President Putin was looking on during the signing of oil agreements. Photo: Kremlin, Presidential Press and Information Office
HAVANA, 25 Mai Amid rising tensions between Russia on one side and the United States and the European Union on the other, President Vladimir Putin and Cuban Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Rubén Cid on Saturday watched over the signing of two oil cooperation agreements with Cuba at a business summit in Russia.
The agreements of state companies Rosneft and Zarubezhneft with CubaPetróleo, signed at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, include cooperation over more exploration, as well as construction of an oil logistics base at the Mariel Economic Development Zone (ZEDM), according to Prensa Latina.
The Cuba agreements were part of several agreements signed by Russian and foreign oil industry executives after they met with Putin. No details were immediately available. Rosneft, Russia’s second-largest energy company, has little recent history in Cuba; Zarubezhneft, in summer 2013 pulled out from near-shore exploratory drilling earlier than expected, saying it may return in 2014. Rosneft is reviving interest in a key project within the Mariel Zone that doesn’t seem to have any obvious use since the pullout of an offshore oil platform from Cuba in 2012, after drilling dry holes.
Without providing details, Rosneft said in a press release that it signed a memorandum of cooperation with Cupet, and that the partners “created a working group composed of field-oriented representatives.” Rosneft President Igor Sechin, and Zarubezhneft President Sergei Kudriachov signed the respective agreements for the Russian side; General Director Juan Torres Naranjo signed for Cupet.
On a discussion panel at the St. Petersburg Forum on Thursday, the Cuban ambassador to Moscow, Emilio Lozada, said Russia should not only be interested in economic relations, but in political relations as well with Cuba and the ALBA bloc. He also condemned western efforts to isolate Russia with sanctions. One of the men Washington recently added to a list of “designated persons” is Rosneft President Igor Sechin.
Sechin was in Havana in November, to meet with President Raúl Castro. The meeting, in part to prod Russian companies to open shop at the Mariel export development zone, included Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas, Cuba’s point man for strategic economic relationships, Energy and Mining Minister Alfredo López Valdés, and Antonio Carricarte Corona, deputy minister of foreign trade and investment. In other Cuba news from the Economic Forum, the governor of St. Petersburg urged Cuba to reopen a permanent office in the Russian city, and proposed to create a working group to identify cooperation opportunities.
The oil agreements came a week after Cuba and Russia signed an agreement on security cooperation.