Syria’s government said Wednesday it had signed an oil and gas deal with a Russian company, prompting claims from the Syrian opposition that Damascus is “swapping the country’s riches for Russian weapons”.
The agreement was signed by Syrian Oil Minister Suleiman Abbas and the Russian Soyuzneftegaz company, allows for the first-ever exploration off the war-ravaged country’s Mediterranean coast.
The exploration will cover an area of 2,190 square kilometres (850 square miles) off the Mediterranean port city of Tartous, where Russia also has a military base.
Damascus said the exploration would be financed by Russia to the tune of $100 million over the next 25 years.
The deal is a boost for the Syrian government, which has lost control over roughly half of the country’s territory, including most of its oil fields.
Through war and sanctions, Syria's oil production has plummeted by 90 percent since the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.
“Soyuzneftegaz will start working soon after the contract is signed. The company will not follow the unfair economic sanctions imposed on oil fields especially, as well as on all economic sectors in Syria,” Syria’s Oil Minister Suleiman Abbas told reporters.
‘Oil for weapons’
The agreement between Moscow and Damascus was swiftly denounced by Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC).
In a statement published on Thursday, the CNS slammed a deal “which aims to swap the riches of our homeland for Russian weapons destined to kill the Syrian people”.
Despite the escalating violence in Syria, Moscow has continued to supply weapons to its Syrian ally and repeatedly thwarted attempts to take action against the Assad regime at the UN Security Council.
Date created : 2013-12-26