9 Sep 2009 14:48

Russia, Iraq agree to closer cooperation in fuel and energy sector

MOSCOW. Sept 9 (Interfax) - Russia and Iraq agreed to promote closer cooperation in the fuel and energy sector during Russian officials' recent visit to Baghdad, the Russian Energy Ministry said in a press release on Wednesday.

Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko held negotiations with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who confirmed his country's interest in advancing bilateral cooperation "in a wide variety of areas," the press release said.

Shmatko gave al-Maliki a letter from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in which he assured the Iraqi authorities that the Russian government attaches great importance to the development of bilateral relations.

After their talks, the two countries' officials also agreed to work together to improve the operations of Iraq's Yousifiya and Dibis thermal power plants, as well as to build the Kirkuk gas pipeline.

They also decided to set up a working group in charge of drafting a joint report on the possibilities of bilateral cooperation in the oil sector.

"We have considerable international experience regarding the implementation of projects to develop deposits and to create the energy sector's appropriate transport and production infrastructure. We have plenty to offer our Iraqi partners," Shmatko said.

Russia "has received a clear signal from the Iraqi government that Russian oil companies are welcome in Iraq," the Russian minister said.

"Russian companies have the utmost potential to cooperate in developing the electricity generating sector, in modernizing existing capacities and in building new ones," he said.

It was the first visit of a Russian delegation to Iraq in six years. Russian officials traveled to Iraq on September 7, following orders from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The delegation was led by Energy Minister Shmatko and included representatives of Rosneft , Zarubezhneft, Lukoil , TNK-BP, Soyuzneftegaz and Technopromexport.