CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The chief executive of Russian energy company Rosneft said Tuesday that Russia will keep deepening cooperation with Venezuela's government in oil, natural gas and electrical projects.
Russian and Venezuelan officials signed five documents laying out plans for offshore natural gas and oil projects, the creation of a new joint company, and the purchase of Russian-made oil drills.
Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin said the company plans to invest about $10 billion in Venezuela in the coming years.
Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said that Russian and Venezuelan companies plan to jointly invest nearly $47 billion in the next six year while increasing production in oil projects involving Russian companies. He said that will include more than $17 billion in direct investment by Russian companies.
Along with Rosneft, other Russian companies operating in Venezuela's energy industry include Lukoil, Gazprom and Surgutneftegaz.
Rosneft announced its plans to continue with major investments a day after Ramirez denied a news account that some foreign companies appeared to be holding off on their investments in oil projects due to uncertainty about President Hugo Chavez's health situation. Chavez remains in Cuba seven weeks after undergoing his latest cancer surgery.
When asked by a journalist about Rosneft's expectations considering Chavez's complicated health situation, Sechin said he hopes for the company's projects with state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA to continue based on plans for "long-term cooperation."
"We're going to continue this work," Sechin said, adding that the company also plans to work with Venezuela in areas including electricity, infrastructure and the production of oil drills and other equipment.
The state oil company PDVSA currently produces about 230,000 barrels of oil a day in joint projects with Russian companies, Ramirez said. He said that by 2021 the government aims to increase that amount to 1.1 million barrels a day.
Ramirez also announced that Venezuela's government plans to invite Russian companies to be involved in join gold mining projects in the South American country.
Following a separate meeting with Sechin, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua told journalists that the Russian delegation "came to ratify the willingness, the decision by the government of President (Vladimir) Putin to continue deepening the relationship between Venezuela and Russia."
Speaking through an interpreter, Sechin voiced his government's best wishes for Chavez.
"President Chavez is going overcome these temporary health problems," Sechin said. "We wish for his recovery and we admire him."
Associated Press writer Christopher Toothaker contributed to this report.
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