ST PETERSBURG, Russia – A senior Kurdish delegation headed by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is visiting Russia on Wednesday to take part in the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).
The Kurdish delegation also includes the Deputy PM Qubad Talabani and the Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami, Rudaw’s correspondent Hevidar Ahmed reported.
Earlier in the month the Russian foreign ministry revealed that PM Barzani and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet on the sidelines of the forum that is planned to take place from Thursday to Saturday.
Ahmed added that the delegation is to meet with Russian companies, and is expected to sign new deals.
The Kurdish delegation “seeks to encourage Moscow to more actively invest in Kurdistan's oil and gas industry,” Diyar Amin, a political advisor to deputy head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party Nechirvan Barzani told the Russian media, according to Russia's Sputnik news agency.
Amin reportedly added that Erbil intends to exchange intelligence information in light of the war against the ISIS group. Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been involved in nearly three-year long fight against the extremist group, mainly with the support of the US-led Global Coalition against ISIS.
The SPIEF is a key global platform for business representatives to communicate and discus crucial economic issues.
Earlier in February, the Kurdistan Regional Government signed a pre-financed contract with Russia’s state oil company Rosneft for the export of Kurdish crude oil. The landmark deal became the first time the Kurdistan Region crude oil were to ship directly to a major oil refiner, a KRG official with knowledge of the deal told Rudaw.
Rosneft plans to buy the Kurdish crude until 2019.
Russia’s state oil company announced the deal as part of the International Petroleum Week conference held in London, the official said, without giving details about the volume or the monetary value of the deal due to commercial confidentiality.
Gazprom, the giant Russian oil and gas firm, has a product-sharing contract (PSC) with the Kurdish government for oil explorations in blocks in Halabja and Shakal.
A KRG delegation to the forum last year headed by PM Barzani met with the CEO of Gazprom Alexander Dyukov. A statement then published by the Kurdish government said that Gazprom affirmed it will continue its investment s in the oil and gas sector of the Kurdistan Region, and will try to expand their field in the future.
Russia maintains a consulate general in the Kurdistan Region’s capital of Erbil. Last year, Moscow said it had supplied Kurdish forces with arms and ammunition for their fight against the ISIS.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story described Diyar Amin as the political advisor to President Masoud Barzani as was cited by the Russian media. He is in fact an advisor to the office of Nechirvan Barzani who is the deputy head of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).