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Russia Needs To Cooperate With OPEC But National Interests Come First - Minister


Russia is interested in cooperating with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) but its "national interests will remain [the] determining principle" in its oil export policy, Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said.

"I'm aware that some functionaries or representatives of OPEC have come up with a kind of criticism about the Russian Federation to the effect that we have become the number one in the world for the amount of oil supplied to the world market," Shmatko told reporters.

He said that, after the latest OPEC meeting, where such criticism was made, he had spoken by phone to OPEC Secretary General Abdallah Salem el-Badri and the Qatar deputy prime minister. "We clarified all the issues, and today we hold a unanimous opinion that we'll continue to build up our cooperation," Shmatko said.

He said Russia had proposed signing a coordination memorandum with OPEC and that the cartel was currently studying the proposal.

Regarding criticism of Russia's export policy, Shmatko said: "Our national interests will remain our determining principle. In our view, the situation in the oil market is not as bad as it was several months ago, and we believe that the OPEC countries are also making fairly positive assessments of the situation."

He expressed hope that Russia and OPEC would hold a joint seminar in October. Russia had sent invitations to member countries of the cartel.

Shmatko also advocated more extensive bilateral relations between Russia and OPEC member countries. A Russian-Saudi intergovernmental commission is due to meet in Saudi Arabia in December.

"There have been no official misunderstandings between us," Shmatko said in reference to his contacts with OPEC.

He also said the Gas Exporting Countries Forum is due to hold its next meeting before the end of 2009. Trinidad and Tobago and Iran have named their candidates for secretary general of the Forum and Russia will do so "within 10 days or so," he said.

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