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On Tuesday, Vienna will host the first conference on implementing the historic Iran nuclear deal since President Trump’s administration came to power, Kommersant writes. After the new US administration’s representatives harshly criticized Tehran, international mediators, including Russia, want to know if the White House plans to implement the landmark agreement or break it.
Sources in Russia’s Foreign Ministry told the paper that Washington is unlikely to withdraw from the deal, but will turn up the heat on Iran, jeopardizing the agreement. “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a rare example of successful diplomacy, not force. If the Americans kill the deal, bellicosity will prevail, which is a hazard that can undermine international law and stability,” a diplomat said. Sources in the US Department of State say the decision on further steps regarding Iran has not been made so far.
According to Maxim Suchkov, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, “the fact that Americans, who criticize the JCPOA, still have to admit that Tehran honors the terms of the deal, demonstrating that Washington has not found a better alternative to the agreement.” “The Trump administration is annoyed that Iran keeps complicating life for the region’s US allies and the deal cannot influence Tehran’s behavior in the area that the US deems as ‘toxic,” the expert said. “The question is how the US will pressure Iran in other, non-nuclear areas. The effect of such pressure may be significant as well as retaliatory steps by Iran itself,” he said.
Washington has asked Moscow to resume cooperation on the previous flight safety mechanism to prevent incidents in the sky over Syria which Russia had suspended following the surprise US missile strike on Syria’s Shayrat airfield, three sources in Russia’s Foreign Ministry told Izvestia. Moscow had resumed the de-confliction channel on flight safety back on April 13, the day after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Russia. Politicians and experts believe that Washington was forced to take this step since any lack of coordination with Russia could result in negative consequences.
“Washington’s policy is pragmatic,” Igor Morozov, member of the Russian Federation Council’s (upper house of parliament) International Affairs Committee, told the paper. “The State Department understands well that the strategic initiative in Syria’s skies is in the hands of Russia’s Aerospace Forces. So, to avoid any unforeseen situations in the air, the US made such a request,” he explained. '
'Yuri Zinin, a leading researcher at the Center for Partnership of Civilizations of Moscow-based MGIMO University, said: “Washington instigated our reaction. Given that Syria’s sovereignty was violated, our steps may be called rather moderate. In particular, this could have resulted in the death of US advisers and troops in Syria.” By suspending the flight safety mechanism, Russia indicated that it won’t let the US take uncoordinated and unilateral decisions in Syria. Apparently, Washington has taken the hint.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini paid her first visit to Moscow on Monday and held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The parties discussed a broad range of issues, including energy cooperation, as well as the situation in the Middle East and Ukraine, Kommersant writes. However, the deadlocked political dialogue and the lack of any convincing roadmap for a way out of the crisis, causes one to draw the conclusion that there’s a long way to go before any full-fledged strategic dialogue is restored or for the sanctions to be lifted.
"Europeans tell us every time: there won’t be business as usual anymore. But we are also not striving for this. We want business-like pragmatic relations in the areas of mutual interest on the principle of business first," a diplomatic source in Moscow said.
"We feel that in general, the EU desires to break the current deadlock. But in essence, the positively-minded majority in the EU shies away from the negatively-minded minority," the source said, noting that this refers to the Baltic states, Poland and Sweden.
A particular step towards bolstering political dialogue could be the EU’s agreement to carry out an ‘inventory’ of relations, the paper says, recalling that the Russian side put forward this initiative last summer. However, one of sources in the EU’s establishment said then that Brussels would not accept Moscow’s initiative.
"We are not at a stage now to step up cooperation, we want to be sure that working with Moscow won’t undermine the peace process (in Ukraine)," he said. Since then, the peace efforts have reached an impasse and Moscow has not received any EU response to its proposal, the paper says.
Ukrainian authorities have repeated their calls for UN peacekeepers to be deployed to Donbass following the April 23 tragedy when a member of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, a US citizen, was killed in an apparent landmine explosion in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic. This is the first death among monitors over the past three years that the conflict has been raging in eastern Ukraine, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Throughout last year, Kiev had been demanding a change in the OSCE mission’s format, insisting that currently its work is significantly limited as the monitors are vulnerable. Russia, which has a veto right in the UN Security Council, opposed Kiev’s proposal saying that the Blue Helmets are not envisaged by the Minsk peace deal. The self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics also rejected the plan, saying they would consider the deployment of any armed international contingent to the region as military intervention and would offer a due response, the paper said.
The death of the US citizen has again drawn attention of the international mass media to the Donbass conflict. "The West is already accustomed to the fact that something is going on in eastern Ukraine, and is preoccupied by its own problems and now this happened…The death and injuries sustained by citizens of Western countries is always a challenge for the authorities and distress for society: they see that there is a war in Donbass," Vitaly Bala, the director of the Situation Modelling Agency, told the paper. "I’m sure that pressure on Russia won’t ease up. The future will depend on a meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. This meeting may be crucial," he stressed.
Vladimir Gorbach, political analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, doubts that the OSCE monitor’s death will become a turning point for the West regarding the situation in Ukraine.
Russia’s wheat exports to Turkey grew four-fold last month compared with February. Despite Ankara’s decision to impose a 130% duty on Russian wheat in mid-March, the supplies reached record-high levels since August last year, Izvestia writes.
The skyrocketing increase comes as Russian exporters, who had signed contracts before the duties were imposed, rushed to unload wheat, the paper says. The growth in Turkish-bound exports seen in March influenced the overall wheat supplies this agricultural year - as of April 19, Russia supplied 5.7% more wheat than in the same period of last year.
By the end of March, Russian exporters supplied 322,000 tonnes of wheat to Turkey, while in February the supplies reached only 82,000 tonnes, according to the SovEcon analytical center.
"Amid great uncertainty on the Turkish market, the traders carried out contracts signed before March 15 more actively due to fears that rules of the game may be again revised. Now almost the whole amount under these contracts has been supplied and in April wheat supplies to Turkey are unlikely to be significant," the center’s director Andrey Sizov said.
According to Vice President of the Russian Grain Union Alexander Korbut, the ban on duty-free wheat supplies primarily affects Turkish flour producers.
"Turkey’s flour millers have smooth-running export contracts and they cannot give up Russian grain. It is possible to find new markets, but Turkey will hardly replace Russia’s supplies," he said.
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