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MOSCOW, February 10. /TASS/. Iraq is hardly living through its best times as the country is actually split. But this factor poses no barrier for Moscow in its efforts to expand economic cooperation with Iraq, both with the central authorities and Iraqi Kurdistan.
A visit by an unprecedentedly large Russian delegation to Iraq beginning on Wednesday is intended to serve these goals. The visit aims to strengthen military and technical cooperation and cooperation in the sphere of energy resources. No matter how difficult the situation may be in Iraq, Russia should establish its economic presence there, experts say.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin set off on a two-day visit to Iraq on Wednesday as the head of an impressive delegation by its composition. In Baghdad, Rogozin will take part in the first session of the Russian-Iraqi inter-governmental commission since 2008 and hold meetings with the country’s political leadership.
This is the first trip of such a large Russian delegation to Iraq over many years. According to TASS, the delegation comprises about 90 persons, including high-placed officials and representatives of the business community. Specifically, five deputy ministers and heads of large Russian companies are going to Baghdad.
Today, major Russian oil companies, in particular, LUKoil, Gazprom Neft and Bashneft, have large contracts for the development of oil deposits in Iraq.
Military and technical cooperation will be another major issue for discussion during the bilateral talks. Russia and Iraq signed arms contracts worth about $4.2 billion in late 2012. The package of arms deals envisaged the deliveries of Pantsyr-S1 air defense systems and Mi-35 and Mi-28NE helicopters to Iraq. Subsequently, Baghdad also purchased nine Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft from the Russian Defense Ministry’s inventory and ten TOS-1A Buratino heavy flame thrower systems.
"Military and technical cooperation is the main thing that Russia needs there today," leading analyst of the National Energy Security Fund Igor Yushkov told TASS.
"As for energy resources, we have several large projects there. But there are quite a lot of problems: the companies should choose with whom they want to sign agreements: with the government in Baghdad or with Iraqi Kurdistan."
"It has to be admitted that the Russian delegation is paying the visit at an uneasy time for Iraq," leading researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Stanislav Ivanov told TASS.
"Iraq is living through difficult times as the state actually does not exist. There is a group of Shiites who control the situation in Baghdad and in the country’s south. Central Iraq is controlled by the Islamic Caliphate while Iraqi Kurdistan used to be a state within a state even before. In actual fact, these are three enclaves."
Russia has long had good relations with Iraqi Kurdistan: it is stable and will remain under any alignment of forces, the expert said.
"This is an oasis of relative well-being in warring Iraq, As for the country’s central part, there is nothing there and with regard to the Shiite regime in Baghdad, it is difficult to predict what will happen to it further on," he said.
"The country is split and although Russia is dealing with the central government in Baghdad, it can also find agreement with Kurds," leading researcher of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Silences Vladimir Sotnikov told TASS.
"The time for the trip has been chosen correctly. It is important to support foreign policy influence that has intensified as a result of the successes of the Russian air task force in Syria by economic, military and technical cooperation," the expert said.
Moreover, Russia has advantages before Americans, the expert noted. "We have not tarnished our reputation in any way in Iraq while the image of Americans in that country leaves much to be desired," the expert said.
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