Russia to wait month before next Arctic oil move: minister

19th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia will take a month before deciding how to develop its Arctic oil fields following the collapse of a deal with BP, a top energy official said in an interview published on Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who oversees the Russian energy sector, said state-held Rosneft still viewed the British firm as an important partner and intended to work with it again.

But he stressed that Rosneft had earlier received other Arctic offers and would now take several weeks to go through their details.

"Give us time," the close government ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told the Izvestia daily.

"We did not conduct negotiations with anyone else until the agreement expired," said Sechin.

"I think that we will need about four weeks to process the agreements," he said.

Sechin confirmed that Rosneft has already been approached by the US multinationals ExxonMobil and Chevron along with the Anglo-Dutch firm Royal Dutch Shell.

The $16 billion dollar share-swap agreement fell through after Rosneft and BP were unable to buy out the local partners in the British firm's Russian joint venture TNK-BP.

The local partners successfully argued in court that they had a right of first refusal on any deal the British giant struck in Russia and refused to sell their stake for a joint BP-Rosneft payment of more than $32 billion.

Sechin served as Rosneft's board chairman during the BP agreement's negotiation and is widely viewed as the chief architect of the now-failed deal.

President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday blamed officials for failing to conduct "due diligence" before settling on BP as a partner, but Sechin told Izvestia he was in no position to know about potential problems with TNK-BP.

"This was a confidential agreement about which we were not informed," he said in reference to the joint venture's shareholder agreement.

© 2011 AFP

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