will from both governments.

Q.: Not long ago Russia‘s Zarubezhneft was ready take part in different project in Bahrain and participate in different tenders. What is the situation now? Is it taking part in any tender in Bahrain?

A.: Yes, we actually have hosted almost six oil companies in the Geo exhibition and conference held in Bahrain this year. There is so many understanding between oil companies in Bahrain and those companies.
It is a long-term business in the oil sphere – not only with one company. We had the Rosneft chairman in Bahrain this April, and we discussed also how to work together in different spheres. We met Tatneft in St. Petersburg to see their experience in drilling a new oil well. They have a good knowledge and experience - something called 3D exploration. We are very interested in this. This is promising, and we are working day by day with oil companies.

Q.: Is Bahrain interested in expanding military-technical cooperation with Russia? And what types of Russian arms is Bahrain interested in?

A.: Currently, we have an agreement with Rosobornexport and the Ministry of Defense to exchange information and training. There is an understanding between both sides for military officers to have maximum benefit of the relationship in the military sphere. Russia is very advanced in weapons and military, we would like to get the benefit of that. We also invited Rosobonexport and so many military companies to participate in defense conference and exhibition which will be held in Bahrain [on October 16-18] this year. Hopefully, we will receive so many companies to exhibit and to present their products and military services to the region. We are also hosting an air show in 2018, and also we are hosting every year Russian aircraft and air forces participating in this exhibition. We will take part in Moscow – you have a big air show [MAKS 2017]. We booked a stand to promote Bahrain and to make a deal with Russian companies.
With regard to business, we have two important events coming. Those are a Russian-Gulf meeting of industry and trade ministers of both sides that will take place in Yekaterinburg in July. This is the first meeting between both sides to discuss how to improve trade and industry business with Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which consists of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar. The other thing is that we will have a joint council meeting between Bahrain and Russia at the end of July. We have these joint council meetings every year of representatives of chambers of commerce of both sides with businessmen to discuss the potential business and mutual projects.

Q.: How do you evaluate prospects of solving the Syrian conflict? What is the position of Bahrain on the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?

A.: Actually, Bahrain is supporting the settlement of the Syrian crisis according to United Nations resolutions. With regard to Bashar al-Assad, it depends on the Syrian people to decide, because it is a matter related to them. We do not want any interference of the internal crisis, we ask the superpowers – the United States and Russia - to agree on the settlement of this crisis as soon as possible and to rescue innocent people in Syria and to deliver humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. This is our opinion of the Syrian process.

Q.: Bahrain closed their embassies in Tehran last year. Are there plans to reopen the embassy?

A.: The embassy was closed for the reason that the Iranian government interfered with our internal issues and supported some extremists and used a diplomatic way to disrespect the neighborhood between Bahrain and Iran. This had lasted for several years. In the end we did not find any solution but to hold the relationship temporarily until we get guaranteed that the Iranian side respects our sovereignty and territory and does not interfere in our issues. It is upon Iran. If they respect and the international law, if they do not interfere, if they don‘t support extremists, don‘t send terrorists against my country, of course we can reconsider the issue. But currently we see no positive signal from the Iranian side.