Chinese firms mull pullout as insurgents eye Baghdad attack

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2014-6-19 0:28:02

 As more than 1,000 Chinese workers remain stranded in northern Iraq, Chinese enterprises in the south are continuing to work as usual but are nervously watching the development of the current conflict as Sunni militants continue to engage in battles with government forces and push toward Baghdad.

"As of today, most Chinese workers have gone to work as usual. But if insurgents begin to attack Baghdad, we will pull out of the country immediately. The attack on Baghdad will likely cause government functions to collapse. By that time, police, security guards and armed civilians would all fall into chaos, leaving no place in the country safe," an employee from China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC)'s Maysan oil field, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Global Times.

A representative from PetroChina's Iraq branch also confirmed that the company is continuing production as of Wednesday.

"Some Chinese nationals in the north were evacuated but our production, which is mainly in southern Iraq, remains unaffected. However, we have prepared some contingency plans," the representative told the Global Times.

PetroChina is currently invested in four oil fields in Iraq, the Ahdeb oil field, the Rumaila oil field, the Halfaya oil field and the West Qurna oil field, all of which are in central or southern Iraq.

PetroChina is the biggest single foreign investor in Iraq's oil fields and China is Iraq's largest oil client.

Some other oil firms, such as BP, Exxon and Japan's Japex, were pulling foreign staff from Iraq as a precaution, Reuters reported.

There are currently more than 10,000 Chinese nationals in Iraq working for Chinese enterprises, according to China's foreign ministry. A majority of these workers are employed by oil companies, while others are involved in infrastructure construction and private businesses.

The foreign ministry on Wednesday urged the Iraqi government to strengthen protection of the safety of Chinese nationals as many Chinese workers in Iraq told the Global Times they have yet to receive any evacuation notice from the embassy.

"Almost every Chinese company in Iraq has a contingency plan now. They will either evacuate to neighboring countries such as Iran and Jordan, fly back to China, or head to Basra Province in the south where they can leave by sea," a businessman in Baghdad surnamed Feng told the Global Times.

As of Wednesday, more than 1,000 Chinese workers from China Machinery Engineering Corp (CMEC) remained stranded in Samarra, Salaheddin Province.

"My father and the other 1,000 plus workers are still stranded in Samarra, near the Tigris River. The city is under control of government forces but the road to the airport is frequently attacked by rebel militants," the daughter of one of the stranded Chinese workers, surnamed Zhao, told the Global Times.

"Roads [to the south] are also somewhat blocked. The network is down. The company has been talking about evacuation plans since June 12, the day fighting broke out on the outskirts of Samarra. But there is still no solid plan on how to evacuate the workers," said the daughter.

A CMEC staff member surnamed Hong said he would not call those workers "stranded."

"We can reach the workers by phone and the company is handling the situation in accordance with requirements from the embassy and the Ministry of Commerce," Hong told the Global Times.

The employees are working on a $1.19 billion power plant project signed by CMEC in December 2011.

Newspaper headline: No evacuation notice yet sent to Chinese nationals from embassy

Posted in: Mid-East

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