The 16-18 of June in St. Petersburg hosted an international economic forum, one of the participants of which was a solid Kurdish delegation as presented by the Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan Nechirvan Barzani. 16 June Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed with N. Barzani the development of economic relations and the continuation of the fight against the terrorist group Islamic State (an organization banned in the Russian Federation).
On June 17, a representative of the Iraqi Kurds met with the Chairman of the Federation Council, Valentina Matvienko, during the second day of the economic forum in St. Petersburg. V. Matvienko noted the “special character” of interaction with Iraqi Kurdistan and the security of the region that is distinctive from the neighboring regions.
It should be noted that at the present stage Russia and Kurdistan are united by rather close and mutually beneficial relations. The Consulate General of Russia has been opened in the city of Erbil (the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan). The parties make contacts in the field of education, science and culture, scholarships are annually provided to Iraqi Kurds in Russian universities. Since 2008, the Russian State Voice of Russia (broadcasting in Kurdish in Iraqi Kurdistan) has been operating. In addition, representatives of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Kurdistan Regional Government work in Russia on a permanent basis (by the way, Russia is the second country to open a representative office. An event with an impressive start, but, unfortunately, without an equally worthy active continuation).
The visit to Erbil of representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Russia in May 2008, which took place in May 2010, was of great importance in strengthening relations between Russia and Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Primakov, highly respected in Iraqi Kurdistan. Another landmark was a visit to Russia in May XNUMX by the Secretary of the Politburo of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan Fazil Mirani, who at a round table expressed his point of view on the parliamentary elections held in Iraq and interest in the further development of bilateral relations.
An additional impetus to the interaction of the parties was given by the visit to Russia in February 2013 of the President of Southern Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, who was received by the President of Russia V. V. Putin. M. Barzani held talks with Russian Foreign Minister S. V. Lavrov and Gazprom CEO A. B. Miller. A number of Russian state and private companies have shown interest in working with Kurdish colleagues.
A new impulse in the environment of bilateral relations took place on December 23 2015, during the visit of the Chairman of the Kurdish party "Democratic Party of Peoples", defending the rights of Kurds and other minorities in Turkey, Selahattin Demirtas to Moscow. It should be noted that it is precisely due to the participation of this party in the parliamentary elections in Turkey 7.06.2015 of the year that the ruling Justice and Development Party of the RT Erdogan for the first time in 13 years did not gain an absolute majority of votes in Parliament. This was one of the starting points that led to the destabilization of Kurdish-Turkish relations. During the meeting, S. Lavrov officially confirmed the Russian side’s readiness to work closely with ethnic Kurds fighting against the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria. S. Demirtas, in turn, condemned the Turkish Air Force’s shelling of the Russian SU-24 aircraft.
10 February 2016 hosted the opening of the representative office of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party in Moscow (Anna Glazov, deputy director of the Institute for Strategic Studies, during the opening of the  representative office: “The Kurds are our absolute allies in the fight against ISIL, and the opening of this representation will contribute to ensure that we coordinate our efforts more closely precisely in the fight against this threat ”).
In addition to political and cultural interaction, there is also energy cooperation. Currently, a Russian subsidiary of Gazprom operates in Kurdistan, a branch of Gazprom Neft (its oriented Middle East division of Gazprom Neft Middle East).
Gazprom Neft has been working in Iraq since 2010, and is participating in the implementation of four projects, three of which are located in Southern Kurdistan. The company's first project was to participate in the development of the Badra field, located in the province of Wassit. On pixc.1 you can see the location of the main companies in Kurdistan (blue blog - Gazprom Neft blog).
Fig. 1. Oil blocks in Iraqi Kurdistan (the color indicates the location of the activities of the most significant state-owned companies
In May, 2014 began oil production at the field. The company has signed production sharing agreements (PSAs) with the Kurdistan Regional Government regarding the Garmian and Shakal blocks located in the south-west of Kurdistan .
Gazprom Neft Middle East owns shares in Halabja, Shakal and Garmian blocks. The share of Gazprom Neft in the Halabja and Shakal blocks is 80% (the rest is from the government of the Kurdish region). The share of Gazprom Neft in the Garmian block is 40%. Additional exploration of the open field and preparation for its full-scale development continues on the block. Currently, the government of the Kurdish region is considering a development plan for the block.
In 2012, the Iraqi energy companies had a conflict with official Baghdad related to these projects. The Iraqi authorities demanded that Gazprom Neft (GPN) withdraw from Kurdistan, otherwise threatening to deny access to Badr. To which Russian representatives reported that the company continues exploration work at the licensed sites of Halabja, Shakal and Garmian.
In the Garmian block, GPN is already producing at the Sarqala field, where the cumulative production amounts to about 2,9 million barrels of oil.
In October, 2015, Russia, in a joint venture with Canadian company Western-Zagros Resources, an operator at the Sarqala field (Garmian block), produced the first million barrels of commercial oil . The first oil in the Sarqala field (Garmian block) was produced in the 2011 year, as part of pilot work and reservoir testing. Commercial mining began in February 2015. Production at the Sarqala-1 well is about 5 thousand barrels of oil per day.
Since 13 in March 2016, Gazprom Neft Middle East has taken over the Sarqala field (Garmian block) located in the Kurdish region of the Republic of Iraq. Transmission has taken place in accordance with the production sharing agreement signed in 2012. Previously, Canadian company Western-Zagros Resources Ltd. was the project operator. Currently, work at the field is carried out by the staff of Gazprom Neft Middle East .
In addition to the production program, Gazprom Neft is implementing a complex of socio-economic initiatives in the Kurdish region of the Republic of Iraq, one of which is the specialized scholarship program for Kurdish youth, the Gazprom Neft Middle East Scholarship Program. Within the framework of this socially significant project, the most talented students can get a profile higher education at the Mining University of St. Petersburg with the possibility of further employment in the company's new Middle Eastern assets.
As V. Matvienko noted, Russian-Kurdish cooperation is indeed “special” in nature, due to the relative security of the Kurdish region, favorable investment conditions and the reliability of the Kurdish partner. Kurds are positively inclined to cooperate with the Russian business environment. And Russia's attitude towards the Kurds is multifaceted and complex, deeply historical and due to modern realities, it demonstrates a whole combination of various factors (economic interactions, political upheavals, etc.). And, also, it is perfectly identifies an unobtrusive (but no less significant) fact: on the vehicles provided for the Kurdish delegation by the Russian side in the already mentioned forum in St. Petersburg, the flag of Kurdistan was waving with the inscription "Country of Kurdistan" .
Author: Jamila Kochoyan, Political Journalist, IA Riataza
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