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Updated: October 11, 2012 03:22 IST

Russia warms up to Iraq with arms deal

Vladimir Radyuhin
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Don’t drag NATO into Syria, Baghdad warns Ankara

The leaders of Russia and Iraq have agreed to develop large-scale cooperation in defence, energy and investment.

“We have resumed military-technical cooperation,” Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in his country residence on Wednesday.

Ahead of the meeting the Russian government said it had recently signed arms deals with Iraq worth over $4.2 billion dollars, which makes Iraq Russia’s second largest defence customer after India.

The contracts were signed during visits to Russia by Iraq’s acting defence chief in April, July and August. According to defence sources, Russia would supply 36 Mi-28NE attack helicopters and 48 Pantsir-S1 mobile air defence systems of the same type that Syria used to shoot down a Turkish jet in June. The sources said talks were under way to sell Iraq MiG-29M/M2 interceptor jets, as well as armoured vehicles and other weapons.

Massive as the arms contracts are, they may be dwarfed by civilian deals the Iraqi leader discussed in Moscow.

At their meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Mr. Maliki agreed to draw up joint projects in hydrocarbons, power generation, trade, investment and construction.

Russian companies have already gained a foothold in Iraq’s oil and gas and infrastructure projects.

Mr. Putin said Russia and Iraq “share close or identical views on many very acute international issues”.

Mr. Maliki for his part revealed that the two countries agreed to continue to oppose foreign interference in the Syrian crisis.

The agreements reached during Mr. Maliki’s second visit to Russia in three years signal Moscow’s big-time return to Iraq almost a decade after the United States invasion that overthrew Russia-backed Saddam Hussein.

Turkey warned

Atul Aneja reports from Dubai:

Amid a visit to Russia, Mr. Maliki has warned Turkey not to blow-up its differences with Syria and drag NATO into the conflict.

The veiled support for the Syrian government came soon after Baghdad revived its military ties with Moscow. Mr. Maliki, a close ally of Iran, asserted that Syria was not threatening Turkey, which should not seek NATO’s intervention.

“Turkey is being presumptuous, you could say, as if it were taking responsibility for solving the Syrian conflict instead of the Syrian people and wants to impose its own solution. For this reason the international community needs to stop Turkey from intervening,” he said.

Border tensions

Iraq and Russia have aired their discomfort with Turkey at a time when tensions seemed to be escalating close to the Syrian border. The Turkish government has strengthened its military presence by deploying 25 F-16 fighter jets at its Diyarbakir base, only 100 km from Syria.

The United States has also sent a 150-member task force to Jordan as part of contingency plan in case Syria loses control over its chemical weapons. According to the New York Times, the team would be deployed at a base, which is only 56 km from the Syrian border.

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