Syria inks oil, gas deal with Russia firm: Report

Syria inks oil, gas deal with Russia firm: Report
Thu Dec 26, 2013 08:52:11

Damascus signed an oil and gas deal with a Russian company Wednesday which will allow for the first-ever exploration off Syria's coast.

The agreement was signed by Syrian Oil Minister Suleiman Abbas, Syria's General Petroleum Company and the Russian Soyuzneftegaz company, according to an AFP reporter present at the signing.

The deal permits the exploration of an area of 2,190 square kilometers (850 square miles) in the Mediterranean.

The contract "is the first ever for oil and gas exploration in Syria's waters," General Petroleum Company head Ali Abbas told AFP.

"It will be financed by Russia, and should oil and gas be discovered in commercial quantities, Moscow will recover the exploration costs."

Oil Minister Abbas said during the signing ceremony that the contract covers "25 years, over several phases," adding that "the cost of exploration and discovery is $100 million."

Hard-hit by Western-led sanctions, Syria's oil production has plummeted by 90 percent since the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.

Gas production has also dived to 16.7 million cubic meters a day from 30 million before the war broke out, according to official figures.

The Syrian oil ministry said the new accord comes "after months of long negotiations" between Damascus and Moscow.

Russia is one of Assad's main backers, as well as a key proponent of peace talks slated for January in Switzerland.

According to the United Nations, more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the turmoil that has gripped Syria for over two years.

Two million more Syrians are expected to take refuge outside the country while another 2.25 million are predicted to be internally displaced next year.

Several international human rights organizations have said that the militants operating in Syria are committing war crimes.

According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.


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