Was LUKOIL offered in sacrifice to the large-scale politics?
Both, Russian and Iraqi authorities are actively pretending that nothing actually came between them. Forget that the Russian oil company was driven out of Iraq. After all, it wasn’t in vain that Iraq’s officials declared that the Russian oil company did nothing at all at the Iraqi oil field. Does it mean that LUKOIL is guilty of the expulsion itself?
Iraq's government officially offered Russia to designate some other oil company for development of the West Qurna-2 oilfield in Iraq. The INA news agency circulated the statement of the Iraqi authorities. As it is declared in the statement, “Iraq designed the West Qurna-2 oilfield especially for the Russian Federation based on the continuous historical relations which satisfy the interests of both nations.” But Iraqis don’t want to work with Russia’s LUKOIL any more, as they declare that “the Russian company refused to carry out its contract commitments.” In this connection, the Iraqi authorities ask Russia “to designate an alternative company or companies which would be able to carry out these commitments.”
We should admit that the manner in which the problem is posed is somewhat paradoxical. We all remember that the sanctions imposed by the UN became the main obstacle in the relations between Iraq’s officials and LUKOIL representatives. In accordance with the regime of the sanctions, practically all works, including preparation of oil wells and test oil production, are prohibited in the West Qurna-2 oilfield. For instance, preparation of oil wells for work requires explosive materials which are banned for import in Iraq. Russia’s LUKOIL, which closely observes the sanctions regime, did no works as provided by the sanctions. Iraq’s authorities, in their turn demanded that oil production must be started, which would certainly mean violation of the UN sanctions. Does it mean that this time Iraq asks to send some other Russian oil company that would be more compliant and ready to break the sanctions as soon as the Iraqi authorities ask it? These facts don’t agree with each other at all.
However, Russia’s Foreign Ministry is occupied with other geopolitical objectives and seems to be not embarrassed with such trifles. Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said yesterday: “Russia sees no reasons to join a probable operation against Iraq.” The minister thinks that Russian-American cooperation concerning the Iraqi problem is as follows: “Russia and the USA have a common basis for work; the main objective is to make Iraq observe the UN Security Council resolutions.” Igor Ivanov said in an interview to Russia’s television ORT: “The main objective is to make so that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. All other objectives are beyond our interests.” We should mention that this position radically differs from that ascribed to the RF Foreign Ministry in foreign mass media, where generally believed that Russia unconditionally supports the USA concerning the Iraqi problem. Nothing of the kind! The statements declared by Igor Ivanov reveals that Russia still adheres to its opinion, and even the incident with LUKOIL didn’t shatter Russia’s position at all.
And what about LUKOIL? When journalists asked the minister about the incident between the Russian oil company and the Iraqi authorities, Igor Ivanov said that “the expulsion from Qurna” was the problem of LUKOIL itself. In his words, “the problem emerged two or three years ago and has no direct connection with the present-day situation.” In fact, this answer sounds rather strange, as Iraq voiced its claims to LUKOIL only now, when the menace of America’s attack at Iraq is absolutely evident. Until recently, the Iraqi authorities and the oil company actually had several disputes, but they never went too far. LUKOIL quietly remained in Iraq and did its minor affairs at the oilfield. It may easily seem that Moscow is even happy because of LUKOIL’s fiasco in Iraq.
Let's wait and see which company Russia will offer to Iraq instead of LUKOIL. If we look at the situation closer, we would see that the state-run company Rosneft is the best candidate in this case. The company is currently indignant at it’s recent debarring from the auction concerning sale of the Slavneft oil company. It is likely that Rosneft must consider the West Qurna oilfield an adequate compensation for its loss of Slavneft.
Dmitry Slobodanuk PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://economics.pravda.ru/economics/2002/7/21/64/4730_LukoilIraq.html
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