ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Russia will continue to work with the Kurdistan Region and will maintain its operations, mainly in the energy sector, in the Region, the Energy Minister said on Tuesday.
Russian Minister of Energy, Alexander Novak, while answering a Kurdistan 24 correspondent’s question at a press conference in Moscow, indicated that Russia had no intention to scale back its investments and operations in the Kurdistan Region.
When asked if the Sep. 25 independence referendum would affect Russia’s relationship with the Kurdish area, Novak replied it would not.
“Russian gas companies are operating and will continue to operate in the Region.”
In the aftermath of the poll, Iraq’s Federal Government imposed a flight ban over the Kurdistan Region, while neighbors Iran and Turkey threatened sanctions, some of which have already been implemented. Tehran has stopped its oil exports to the Region and Ankara has threatened to close the crucial Cihan pipeline by which the Kurdistan Region exports its oil.
While Moscow has expressed it remains in favor of a unified Iraq, it has noted the issue of independence, as Russian President Vladimir Putin explained it over the summer, was an internal matter between Baghdad and Erbil. “We will not interfere in the domestic affairs of Iraq,” he had then said.
The Kremlin also recognized the Kurds’ ambitions. “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 was the only major power not to call on the Kurdistan Region to cancel its referendum. In the lead-up to the vote, state-owned gas giant Rosneft announced it would invest in natural gas pipelines in the Region.
Earlier this summer, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Rosneft signed a series of long-term agreements to widen cooperation in the Kurdistan Region’s oil sector, including exploration and production of hydrocarbons, commerce, and logistics.
Rosneft's spokesman had then described its understandings with the KRG as “a strategic investment in one of the most strategically developing regions.”
Rosneft competitor Gazprom Neft is working on three oil projects in Kurdistan, where it is mostly engaged in exploration, and also signaled it was interested in expanding operations.
According to the industry sources, Rosneft’s deals since it first arrived in Kurdistan last December are worth around $4 billion in total.
Editing by G.H. Renaud
(Additional reporting by Khoshawi Mohammed)