HAVANA, July 29 Russia and Cuba have signed
contracts that "set the bases" for Russian oil company
Zarubezhneft to search for oil in Cuba's part of the Gulf of
Mexico, Cuba's state-run press said on Wednesday.
In its online edition, Communist Party newspaper Granma
said four oil-related contracts had been signed during a visit
on Tuesday by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin to the
island that was his country's close ally during the Cold War.
Granma, without providing details, said the oil pacts
between Zarubezhneft and state-owned Cuba Petroleo "set the
bases for work in (Cuba's) exclusive economic zone in the
Cuba said earlier this year that Russian companies had been
given their pick of 15 blocs to lease in the Gulf of Mexico,
but there was no mention of a lease signing in Granma or other
news reports on Wednesday.
Russian news agency RIA-Novosti quoted Sechin as saying "we
consider that an outcome of this cooperation will be new
opportunities both for Cuba as well as Zarubezhneft."
Cuba has said it may have 20 billion barrels of oil
reserves in its offshore fields, but only one test well has
That well, completed in 2004 off Cuba's northern coast near
Havana, showed traces of oil, according to the operator,
Spain's Repsol-YPF (REP.MC), but the company has not yet
drilled a long-promised second well.
Cuba has divided its offshore into 59 blocs, 21 of which
are under contract to a total of seven companies.
The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that Cuba has
about 5 billion barrels of oil and 10 trillion cubic feet of
natural gas offshore.
Russia also granted $150 million in credits for the
delivery of Russian agriculture and construction equipment that
will be used in areas hit hard by three hurricanes last year,
news reports said.
Russia and Cuba have been working to revitalize relations
that went cold after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Sechin also visited Cuban allies Venezuela and Nicaragua
before his stop in Havana.
(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Jeff Franks)