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The Syrian government has signed a contract in Damascus with a Russian company to search for offshore oil and gas in Syrian waters.Reports say the deal with Soyuzneftegaz spans 25 years and the costs will be met by the firm, which was represented at the signing ceremony by the Russian ambassador. Moscow has refused to back Western sanctions against its ally.“Soyuzneftegaz will start working soon after the contract is signed. The company will not follow the unfair economic sanctions imposed on oil fields especially, as well as on all economic sectors in Syria,” said Syria’s Oil Minister Suleiman al-Abbas.Syria has lost a huge amount of its oil production because of the conflict between government forces and armed rebels. Many pipelines have been destroyed.The exploration, which will be carried out in several phases, will cover 2,190 square kilometres in the Mediterranean off the Syrian coast.Damascus says if reserves are found that are commercially exploitable, the Russian firm will then develop the field.