Negotiations on defusing the Syrian conflict are scheduled to begin in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana on January 23, Izvestia writes. A group of Russian experts has left for Turkey to draw up the consultations. On February 8, the talks will continue in Geneva under the auspices of UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.
Veniamin Popov, Coordinator of the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group, who took part in the talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Moscow, has described the upcoming negotiations in Astana in an interview with the paper as a major step towards a peaceful settlement in Syria.
"After the liberation of Aleppo these talks are an important milestone in resolving the Syrian crisis. We’ve been able to achieve a nationwide ceasefire in Syria. Agreements have been reached with Syria’s armed opposition groups, including Ahrar al-Asham, which agreed to end the hostilities. That’s serious progress."
According to Popov, the talks in Astana do not contradict the Geneva ones. "We recognize the key role played by the UN in resolving the situation in Syria," the expert noted. "However, the Geneva talks were deadlocked by the opposition and those who support it. Therefore, we have found a new arrangement with forces that are genuinely interested in making progress. I mean the Russia-Turkey-Iran trilateral format. That will be of considerable help to the negotiations in Geneva scheduled for February."
He added that the amendments to the Syrian Constitution are likely to be one of the main issues at the talks, as "it is clear now that Syria needs a new constitution."
Russia’s Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs has begun work on a new program to implement the state-sponsored nationalities policy for 2017-2025, Kommersant writes. The agency is due to receive 2.5 bln rubles ($41.6 mln) this year for carrying out this policy, which is almost double the amount of funds earmarked for the previous federal program.
The new program designed "to consolidate civic consciousness and spiritual community of Russia’s multinational people" includes eight sub-programs, among them civic identity, the ethno-cultural development of nationalities of the Russian Federation, social and cultural adaptation of immigrants, promoting the Russian language and the languages of ethnic groups and steps to prevent ethnic and religious extremism.
"The Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs is developing into a department that will supervise the state-sponsored program, which is an administrative solution to interethnic problems using a system of governance," says Dmitry Zhuravlyov, Director of the Institute for Regional Studies. "However, it is impossible to tackle interethnic issues by just using administrative authority. There are no interethnic problems. There are socio-economic problems, which turn into interethnic ones, so it is futile to solve them by only preserving ethnic and cultural traditions, just as it is impossible to absorb immigrants without giving them economic incentives."
Moldova’s President, Igor Dodon, is to pay an official visit to Moscow on January 16-18, for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which include the Transnistria crisis, Izvestia writes. Last week both Moldovan and Transnistrian leaders met for the first time in eight years. The two presidents described the meeting as positive and agreed to keep up the dialogue.
In his interview with Izvestia, Dodon noted that Moscow should act as a guarantor in resolving the crisis, considering that consultations on the issue are expected to begin in the near future. "The most important thing now is to focus on tackling the issues that concern ordinary citizens on both banks of the Dniester River," he stated. "My stance has remained unchanged. Moldova is a single country, and I am confident that we will be able to find common ground on settling the Transnistrian conflict. Although we may have different visions about our country’s future, that does not mean that we cannot meet with our counterparts to discuss current problems." "We will not be able to resolve the Transnistrian issue without Moscow," the Moldovan president stressed.
Meanwhile, Leonid Kalashnikov, Chairman of Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) CIS Affairs Committee, told the paper that Dodon’s determination to address this long-standing issue should be commended. "If everything depended on Dodon, the problem would be solved shortly. I am afraid, however, that the power he has is not enough at the moment. Nevertheless, Dodon’s attempts to resolve these issues and build a Eurasian vector of cooperation with Russia can only be welcomed," he said.
Russia’s heavy machine-building industry could disappear completely, and the country is running the risk of the total dependence on imports, Kommersant writes citing the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry’s draft development strategy until 2030. To reverse this trend, the ministry suggests supporting machine-building plants by handing out subsidized loans and reducing imports to encourage foreign manufacturers to localize production.
According to the draft strategy, presently the industry’s contribution to the country’s GDP is less than 1%, while the enterprises’ average workload is roughly 30%. The heavy machine-building industry currently accounts for about 50% of Russia’s total imports. Its major objective is that Russian manufacturers should account for no less than 70% of the domestic market by 2030. The share of imports is expected to decline 35% by 2020, while the share of exports is anticipated to grow from 7% to 12%.
However, the answer to this key question, primarily the funds due to be earmarked by the strategy’s implementation is still unknown, the paper notes.
Meanwhile, Dmitry Babansky of SBS Consulting noted that the strategy is "a top-level document," which looks more like a concept. Although the proposed measures make it possible to solve the entire range of problems by and large, it is necessary to make sure that they have substantial budget support. The expert hoped that they will focus on such issues as subsidizing loan interests, R&D costs, production and the sales of pilot batches.
Russia’s Economic Development Ministry has come up with an initiative to cut back on the amount of time needed for drafting regulatory acts by government agencies by 30%, Vedomosti quotes the draft plan of socio-economic development for 2017 as saying. The plan was discussed at Tuesday’s meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The relevant government decree is expected to be issued by September.
This period of time depends on both the type of the document and the administrator, Anna Gutnikova, Director of the Institute for Legal Regulation Problems at the Higher School of Economics, explained. It takes about six months to draft a law, and a government decree can be prepared within a period of 4-9 months. However, the process can be accelerated, if there are interested parties, she noted, adding that the procedure can be changed, but this is unlikely to improve the situation in general.
Gutnikova recalled that the Economic Development Ministry issued regulations aimed at improving the lawmaking process on numerous occasions, but everything boiled down to formal decisions, so the current attempt to reform the system has not been the first one.
On the other hand, Igor Bartsits, Director of the Institute for Public Administration and Management, emphasized that it is not the speed of adopting legal acts but their quality that matters.
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