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Press review: Merkel’s failing refugee policy and MiG-29 fighter jets for Serbia

December 21, 2016, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in theRussian press on Wednesday, December 21

1 pages in this article
German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the site of the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the site of the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin

© EPA/Maurizio Gambarini


Izvestia: Diplomat’s murder freezes talks on visa-free regime for Turkey

Moscow will freeze talks on introducing a visa-free regime for Turkish citizens, a Russian diplomatic source told Izvestia on Wednesday. Russia will also do its utmost to ensure the security of its citizens visiting Turkey.

Russia has repeatedly emphasized the need for security guarantees and meeting certain demands so that Turkey’s citizens could freely visit the country. However, after the tragic death of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov this issue will be put off indefinitely, the paper writes.

"Turkey needs to continue serious work on ensuring security for those entering the country and provide guarantees that thorough checks will be done on all those planning to visit Russia. After the recent tragic events and also the upsurge of incidents that occurred this year, Moscow is not ready now to offer visa-free access to Turkey’s citizens," the source said.

The Foreign Ministry’s recommendations for Russian tourists not to visit Turkish cities are still in force and after the tragedy many Russian politicians and diplomats have repeated their calls. Ankara understands this position of Russia’s authorities. However, there is still hope for bilateral cooperation and enhancing ties.

"I think, Turkey will continue insisting on establishing a visa-free regime as soon as possible since this is an important economic and political factor in relations," said Hasan Selim Ozertem, Director of the Center for Energy Security Studies at the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK) in Ankara and an expert of the Valdai International Discussion Club.

He said the weakening of the Islamic State’s (terrorist organization, outlawed in Russia) positions brought on side effects for European countries. After the militants found it hard to control the occupied Syrian territories, they started carrying out terror attacks in Europe and in other countries and their major goal is Turkey, taking into account its territorial proximity, the expert said. "Terrorists commit symbolic, politically-motivated acts such as the killing of the Russian ambassador or an attack on security forces in Turkey in Istanbul and Ankara. The security situation in major cities is of course more challenging: not only tourists, but local citizens are also worried about this," Ozertem said.


Media: Tragedy births troika: Russia, Turkey, Iran team up to guarantee Syrian peace

Despite the gruesome murder of Russia’s envoy to Turkey, Moscow hosted bilateral and then trilateral talks with the foreign and defense ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran on Tuesday. The top diplomats adopted a joint statement stressing the need to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

Experts interviewed by Kommersant noted that this signals the emergence of a new strategy to the Syrian settlement - the triad of Moscow-Tehran-Ankara, which can play a key role in resolving the ongoing conflict in Syria. The leadership of Russia and Turkey demonstrated that the terror attack in Ankara won’t disrupt the rapprochement and cooperation on Syria.

"Moscow had all grounds to bring serious accusations against Ankara after the ambassador’s murder, but this did not happen. This is a principal difference compared with the situation last November after the incident with the downed Russian jet. This time the tragedy has drawn the sides to closer cooperation," Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov said. The stakes in the Syrian settlement today are so high that the sides prefer to have a very reserved attitude focusing on joint efforts to a diplomatic solution for the conflict, the expert said.

Since Washington ceased to take an active role in the Middle East, the center of gravity in the Syrian settlement is shifting to the Middle East region," Kortunov said, explaining that if previously there had been the axes of Moscow-Tehran and Washington-Ankara, now there is the triad of Moscow-Tehran-Ankara that can chart a new diplomatic course. If, thanks to the efforts of Russia, Iran and Turkey, the conflicting sides in Syria get instructions from their patrons to stop the conflict, "a real hope for its solution will emerge for the first time."

Alexander Vasilyev of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Vedomosti that the readiness to guarantee a peace deal on Syria signals a new arrangement for a settlement. "Until now there was the war of everyone against everyone, and now we see for the first time that regional states try to build a new system of relations, but now their interests differ too much."

Ivan Konovalov, head of military policy and the economy at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, said the talks of the military most likely discussed dividing up the spheres of responsibility in Syria although they will not admit to this in public. If Russia and Iran reinforced their positions after Aleppo’s liberation, Turkey, which launched an intervention on the ground, would find itself in limbo, he said, adding that probably most requests at the talks came from the Turkish side.


