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RF prez, Iraqi PM to discuss ways to step up bilateral relations

October 10, 2012, 4:45 UTC+3

To develop cooperation in the oil and gas sector,and the electric power industry remains a priority in the two countries' relations

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MOSCOW, October 10 (Itar-Tass) — Russian President Vladimir Putin is to hold talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki here on Wednesdady.

The Kremlin press service reported that during the talks the sides are expected to devote main attention to the consideration of ways to step up bilateral relations in the political, trade-and-economic, military-technical, educational and other fields.

It is expectedy that possibilities for boosting trade-and-econopmi interaction will be the cenral subject of discussion at the talks. The scope of this cooperation is not so far up to the potential of the economies of the two countries despite the substantial positive dynamism. In 2011, bilateral trade turnover ran at $156.1 million (a 45.2 increase as compared with that in 2010). Reciprocal trade more than doubled from January to July this year as compared with that in the corresponding period of 2011.

The activities of the Intergovernmental commission (IGC) are expected to contribute to the accomplishment of the task of stepping up goods turnover. A regular session of the IGC is to be held in Baghdad in November-December.

Special emphasis during the talks is expected to be laid on prospects for the broadening of Russian companies' participation in the implementation of large-scale projects in Iraq, primarily those in the energy sector.

To develop cooperation in the oil and gas sector,and the electric power industry remains a priority in the two countries' relations. Such large Russian companies as the OAO (public joint-stock company) Lukoil (it won a contract to develop the West Qurna-2 oilfield), Gazpromneft (as part of a consortium it won a contract to develop Badra oilfield), the OAO ANK Bashneft, the OAO Zarubezhneft, ZAO (private joint-stock company) Gidromashservice, the OAO Technopromexport, the OAO Inter RAO Energy Systems, and others operate in Iraq.

The talks will also traditionally include an exchange of views on matters ofcurrent importance concerning regional and international agenda. The sides will focus, of course, on the developments in the Middle East and the situation in Syria.

Russia's and Iraq's positions on ways towards settling the Syrian crisis are similar, a Kremlin press service official pointed out. Russia is well aware of Iraq's concern over the danger of interethnic and interconfessional enmity spreading over to the regiong, primarily to countries that neighbour on Syria.

Besides, Russia and Iraq actively develop cooperation in the field of technical military cooperaiton. In particular, the two counties signed a number of contracts, worth more than $4.2 billion, in the second half of the year.

Putin and al-Maliki are also expected to touch upon humanitarian cooperation, in the field of education, in particular. Considering the importance of the training of national personnel for Iraq, the Russian side enlarged the quota of state scholarshsips up to 150 seats, beginning from the 2010/2011 academic year. Additionally, 75 Iraqi candidates got an opporrunity to study at Russian institutions of higher learning within the scope of the right granted to universities in 2011 independently to enrol foreign citizens at the expense of the Federal budget resources. At the request of the Iraqi partners, several groups of Iraqi Foreign Minsitry staff members underwent advanced training at the Diplomatic University of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Septemeb-November 2010 and in November-December 2011.

The Iraqi Prime Minister held talks with Russian Head of Government Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday. Nuri al-Maliki invited Medvedev to visit Iraq. His opinion is that sucha visit will give an impetus to Russo-Iraqi cooperation. The Prime Minister of Iraq also suggested discussing the situation in the Middle East which, as he put it, is living through hard times.

For his part, the Russian Premier noted that the country cherishes the traditional friendship with the Iraqi people. "Despite dramatic events of the last few years, we are maintaining contacts at the supreme and high levels, and I am convinced that this will promote the development of friendship, cooperation and mutual understanding between Russia and Iraq," Medvedev said.

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