Bagdad sees no problems with Russian oil companies working in Kurdistan if constitution observed

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that Iraq intended to settle the problems Russian oil company Gazprom Neft was facing in the country.

"We'll address this issue," Zebari said in an interview with the Voice of Russia radio station in response to a report saying that Gazprom Neft's wish to work in both Iraq and Kurdistan was opposed by the Iraqi federal center due to its discontent with direct contacts with Kurds.

"The Iraqi delegation headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki discussed possible cooperation during the visit to Moscow in autumn 2012. The Russian side has given assurances that your companies would cooperate with all Iraqi regions on the basis of our country's laws and constitution," Zebari said.

"Kurdistan is an Iraqi region. Natural resources of this region, as well as other regions in Iraq, are to serve the people's interests. If this company doesn't violate the Iraqi constitution, and I stress if it doesn't violate, then it can work. And I repeat that the Russian side has promised us it will not violate the constitution," the Iraqi foreign minister said.

"Both sides [regional authorities and federal government] proceed from the constitution text but everyone has their own interpretation of some regulations. In any case, the main thing is that any activities in Iraq are transparent and the central government is aware of them," Zebari said.

In response to an opinion that the working environment for foreign companies is much better in Kurdistan than in other Iraqi regions, Zebari said: "This is indeed an issue. While the north has production-sharing agreements on dividing production with foreign companies, the rest of Iraq has simple service agreements."

"Many foreign businessmen say that the investment climate in Iraq leaves much to be desired. We are working to improve it, special working groups are operating. But we've received a difficult legacy from the previous regime. It's hard to get rid of it," the Iraqi minister said.

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