BEIRUT: The rebel Syrian National Coalition rejected Thursday an oil and gas exploration deal that Damascus had signed the day before with a Russian company, linking it to arms deals.
“The coalition condemns the signing of this deal, which aims to swap the riches of our homeland for Russian weapons destined to kill the Syrian people,” a statement said.
The deal permits the exploration of an area of 2,190 square kilometers in the Mediterranean. It was signed Wednesday by Syrian Oil Minister Suleiman Abbas, Syria’s General Petroleum and the Russia’s Soyuzneftegaz.
“The Russian firm agreeing one of the most important contracts in the region with the criminal regime while fighting rages unabated is proof that the Russian government has signed a deal to send more arms to kill Syrians,” the coalition said.
“The Russian government is an accomplice in the spilling of Syrian blood through its support for the Assad regime, the main source of international terrorism,” the statement added. “Only the Syrian people can give legitimacy to a decision regarding Syria’s resources and future.”
Abbas said during Wednesday’s signing ceremony that the contract covers “25 years, over several phases,” adding that “the cost of exploration and discovery is $100 million.”
General Petroleum head Ali Abbas told AFP: “It will be financed by Russia, and should oil and gas be discovered in commercial quantities, Moscow will recover the exploration costs.”
Earlier this year, Abbas discussed with the ambassadors of China and Russia the possibility of exploring for oil and gas off Syria’s Mediterranean coast. Most of Syria’s oil and gas fields in the country’s east are under opposition control.
Hard-hit by international sanctions, Syria’s oil production has plummeted by 90 percent since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011.