Russia’s consul-general in Erbil Oleg Levin said Wednesday that the Kurdistan Region and Russia should work together to make the most of the Region’s rich natural resources.
In an interview with Rudaw TV’s Shahyan Tahsin aired late Friday, Levin said that Kurdistan Region’s economy is mainly dependent on oil, adding that Russia’s experts can help the Region make use of other resources.
“Regarding the economy in the Kurdistan Region, it is often focused on oil. This is important, but it is not enough. There are many natural resources in Kurdistan, such as water and other [resources] that we must take advantage of and use,” Levin said.
The Region must work in the direction of having a “strong non-oil economy, especially in the fields of energy, electricity generation, irrigation, and others,” he said.
“The Russians have expertise. We have to look for points of understanding on how to extract mutual benefits from the projects,” Levin added.
Russian oil companies Rosneft and Gazprom work in many oil fields across the Kurdistan Region.
Rosneft signed a deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in October 2017 to develop five oil blocks containing an estimated 670 million barrels of oil. The blocks are primarily located in northwestern parts of the Kurdistan Region.
The Russian giant’s entry into Kurdistan Region’s energy sector was a lifeline to the KRG, which was struggling under the weight of a financial crisis and disastrous relations with Baghdad after the September 2017 independence referendum.
Gazprom refused to leave the Region when Islamic State (ISIS) attacked areas close to the oilfields.
The Kurdistan Region exports around 600,000 barrels of oil per day.
The Region is in the midst of a financial crisis following a global drop in oil prices, a lack of federal funding from Baghdad, and the current battle to prop up the health system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Masour Barzani said late May that his government made only $30 million from oil exports in April.
Iraq’s newly-inaugurated Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi told journalists on Thursday that Iraq has failed to develop a “real economy” over the last two decades due to mismanagement, corruption and reliance on oil revenues.