Russia and China tried to convince the United Nations Security Council last week to adopt a document paving the way for the gradual removal of sanctions against North Korea, but to no avail due to Washington’s resistance, Kommersant writes. The statement was aimed at "backing the positive tendencies" in fostering ties with North Korea on the one hand, and with the US and South Korea on the other hand, Spokesman for Russia’s UN mission Fyodor Strzhizhovsky said. The document had to also mention that the UN Security Council "will be ready to consider easing sanctions when the time is ripe."
However, the US representatives rejected the initiative of Russia and China explaining that Washington and Pyongyang are still negotiating.
Apparently, the US sees no positive trend, the paper says. The Washington Post wrote on Sunday citing intelligence sources that despite its promises, Pyongyang is expanding its facilities for manufacturing nuclear materials.
North Korea has not kept its promise on eliminating a range for testing missile engines. Essentially, the only measure fulfilled by Pyongyang is that it has toned down the anti-US propaganda in its mass media, Kommersant says.
According to Go Myong-Hyun, an expert from South Korea’s ASAN Institute for Policy Studies, from the very beginning, the US intelligence community had a more sober stance on the prospects for North Korea’s disarmament. "It is easy to conceal nuclear materials and bombs, and the hunt for them may be long," he said. "Now the efforts should focus on eliminating North Korean missiles. It is more difficult to hide them, but their destruction will indeed significantly decrease North Korea’s military potential."
The first full-fledged meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump in Helsinki in mid-July may result in Washington’s decision to 'give up' northeast Syria, former State Department Adviser on Syrian Political Transition Frederic Hof told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, noting that the potential withdrawal of the American military is a concession that will help Trump save face. However, Russia will have to undertake certain commitments.
The Syrian regime, Iran and Russia are pursuing a key goal. They are afraid that a successfully stabilized northeast Syria after the fall of the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia) will make it possible to create something unique in the Syrian crisis, namely an attractive alternative to President Bashar Assad and his allies, the former diplomat told the paper, speaking about the Syrian territories under the US 'protectorate'. Moscow, Damascus, and Tehran want US President Donald Trump to yield Syria’s northeast to the Assad regime. In its turn, Moscow may consider the option of ensuring the security of Israel and Jordan in the southwest as an impetus for the US to abandon northeast Syria.
Trump is obsessed with the idea of pulling US forces out of Syria and fully winding down their participation in the armed conflict. Judging by Trump’s statements on his desire to leave Syria, he may be seeking to save face and paint this as a triumph, the former diplomat said.
Experts note that the scenario with the US departure from Syria is similar to the events in Iraq. "Obama transferred responsibility for Iraq to Iran," Director of the Center of Islamic Research at the Institute of Innovative Development and expert at the Russian International Affairs Council Kirill Semenov pointed out.
However, the option where Russia may take responsibility for the security of Israel and Jordan raises question about its costs. Moscow has very few levers of influence on Iran's forces, which are obviously not planning to leave southern Syria. Israeli intelligence said that the Iranian and pro-Iranian militants remaining in the southern provinces are under the cloak of the Syrian military. Hezbollah and Shiite militias are also highly integrated in Assad’s army.
Oil producers have reached a milestone in developing Russia’s Arctic, Izvestia writes. On Friday, the only company producing oil on Russia’s Arctic shelf - Gazprom Neft - received its first icebreaker, the Alexander Sannikov. The vessel was built under the The Arctic Time program, under which six tankers were floated out and put into operation for oil shipments from the Novoportovsky deposit.
Thanks to such icebreakers, oil producers will be able to transport oil from hard-to-reach areas in Russia's North more efficiently and cheaply, Deputy Chairman of the company’s board Vadim Yakovlev said.
"We have built a unique circuit of oil shipments along the waterways via the Gulf of Ob and then on the Northern Sea Route. In order to further this goal, the construction of modern powerful vessels will be in demand and today the Alexander Sannikov icebreaker is the new flagship of the Arctic fleet," the top manager said.
The second diesel-electric icebreaker - the Andrey Vilkitsky - is expected by the end of this year.
According to the company’s estimates, by 2030 the market’s demand in shipments via the North Sea Route will expand by a third. Gazprom Neft’s development of its own Arctic fleet will enable the oil producer to retain leadership in the Russian Arctic for long term.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have agreed on ramping up oil supplies by 2 mln barrels per day, US President Donald Trump said. The Kingdom has neither confirmed nor denied this statement. Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that the US-Saudi deal is an attempt to compensate for removing Iranian oil from the global market by November, when the anti-Iranian sanctions go into effect. "However, Saudi Arabia won’t be able to compensate for the loss, and the US will have to look for new allies, including Moscow," experts say.
The statement on the possible increase in oil production by 2 mln barrels per day came amid the continuing rise in oil prices after the decision by OPEC + and Russia to hike production by 1 mln barrels to compensate for falling output in Venezuela and Iran.
Meanwhile, the deal’s participants adamantly opposed the idea of increasing oil output by 2 mln barrels, the paper says.
According to Alexei Antonov, an analyst at Alor Broker, Trump’s next step may be an attempt to clinch a deal with Moscow on increasing output. "However, it will be more difficult to persuade Moscow than Saudi Arabia, because unlike the Saudis, Russia has been re-investing its capital for a very long time into Iranian production and will hardly decide to sever ties with Tehran as easily as Riyadh did," he stressed. "On the other hand, this is a trump card which Russia can use to solve its own problems, in particular reducing the sanctions pressure on its economy in exchange for some concessions on Iran," the analyst noted.
Russian energy giant Gazprom expects that its gas exports to Europe will set a new record this year, and Ukraine will also profit off this since additional gas supplies will be pumped through its territory, Vedomosti writes.
By late 2019, Gazprom’s deal on gas transit with Ukraine will expire and in March 2020 the contract with Poland will also come to an end. By that time, the Russian company expects to launch supplies via two new export routes - Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream. However, their capacity may not be enough to replace the Ukrainian transit route even if both gas pipelines are fully loaded. Gazprom is not planning to cut exports, says Tatyana Mitrova, Director of the Energy Center at the Skolkovo Business School.
Talks on extending the transit contract with Ukraine have not been launched and relations between Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz are tense since both companies have been embroiled in a legal battle at a Stockholm court for many years. The EU’s dependence on Russian gas will only increase, Fitch Corporations Department Director Dmitry Marinchenko said. So, there are greater chances that a compromise will be reached.
"This means that Europe will give the Nord Stream-2 (project) the green light with a clear conscience, and without fearing that redirecting transit flows will trigger the collapse of Ukraine’s economy," the expert noted. "Moreover, ditching Nord Stream 2 may have dire consequences since Ukraine’s pipeline capacity just may not be enough to satisfy Europe’s ever mounting demand."
Without Ukraine’s gas transportation facilities, Russia cannot fully ensure the necessary volume, geography and flexibility of its exports, Mitrova said, noting that the parties will have to come to terms in any case.
Even in the event of Nord Stream 2’s construction, EU members are very interested in diversifying supplies to the European gas market, Partner at PwC Strategy& Jorg Dorler said. This also envisages supplies through Ukraine while EU gas imports are expected to increase and domestic output will be cut, he stressed.
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