Kommersant: Serbian PM to head off to Moscow for MiG-29 fighter jets

Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic will visit Moscow on Wednesday to sign an agreement on the supplies of six MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia on very favorable terms, Kommersant business daily writes. For its part, Moscow hopes that Belgrade will decide in favor of providing diplomatic status for Russian staff members of a humanitarian center in Nis, southern Serbia, the paper says. However, Vucic made it clear that he is not going to announce this decision in Moscow.

Under the deal, due to be signed in March-April 2017, Belgrade is expected to get used MiG-29 jets free-of-charge, paying only for their repair. This information was confirmed by Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic after his recent meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. However, Vucic insists that Serbia should buy the aircraft, although at a price below the market. Apparently, this has great importance for the Serbian premier, the paper says.

The premier also said that Serbia is in talks with Russia on the supplies of air defense systems. Sources close to the Serbian government told Kommersant that this is a modified version of the Buk system, which can be supplied to Belgrade by next year. Speaking on why Belgrade is signing the deal with Moscow, Serbia’s Chief of General Staff Ljubisa Dikovic said 80% of Serbia’s armaments are made in Russia. The second reason is that "no one can offer more advantageous terms on MiGs." The general said that military cooperation with Russia is based "on friendship and similar approaches to peace and security issues."

Meanwhile, the decision on the diplomatic status of the Russian staff members at the Nis center will be apparently put off until at least early 2017 when Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is set to visit Belgrade, Kommersant writes. Moscow has been seeking this decision for a long time, but Belgrade has so far delayed the move fearing possible repercussions from the EU. Brussels has opposed granting this status to the Russian staff members viewing this as a step towards creating a military base there.


Izvestia: Opponents blast Merkel’s refugee policy for sparking terror wave in Germany

After Monday’s truck terror rampage in downtown Berlin that left 12 dead, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has again come under fire by opponents. She is being blamed for not only the several terror attacks this year, which were organized by refugees, but also for supporting the Islamists who are flooding into Europe, Izvestia writes.

Marcus Pretzell, a member of the Alternative for Germany party, said: "These deaths are on Merkel’s conscience." Similar statements came from other opposition parties’ representatives, although less frank ones.

Alexander Noy of the Left Party and a member of the defense committee in the Bundestag, who oversees foreign policy, security and relations with NATO, said there are too many questions to the German government if the Islamist terrorists are behind the attack.

"I have warned the government and Merkel several times that by supporting the US war in the countries of the Islamic world we provoke militants and that results in international security problems." "Moreover, Germany jointly with other countries supports Islamists fighting against the Syrian government. But the support of the so-called moderate opposition also means the support of the Islamists. They have no friends and they wage their own "holy war" even against their backers." The expert stressed that Germany needs to change its foreign policy immediately.

Research Director at the German-Russian Forum Alexander Rahr said the latest incident is "the heaviest blow against Angela Merkel, who opened Germany’s borders a year ago for 1.5mln refugees." "This is already the fourth or the fifth case I remember when a person, who entered Germany pretending to be a refugee, turned out to be a terrorist. Although, so far the attacks were not so massive," he said.


Vedomosti: Two legs of Turkish Stream valued at €7 bln

Investments in the underwater section of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline will reach around €7 bln. This includes the cost of the construction of two legs, a financial feasibility study for the bill on ratifying an intergovernmental deal between Russia and Turkey says, according to Vedomosti. The sum also includes the expenses for the underwater section of the South Stream project, the document says, but no exact sum has been revealed.

The gas pipeline is expected to reduce the transit risks and ensure the implementation of Gazprom’s commitments on gas supplies to Turkey and EU countries after 2019, an explanatory note for the bill says. The Russian federal budget is due to get around $750 mln in export duties only from the gas supplies via the first leg. Similar revenues could come from the second leg if it is built. The sum also depends on the list of countries that will buy gas, which may be transited via Turkey, the paper says.

The sum of investments was expected and on par with preliminary assessments, analyst at Sberbank CIB Valery Nesterov said. Gazprom will not change its plans, but the project has many risks, he added. The relations with Turkey are unstable, including the gas sector as the country tries to diversify the sources of supplies. "We are building the pipeline and the pricing principles have not been agreed on finally," the expert said. "The pipeline is being constructed in the era of low gas prices - we won’t see $400 -$500 per 1,000 cubic meters, and this already affects the project’s budget."

Experts say the sum of the project may be changed as apparently it has not been revised since 2015.

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

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