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Two years after the plans to build the Turkish Stream gas pipeline were first announced it has finally received a legal basis, Kommersant business daily writes. The intergovernmental agreement signed by Russia and Turkey on Monday officially confirms that Ukraine will lose at least 15 billion cubic meters of transit of Russian gas per year that will now directly reach Turkey. The issue of gas exports through an EU member has not been settled yet and this questions the emergence of the second leg of the pipeline. Experts interviewed by the paper say the Turkish Stream pipeline will not only become a bilateral project but a new tool for Moscow and Ankara in their dialogue with the West.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Turkey for the first time since bilateral ties started normalizing, Izvestia says. In Istanbul, the Russian leader attended the World Energy Congress, met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and held talks with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Putin said Moscow and Ankara had called for peace in Syria, political dialogue and stable supplies of humanitarian aid to Aleppo. The Russian president added that various projects would be part of the agenda for renewed military-technical cooperation between the countries.
The Syrian crisis was one of the key issues discussed by Putin and Erdogan, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. However, despite the recent restoration of bilateral contacts, this renewal is unlikely to create a full-fledged military alliance, experts say. "The parties can only agree on their actions and divide the spheres, but they are unlikely to establish an alliance," said Gumer Isayev, Head of the St. Petersburg-based Center of Contemporary Middle East Studies. Amid the statements on the readiness to cooperate, the Russian and Turkish approaches to the Syrian crisis significantly differ, the paper writes.
Apparently, President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Paris scheduled for next week is at risk of possibly being disrupted, according to journalists’ conclusions following French President Francois Hollande’s interview with the TF1 TV channel, Kommersant writes. However, the Kremlin assured reporters on Monday that preparations for the visit were underway. The discussions on Putin’s upcoming visit heated up after Moscow had vetoed the French-drafted UN resolution on Syria, the paper says.
"Of course, there is great discontent in Paris regarding the veto, but the interview given by the president cannot be overestimated. It’s too early to speak about cancelling the visit now," said Arnaud Dubien, head of the French-Russian think tank Observo. The analyst said the French leader was apparently "caught flatfooted" and he "said something on the run." "On the other hand, the possibility of shortening the program for Putin’s visit has been discussed for a week already, and at the initiative of the Russians."
It seems that the only way out of this diplomatic deadlock now could be changing the agenda. This will happen if the leaders of Russia, France as well as Ukraine and Germany manage to hold this year’s first summit of the Normandy Four group on Ukraine next week, Kommersant writes.
Moscow is taking steps to strengthen Syria’s air defense. A military and diplomatic source told Izvestia that Russia’s authorities are looking into sending a batch of Pantsir air defense missile systems to Syria.
The deal was signed several years ago, but it was only partially implemented due to financial reasons. Now a decision was made to hand over the Pantsir systems to Damascus without demanding immediate payment. Experts interviewed by the paper say Moscow’s decision was influenced by the tensions ratcheting up in Syria and the threat that the US could deliver strikes on the Assad regime’s forces.
The source did not name the exact number of the systems to be sent to Syria, but said there could be at least 10 of them. Along with the Pantsirs, Russia will also deploy command posts and additional radar stations that would boost the efficiency of using the systems in the event of massive strikes.
Experts told Izvestia that Pantsirs would be a valuable addition to Syria’s air defense as this is the most advanced system designed for striking modern air targets such as, aircraft, helicopters, high-precision munitions and drones.
Moscow’s latest move could spark new tensions with the United States, said Andrei Sushentsov, the Valdai Club’s Program Director and Head of the Foreign Policy Analysis Group. "If Syria’s Pantsir shot down an American aircraft, we would find ourselves in a more difficult political situation than now as they would accuse us and this would bring the confrontation between Russia and the US to a new level, but now everything is being done so that the Pentagon does not decide to deliver a strike," he explained.
Moscow and Cairo are in talks on holding joint drills in spring 2017, a military and political source told Izvestia. The military exercises may involve Egypt’s Mistral-class warships and Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov, an aircraft-carrying heavy cruiser.
"This will be an anti-terrorist operation. Russia’s Armed Forces together with Egypt’s military will practice repelling an armed attack by a simulated enemy which seizes a vessel and delivers surgical air strikes," the source said.
This will be the last mission of the Russian aircraft carrier before it is sent to undergo upgrading. The Admiral Kuznetsov is part of Russia’s task force in the Mediterranean Sea. It sailed to Syrian shores this October with all the standard weapons and a full air wing.
Austria’s commercial property developer, Immofinanz, has drawn up plans to sell its Russian assets, including large shopping centers in Moscow, Kommersant business daily writes citing its own sources on the market.
The Immofinanz leadership has not made a final decision yet but has already chosen the CBRE company to act as a "commercial adviser for supporting the potential procedure of the sale."
The company, which has 465,000 square meters of shopping floor space with a balance value of €1.1 bln, is suffering losses "due to the current economic crisis and revaluation of Russia’s assets," according to the paper. The losses reached €361 mln in 2014, while its revenues stood at just €72 mln.
The sources say the company’s leadership has decided to invest €2 bln in assets in Germany, Austria and Poland. Another reason for the decision to quit the Russian market is the preparation for a merger with Europe’s CA Immo, the paper says.
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