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Press review: What new US sanctions against Iran entail and can Japan become nuclear power

August 07, 2018, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday

1 pages in this article
© REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Kommersant: What the new US round of sanctions against Iran entails

The first package of American restrictive measures against Tehran in the wake of Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has come into effect. The sanctions reimposed by the US have been approved by Israel, while the European Union said the decision was regrettable.

All large corporations headquartered in Europe are likely to leave Iran, because they have to choose between the American and Iranian markets, Andrei Baklitsky, an expert with the PIR Center, told Kommersant. "Medium and small companies, which have no representatives in the US and whose bulk of trade is in euros could stay in Iran. It is not improbable that, with the EU Blocking Regulation coming into force, Europe will be able to create a reasonable system, under which contacts with Iran will be possible," he said.

According to the expert, Chinese, Turkish and Indian companies, which are less dependent on the US market, have more opportunities to stay in Iran.

US President Donald Trump said last week that he is ready for direct talks with Iran without any preconditions. However, the experts interviewed by the paper doubt the effectiveness and even probability of such a meeting. According to Baklitsky, "no decisions followed Trump’s previous meetings with North Korean and Russian leaders, Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin." "The very fact of the talks was important at that moment. However, the situation with Iran is completely different. Trump is a very unpopular person, and a meeting without further agreements is pointless," the expert stressed.

Meanwhile, Hamidreza Azizi, Assistant Professor of Regional Studies at Tehran-based Shahid Beheshti University, pointed to remarks by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who put forward some preconditions for negotiations with Tehran after Donald Trump’s statements. The expert also recalled that Iran’s authorities continue to believe that the ball is now in Washington’s court.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia and WTO - six years on

Russia’s calculations concerning the accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been fully justified, Yekaterina Mayorova, Deputy Director of the Trade Negotiations Department at the Russian Economic Development Ministry told Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

"We do not see any examples of disastrous or dire consequences for any industry in the aftermath of Russia’s accession to the WTO. In agriculture, we have had a growth of more than 12% over the 5 years that followed our accession, and in industry, more than 3%. Moreover, we have quite a few untapped opportunities to protect our market. We have a single customs tariff, which is used in the Customs Union and which is based on Russia’s obligations. We also have an opportunity to reconsider our obligations in the event of some mistakes in the parameters and conditions for our accession. We do not use this reserve now, as excessive protectionism is harmful," she emphasized.

According to Mayorova, the fact that Russia has recently won two WTO disputes opens up new opportunities for Moscow. "The first lawsuit we have won was formally filed against Ukraine. However, considering that the legislation of that country actually copies the European Union’s legislation, the victory in that dispute could influence the outcome of a similar dispute with the EU. We have achieved a truly good result in the dispute with Ukraine, and we will have something to fall back on in our dispute with the European Union," she explained.

When asked whether a trend towards reducing WTO influence amid trade wars and sanctions is being observed, the expert explained that the trade war had actually been unleashed by one of its members, which accounts for about 13% in global imports. "Nevertheless, the countries that account for the remaining 87% continue to see the WTO as the only universal system of rules and the only universal organization, which has the necessary tools and mechanisms to coerce its members to fulfill their obligations," she stressed.

Experience has shown that trade wars and chaos related to them result in nothing good, and there can be no winners in such wars, the expert added. "Blackmail, attempts to force certain decisions through can have a short-term effect. I do not think, however, that the United States will stand to gain from the steps it takes now in the long-term perspective," she said. 


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China sees Syria as an important economic opportunity

China has economic interests in Syria, while statements on Beijing’s willingness to step up its military presence in that country should be considered with a certain degree of caution, Alexei Maslov, Head of the School of Oriental Studies at the Higher School of Economics, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

"China has been present there before the Syrian events, developing relations, for example, with the oil industry. When the civil war began, China was at a disadvantage. That’s why it is quite natural that China is joining the Syrian operation now that the conflict is nearing completion. China, all else aside, will carry out humanitarian operations. In that case, China is likely to take part in restoring Syria’s infrastructure, for example, railways."

However, the expert is skeptical about statements made by Chinese Ambassador to Syria Qi Qianjin who earlier did not rule out that his country could take part in the upcoming offensive on the Idlib Governorate. "China has said it could take part in such events more than once, but these statements have never been translated into action. The Chinese people can support the Syrian campaign because expanding influence throughout the globe is an important component of the political process for China," the expert pointed out.

He expressed doubt however that Washington would be annoyed if Chinese troops are sent to Syria. "Beijing will not be a third force. It will be operating on a free platform where money and economic mechanisms are required," Maslov said.


Izvestia: Natural gas for air traffic not Russia’s national priority yet

Russia’s air traffic has been removed from plans to switch to the use of natural gas, Izvestia writes. This initiative was put forward by the Russian Transport Ministry last year. Natural gas fuel was regarded as a feasible alternative to traditional aviation fuel. However, the new program drawn up by the Russian Energy Ministry states that all funds will be earmarked for automotive transport.

"The top-priority objective for promoting gas as fuel today is the development of the gas market and the relevant infrastructure for motorized vehicles," the Energy Ministry’s spokesman told the paper. "Plans are in store to promote the use of natural gas in other types of transport, including air traffic, in the future."

According to Interaviagas CEO Vyacheslav Zaitsev, air traffic was invariably present in all government plans aimed at expanding the use of natural gas as motor fuel.

"Many aviation specialists were surprised by the fact that air traffic had been removed from the Energy Ministry’s program," he told Izvestia. "There are no objective reasons whatsoever to strip aviation enterprises of an opportunity to take part in implementing an important national program and the task set by the Russian president, namely, the transfer to natural gas fuel."

According to the expert, aviation is the dominant type of transport in Russia’s Arctic and Far North regions. In his view, the transfer of regional aircraft to natural gas fuel could help solve such problems as increasing transport accessibility for the population and the development of regional air transportation.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Japan could become a nuclear power

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said his country should lead the movement in favor of complete nuclear disarmament. In his speech at a ceremony to mark the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Abe reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to three non-nuclear principles: not to possess, not to manufacture and not to deploy nuclear weapons on its soil.

However, theoretically speaking, Japan does not rule out the option of becoming a nuclear power, Valery Kistanov, Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "Smart politicians must foresee any scenarios for a long-term perspective. After all, Japan is certain that North Korea has no intention of abandoning nuclear weapons."

That is a fundamental threat for Japan, the expert stressed. "It is not implausible that Korea will become a unified state someday. No one can tell whether it will be a non-nuclear or a nuclear power. Who knows, perhaps we or our descendants will witness the creation of a powerful nuclear Korean state. Meanwhile, anti-Japanese sentiment is strong in both North and South Korea," the expert said.

Japanese media often criticize the government for failure to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Kistanov added. "By the way, Japan has long sought the incumbent US president’s visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki so that he could see with his own eyes the horrors of the atomic bombing. In 2016, Barack Obama eventually came there. Together with Abe, he called for nuclear disarmament. However, Obama offered no apologies for the atomic bombing. The Americans will never apologize for that," the expert concluded.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review

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