Russia’s President Vladimir Putin meets with and Iraq’s Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 2, 2017 [File: Reuters]

Erbil, Iraq – Two years after Iraq’s new constitution in 2005 officially recognised the autonomy of Iraq’s Kurdish region, Russia established formal relations with its regional government (the KRG) by opening a consulate in its capital Erbil.

By then, the US, UK, Iran and Turkey had become the main political and economic players in the oil-rich region, which holds proven reserves of some 45 billion barrels of oil (10th biggest in the world) and is estimated to have between 2.8 to 5.7 trillion cubic metres of natural gas (roughly as much as Algeria).

Although

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