На главную


Russia recovers its leadership in the Middle East

Yuri Shafranik’s, Сhairman of the Council of Russia's Oil and Gas Industrialists' Union, interview to the Independent Information Agency (Krasnoyarsk)

— Yury Konstantinovich, You were one of the first during the post-Soviet epoch to enter Syrian economy and participate in major oil projects. What, in your view, positive effect was brought up or fixed by the first ever visit of Russian President to this country?

— First of all I would like to note that Russia’s leadership has lately done a lot in the Middle East, Northern Africa and Latin America. It resulted in major political success and progress with Russian oil and gas and energy projects abroad since they play significant role in forming of political atmosphere. Visits and meetings of leaders of states always broaden the base for economic cooperation and subsequently for foreign activities of many companies.

Syria is one of key (in geopolitical sense) countries of a large region. The role of Syria is as great as its own problems connected with any of the conflicts in the Middle East. To a significant extent they determined official visit of Syria’s president Bashir Assad to Russia in January 2005 that among other things gave an impulse to establishment of economic contacts between our countries.

Soon despite the exodus from SAR of many Western companies (and unwillingness or fear of many companies to take part in projects on its territory) Russian companies Stroytransgas, Trubnaya Metallurgicheskaya company (TMK), Tatneft started to work there…

— And Your group “SoyuzNefteGaz”. What she has been doing?

— We started 2 projects: “Block 12” in south-eastern part of the country and “Block 26” in North-East. At “Block 12” we were conducting exploration and development on the basis of Production Sharing Agreement, and at “Block 26” we worked with British operator Gulfsands Petroleum with equal shares of business.

− Were you lucky?

− Luck is the sister of persistence in achieving a goal. It does not always smile. But it awards those who have properly walked the planned distance. In “Block 12” we invested 3 times more money than envisaged at the beginning. We conducted significant seismological studies, exploration drilling…Unfortunately our investments did not pay up. Oil was discovered but not in industrial volumes. In contrast at the 26-th we managed to discover the biggest oil deposit discovered in Syria during the last 15 years. Now 17 production wells are operated and production field infrastructure is fully built. At the end of last year at the 26-th we reached production capacity of approximately 18,000 barrels a day or 1 million mt a year. This is a very serious result both for Syrian economy as well as for reflection of effectiveness of our group. By the way, next year this project will enable us to produce up to 1,5 million mt of oil a year.

− Would it be right to say that your group for the first time and as the first in post-Soviet period conducted on Syrian territory a full cycle of operations related to oil production?

− Yes, though I as chairman of Council of the Union of Oil and Gas Industrialists am not less proud of Stroytransgas’ or Tatneft’s successes who excelled during the exploration period. All in all, I repeat, we all ‘moved into action’ as the situation around Syria was very complicated and explosive, therefore I believe that to change it for the better helped both Russian politics as well as Russian business… Consequently Dmitry Medvedev’s visit may be considered as strengthening of our positions in this country and opening of new opportunities for everybody who wants and is able to work there. Moreover investment climate is good in Syria. They treat with respect business that contributes to their economic growth. We, for instance, during 5 years of work in the country never experienced any attitude towards us except a constructive one.

— Does Syria attract only with its hydrocarbon resources?

− Of course, not only. Being a neighbor of Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel and being close to Egypt Syria plays and will be playing a very important role in developing transportation arteries of the region. And with the situation in Iraq improving I am sure it will develop big projects in energy and many other spheres. It would not be a sin for Russia having good political and economic reputation in both countries to take part in these projects.

— Is there any danger of returning to Soviet epoch traditions, when economic reasons always yielded to interests of “big politics”?

− Such a danger is present always and everywhere. Classical definition of politics as an extention of economy in world practice as yet little corresponds to norms of mutually beneficial cooperation. But at present Russian companies operating abroad are experiencing rather support than pressure of the government.

— How do you estimate the results of Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Turkey including the readiness to joint construction of gas pipelines of “the Southern Stream” and “the Blue Stream-2”, oil pipeline “Samsun-Ceyhan” and construction by Russian side on the territory of Turkish Republic of a nuclear power station confirmed by the President?

− I consider the results of the visits a consistent development of good neighborly and productive relations with the country connected with us by many historic roots. Speaking about concrete projects one must constantly take into account that Turkey and its companies never allow themselves to engage into business without calculating any opportunity to earn money. In economic cooperation this is a very serious partner from whom we should learn responsibility for practicability of participation in realization of this or that project. Named by you objects of possible cooperation as well as Nabucco, Burgas-Alexandroupolis and others – are important and very perspective projects both from economic as well as political point of view. Moreover participation in them requires commercial meticulousness, extreme economic and industrial professionalism.

Interviewed by Boris Vladimirov