Washington to Check if Russia-Qatar Oil Deal Violates Sanctions

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Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak (R) attends the 18th Ministerial Meeting of Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Doha, Qatar November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon

MOSCOW, Dec 9 – The U.S. government is to check if sanctions where violated when Russia this week struck a deal to sell a stake in oil producer Rosneft to a consortium of Qatar’s sovereign fund and commodities trader Glencore , the White House said.

“The experts at the Department of Treasury that are responsible for constructing and enforcing the sanctions regime will carefully look at a transaction like this,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Thursday.

“They’ll look at the terms of the deal and evaluate what impact sanctions would have on it,” he told a briefing in Washington.

The Kremlin has presented the $11.3 billion deal as a major coup which demonstrates that for foreign investors the lure of Russia’s oil sector outweighs the risks associated with sanctions and Moscow’s stand-off with the West.

State-owned Rosneft is one of the Russian entities covered by U.S. sanctions, which were imposed after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and aided separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Russian officials say that the deal is not directly affected by sanctions, because the income from the sale will go to the Russian state, not to Rosneft itself.

Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo is expected to provide Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund and Glencore with a large chunk of the financing for the acquisition.

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