12/17/2019, 19.03
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Syria reaches deal with Russia over oil exploration

Syria’s parliament approved contracts signed in early 2019 with Russia’s Mercury LLC and Velada LLC. Syria’s oil minister says his country’s strategy is to boost ties with "friendly nations", i.e. Russia and Iran. At stake are disputed areas in north-eastern Syria held by the US with Kurdish help.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Syrian oil, much coveted by the United States, is also on Russia’s bucket list.

Moscow, Damascaus’s main main ally in eight years of civil war, is already one of its most important economic and trading partners, especially in view of sanctions against the Syrian regime.

Recently, Syria’s parliament approved contracts for oil exploration with two Russian companies, to boost output.

State news agency SANA said the deals cover exploration and production in three blocs, including an oilfield in northeastern Syria, scene of Turkey’s recent offensive and also desired by Ankara, and a gas field north of the capital Damascus.

The contracts, voted by parliament on Monday, were signed earlier this year with two Russian firms it identified as Mercury LLC and Velada LLC.

Syrian Oil Minister Ali Ghanem said handing contracts to these companies was in line with the government’s strategy “towards friendly states that stood by Syria, with Russia and Iran at the forefront.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is also looking at its allies to play a role in reconstruction.

Before the war broke out, Syria produced around 380,000 barrels of oil per day. When fighting started oil fields came under the control of by US-backed Kurds who seized swathes of northern and eastern Syria from the Islamic State group with US help.

After Washington said that it would control local oil in violation of international law, anti-US attitudes rose in Syria.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that, despite announcements of a pullout, the US was going to keep a presence "where they have oil".

Around 600 US troops - which Damascus describes as “invaders” – are still present after withdrawal and repositioning. The area holds an estimated 2.5 billion barrels of oil.

The Russian government has repeated accused the United States of guaranteeing the illegal sale of Syrian oil thanks to its military presence.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government is forced to import oil from abroad.

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