No Russian pilots to participate in military operations in Iraq - Russian ambassador
2 July 2014, 17:49 -- Despite the fact that the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) recently declared the creation of the Islamic Caliphate, Russia's ambassador to Iraq Ilya Morgunov told remains convinced that the Islamic militants won't be able to take Baghdad and that they pose no significant threat the Russian companies in Iraq. During his interview with RIA Novosti he said that Russian companies had no presence in the territories seized by Islamic militants.
'Theoretically some Islamist groups could make it to, say Gazprom Neft works and do some damage, but that would be a few isolated incidents at worst. Besides, the company's area of operations is close to the border with Iran, so the possibility of Iranian troops intervening makes such an incursion by Islamists unlikely,' he said.
He also added that Gazprom Neft invested a considerable amount of money in providing security to the company's personnel and facilities in Iraq, and is apparently satisfied with these security measures as no attempts have been made by the company to request aid from the Russian embassy.
The ambassador also pointed out that due to the unstable situation in Iraq, only large Russian companies are currently being able to operate there, despite the attractiveness of the country's market. 'You have to hire local security contractors, you have to lease armored cars, you have to establish a perimeter around your work sites, with fences and watchtowers. No average Russian company could afford such expenses,' he said.
He also pointed out that there is a plenty of opportunities for Russian companies. 'Because the country – Iraq I mean – is at war for the last 30 years, they require assistance in many areas, from car manufacturing to agriculture. They had a powerful industry during the old regime, and now this industry needs to be rebuilt… The Iraqi market is very capacious and financially reliable,' he said.
Speaking about the recent sale of Russian-made Su-25 military aircraft, Morgunov denied rumors about Russian specialists arriving along with the shipment being pilots hired by Iraqis to perform sorties against ISIS forces. 'This is definitely not about our pilots participating in military operations in Iraq. This is strictly forbidden. But our specialists are needed to assemble the aircraft,' he said.
He also remarked that the shipment was nothing out of the ordinary, and is in accordance with the agreements made during the personal meetings of the leaders of Russia and Iraq in 2009 and 2011.
He also expressed skepticism about claims that Iraq could be torn apart by sectarian violence. 'The majority of Iraqis - be they Sunni, Shia, Kurds or Arabs – understand that in today's world it is easier to survive as a united country populated by many different ethnic and religious groups than as a motley collection of independent states. Iraqis are quite practical in that regard, so I don't think that these rumors about the country's impending collapse are substantiated. It sounds more like a propaganda campaign of some sort,' Morgunov said.
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