In a move that surprised many observers of the ongoing war for Deir Ezzor province, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) handed over one of Syria’s largest gas fields to Russian forces on Thursday, possibly as the result of unprecedented direct talks between high ranking Russian officials and Kurdish leaders in Qamishli in northeastern Syria.
Conoco gas plant (also locally called Al-Tabiya, which is the plant’s main feeder field) lies on the eastern side of the Euphrates outside of Deir Ezzor city – which was recently liberated from ISIS as the Syrian Army and Russian forces approached from the west of the Euphrates. The Conoco field had been held by ISIS since 2014, and was taken by the SDF on September 23rd as the mainly Kurdish force advanced from the east. The now fast crumbling Islamic State relied on much of its financing through its prior consolidation over many oil and gas sites in the resource rich Deir Ezzor province.
The gas field, which had the largest capacity of any in Syria prior to the conflict, is capable of producing 450 million cubic feet (13 million cubic meters) of natural gas per day. It is named for the American company which first discovered gas reserves and built a processing plant at the location, however, ConocoPhillips turned the facility over to the state-run Syrian Gas Company in 2005 and has no current association with it.
Beirut-based al-Masdar News broke the story based on Syrian military sources:
If true, then the scope of any backdoor agreements reached between Moscow and Washington regarding the transfer of energy assets held by Kurdish-led militias back to the rightful ownership of the Damascus government may yet encompass wider dimensions (i.e. future transfers) – although there is absolutely no evidence to suggest this is in fact the case.
Nonetheless, the unexpected transfer of the Conoco Gas Field by the SDF to the Syrian government does now raise questions as to whether or not the hitherto competition between the Syrian Arab Army and Kurdish-led militias to seize control of the much larger Al-Omar Oil Field from ISIS further south is still on.
On Wednesday the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister was spotted in the self-declared Kurdish autonomous zone of Rojava to meet with Kurdish and Syrian leaders in the northern city of Qamishli (based on Zero Hedge’s own sources, also confirmed by other analysts). It is very likely that Thursday’s Conoco gas field handover was the result of this historic, yet unofficial, face-to-face meeting.