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Russia and OPEC struck a long-awaited deal on Wednesday that cut oil production by 1.9%, pushing up oil prices above 10%. Kommersant business daily writes that Moscow’s decision was unexpected and the last time this happened was back in 1999. So, Russia helped Iran avoid reducing oil production. Instead, Iran was allowed to even increase its oil output by 90,000 barrels per day to 3.8 mln barrels.
However, the deal’s potential impact received a mixed response from analysts who warn about the risks that the agreements may not be implemented, even by Russia, while the positions of US oil producers, who are not affected by the agreement, are likely to strengthen.
Until recently, Moscow said it was ready only to freeze production at the current level of 11.2 mln barrels per day. However, according to Kommersant, this position changed after Vladimir Putin’s phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Although the deal’s details have been made public, it is not formally concluded and country representatives are due to sign the document within ten days at a potential meeting in Doha, the paper says. Analysts interviewed by Kommersant expected that the price of oil could soar to $55 per barrel, if OPEC’s meeting turns out to be a success.
Moscow is ready to convict pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko according to Russian law, if the US agrees to hand him over, Russian Foreign Ministry's Ombudsman for Human Rights, Democracy and the Supremacy of Law Konstantin Dolgov told Izvestia on Thursday.
The procedure is in line with Russia’s commitments under the 1983 Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, the diplomat said. "There was a request from us, and this means that we are ready to comply with everything that is specified by the convention for the return of a citizen back home. Such precedents have taken place, there are a few of them, but there are some in relations to the US," Dolgov told the paper.
Moscow received a provisional response from the US Department of Justice saying that the "issue is being considered according to US legislation," he added. There is also the option that outgoing US President Barack Obama could pardon Yaroshenko. "However, so far Obama has not expressed such an intention. But we have repeatedly said that such an option is possible to bring our national to his native country."
Russia’s Foreign Ministry also hopes that there are other ways to return Yaroshenko to Russia. In particular, there is a chance that he could be swapped for a US citizen being held in a Russian prison.
Russia has refrained from delivering a harsh response to the latest statement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the goal of Ankara’s forces in Syria was to topple President Bashar Assad. Political scientist Alexander Sotnichenko told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Russia does not want to quarrel with Turkey.
"Our leadership understands very well that Erdogan’s statement was not meant for Russia, Syria or even the United States. First, it is aimed at some domestic forces who are trying to push Erdogan into taking certain anti-Russian steps and who invested huge sums of money in the armed opposition. Second, and maybe the chief target audience is the Persian Gulf countries which are staunchly against the Syrian state." The expert said that the Arab countries are discontent over Ankara’s rapprochement with Moscow. "This is not the major part of the Turkish political and business elite, although provocations should not be ruled out," he said.
Ilshat Saetov, a fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies, echoed this viewpoint. "In most cases when he (Erdogan) says something in Turkish and within Turkey’s territory this is directed at the domestic audience and does not mean that he will implement this," the political scientist explained. "I don’t think that he is going to topple Assad, but he has to support the mobilization regime." The Turkish forces in Syria could be beefed up only to fight against the Syrian Kurds, he added.
Saetov said the statements on Assad struck a chord with Turkey’s citizens. "Turks view Assad as an enemy of Sunni Muslims and believe that he is a war criminal," he said. "The propaganda is very powerful there taking into consideration that all mass media outlets are under Erdogan’s control."
The appointment of Deputy Finance Minister Maxim Oreshkin as Russia’s new Economic Development Minister is likely to result in an ideological merger of the two ministries, most officials interviewed by Vedomosti said. According to a federal official who spoke to Vedomosti, Oreshkin, who was offered the new job two weeks after the arrest of former Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, had been responsible for budget planning.
Oreshkin insisted that the budget for the next three years should be based on a conservative oil price of $40 per barrel. He also said that the low budget deficit is a guarantee of macroeconomic stability that will allow the Central Bank to back away from tough monetary politics. Oreshkin also warned that if spending increased, it would result in higher taxes.
The idea of merging the finance and economy ministries had been discussed earlier in the government, the paper writes. That said the influence of the economy ministry has significantly subsided lately and encouraging economic growth went on the back burner, an official at Russia’s White House said.
Vladimir Tikhomirov, Chief Economist at BCS Financial Group, said the new minister may lack political weight as he is likely to face the onslaught of corporate lobbying efforts. He will also have to struggle with the finance ministry and the Central Bank for budget investments, project financing and state procurement. But the key problem is the lack of demand for reforms from the government, Tikhomirov said.
The December meeting of the Normandy Quartet leaders, which has been discussed since mid-October, is unlikely to be held, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The outcome of the Minsk talks between the top diplomats of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine showed that the leaders of these countries have nothing to discuss now. Nobody is ready to make any concessions.
To break the impasse, the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics want to delegate their representatives to the Normandy format, the paper says. Meanwhile, Kiev hopes that Washington and London will join the talks.
DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko accused Kiev of being unwilling to resolve the conflict and for the first time criticized the Normandy format, explaining: "How can you agree on problems between the two parties if one of them does not take part in the discussion? He said that in the current format, three countries - Germany, France and Russia - have been trying to persuade the fourth country - Ukraine - to accept peace. "Without the participation of the DPR there will be no success in solving the fate of Donbass and Ukraine," he stressed.
Kiev is not considering the possibility of talks with the DPR and LPR, as this would legitimize the self-proclaimed republics, the paper writes. Director of Ukraine’s Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies, Valentin Badrak, said nothing will change until the new US presidential administration takes over the reins. "A lot will depend on how soon and in what way a dialogue is established between the Russian and US presidents," he stated.
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