Energy has been a major topic in the visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to Moscow, which included discussions with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on April 10, 2009.

Russia’s energy minister said after their meeting that the two countries had agreed to work on restoring oil contracts that they concluded before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

A Russian consortium including oil group Lukoil signed a $3.7 billion agreement to explore Iraq’s West Qurna oilfield in 1996 but Saddam’s government tore up the deal in 2002.

Lukoil has since lobbied for the present Iraqi government to honour Saddam-era contracts.

While Iraq previously said Lukoil would have to compete with other companies for the contract, Baghdad has now renegotiated and signed another Saddam-era deal, with the Chinese National Petroleum Company.

Chief Executive of Lukoil, Vagit Alekperov said in a round table discussion that his company was ready to adapt the 1996 contract to develop West Qurna.

The political situation in Iraq is stabilising, Lukoil’s office is up and running and we are prepared to work, Itar-Tass reported him as saying.