By Simon Webb
The two firms would initially focus on opportunities in natural gas in the Gulf.
The UAE's Crescent Petroleum has teamed up with Russia's state-run oil producer Rosneft to purse oil and gas deals in the Middle East and North Africa, Crescent said in a statement on Wednesday. Rosneft pumps over a fifth of Russia's oil, and is the country's largest producer. Crescent is a privately-held energy firm based in the emirate of Sharjah, in the northern UAE.
The two would initially focus on opportunities in natural gas in the Gulf, said Crescent Petroleum Executive Director Badr Jafar.
"We have already identified a number of robust opportunities, and we expect to be able to announce our first joint project in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region within the coming weeks," he told Reuters in a written statement.
The partnership aims to capitalise on Rosneft's technical expertise and financial strength and Crescent's international operating experience and knowledge of the MENA region.
"This agreement creates the framework for the joint pursuit of specific oil and gas exploration and development opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region," Crescent said in the statement.
Rosneft Chief Executive Sergei Bogdanchikov signed the deal with Jafar in Moscow on Tuesday.
Last year, Crescent and UAE affiliate Dana Gas formed a consortium with Austria's OMV and Hungary's MOL that aims to pump enough gas from Iraq's Kurdistan region to kick-start the Nabucco pipeline to Europe via Turkey.
Nabucco aims to lessen European dependence on Russia, which supplies a quarter of the EU's gas needs. But the Nabucco project has been hit by delays and difficulties in finding gas suppliers.
Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom is pushing a rival project, South Stream, and has already signed up a number of central European countries as customers.
Rosneft and Gazprom have repeatedly competed for different assets in Russia but abroad both firms are seen as agents of the Kremlin's energy policies.
Rosneft is working in upstream projects in Kazakhstan, Venezuela and Algeria.
Rosneft has big expansion plans but has so far refrained from aggressive purchases abroad due to what analysts describe as the company's concerns about potential legal suits it could face from former shareholders and managers of defunct oil firm YUKOS.
Rosneft became the owner of most of YUKOS' assets after the Kremlin-inspired demise of Russia's former top producer and its politically ambitious shareholders.
Aside from Iraq and the UAE, Crescent also has operations in Egypt, Yemen and Oman.
The GCC, which Crescent and Rosneft are initially targeting for gas opportunities, is a loose political and economic alliance between Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (Reuters)