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Russia’s Soyuzneftegaz oil offshore exploration in Syria to take no less than 5 years

MOSCOW, March 13, /ITAR-TASS/. Chairman of the board of Russian energy company Soyuzneftegaz Yuri Shafranik believes that exploration of oil fields in Syrian territorial waters will take no less than five years. In his view, an oil pipeline may be built between that country and Iraq upon the end of hostilities in Syria.

The Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Wealth and Russian energy company Soyuzneftegaz signed an deal on oil and gas offshore exploration in the Syrian capital of Damascus on December 25, 2013. So, Soyuzneftegaz became the first foreign and Russian company which was granted the right for oil exploration, development and production at Block-2 in Syrian territorial waters.

The company believes that oil exploration in Block-2 will take no less than five years, Shafranik said in an interview with British news agency Reuters. Upon results of oil exploration the company will make a conclusion whether commercial oil production is expedient there.

"If there is no possibility of normalising the situation throughout the country at once, the situation should be stabilised gradually in regions where it is possible to conclude an agreement," Reuters quoted Shafranik as saying. "Then humanitarian aid should be provided, and then we should move on to energy projects, removing obstacles to them including any sanctions slowing down the country's economic recovery," he added.

Shafranik also dwelt on plans to build an oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria.

"The project could be carried out with the participation of Russian and Italian companies," the Soyuzneftegaz chief executive said, adding that governments of Syria and Iraq support these plans and are prepared to launch their implementation upon the end of hostilities in Syria.

Fourteen oil fields were found in Syrian territorial waters, head of the Centre of Strategic Studies in Damascus Imad Fawzi al-Shueibi said last April. In his words, Norwegian company Ancis has conducted geological prospecting. Al-Shueibi cited the data according to which only four oil fields from the Lebanese capital to the port of Banias can provide for oil output close to Kuwaiti amounts. In his forecasts, oil production in Syria can make 6-7 million barrels daily in the future. It is not ruled out that the country will be at the fourth place in the world in terms of its gas reserves, al-Shueibi said.

Last February, Syrian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Wealth Suleiman al-Abbas stated that oil production in the country has shrunk by 96 percent (from 385 thousand barrels to 14 thousand barrels daily) from the start of the conflict between the government and opposition. A larger part of oil wells are situated in the north of the country and are mainly controlled by rebels, the minister noted.

According to United Nations reports, more than 100,000 people died during Syrian conflict that broke out in March 2011. The number of refugees exceeded 2.3 million people. The conflict in Syria is aggravated by a serious humanitarian crisis. According to U.N. reports, 8.3 million people (38 percent) need urgently foodstuffs, primary necessities and medical services in the country. The United Nations estimates damages inflicted by Syrian conflict at 60-80 billion dollars.