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Press review: Anti-Iran bill may rectify Paris-Moscow ties and embassy estate spat lingers

July 13, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, July 13

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Izvestia: Moscow may cancel new consultations with Washington

Russia is mulling over whether to cancel a meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon in Washington scheduled for July 17. This would happen if the US refuses to restart talks on Russia’s seized diplomatic property and fails to come up with a mutually beneficial agenda, a high-ranking Russian diplomatic source informed Izvestia.

Meanwhile, according to the US Department of State and the American Embassy in Moscow, preparations for the consultations are in full swing in Washington.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in an interview with the paper, without commenting on the proposed meeting in Washington, that the US sanctions policy contradicts any efforts to improve ties and is based on illegal approaches.

"There should be no place for such manifestations in international relations. We will never reach a consensus with the US on the sanctions issue. They believe this is a legitimate method of conducting international affairs, while we are confident that it is unlawful. The fact that we did not react to the illegal seizure of our property does not mean that this will not happen in the future," Ryabkov warned.

According to former UN Under-Secretary-General Sergey Ordzhonikidze, Moscow is willing to discuss all bilateral issues, but the diplomatic property spat must be resolved. "The confiscation of Russian property, which has diplomatic status, is sheer impudence. I cannot recall a case when property with a special status was confiscated during the 45 years of my diplomatic career," he told Izvestia.

According to the diplomat, if the issue of returning Russian property and putting an end to pressure on Russian diplomats is discussed by the Americans, Russia will meet it halfway, and if not, Moscow may cancel the consultations.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US anti-Iranian sanctions may reconcile Paris and Moscow

US President Donald Trump will kick off his visit to Paris on Thursday. Topping the issues French President Emmanuel Macron is planning to discuss with the US leader will apparently be the anti-Iranian sanctions, which could do irreparable damage to French businesses. For Macron, the sanctions issue goes beyond economic borders, as that will be a test for the president and his team and will act as a barometer for public opinion towards the Macron administration in the future, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. It mustn’t be forgotten that his victory in the presidential race was ensured, to a very large degree, by the promised changes.

The White House endorsed the bill drafted by Congress on additional sanctions against Iran. The complexity of the situation is that this package also includes additional anti-Russian sanctions. Therefore, putting the restrictions into force would affect the interests of France and Russia as well. For Moscow, Paris’ potential resistance to Washington’s ‘diktat’ will be extremely important, since this will weaken the positions of proponents of anti-Russian sanctions in Europe.

Some experts believe that certain changes in relations between Moscow and Paris can be expected now. For one, Vladimir Vasilyev, Chief Research Associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for the US and Canadian Studies, said a certain thaw in relations between France and Russia could follow. "Trump again started threatening Europe with sanctions, that is, the introduction of trade and economic barriers. Europe, especially France, would need a lever to counter America’s economic pressure," he stressed.

 

Kommersant: Israeli defense chief highlights Russia’s key role in Middle East

Israel supports efforts to quell the situation both throughout Syria and its southwest, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with Kommersant commenting on the Russian-US initiative to set up a de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria. "Of course, it is a bit too early to come up with a detailed assessment, since at this stage we lack precise details, which, as far as I know, are to be clarified at a meeting between the Israeli, Russian, and American teams in Vienna. If the details suit us, we will more than welcome that initiative."

When asked to comment on Israel’s relations with Moscow, the minister said, "We highly appreciate our relations with Russia. We often disagree with each other. There are many issues on which our approaches differ. However, we respect each other, we maintain a constructive dialogue and try to understand Russia’s policy, while Russia tries to understand our approach."

He pointed to the work of a mixed group, which includes the two countries’ militaries, overseeing de-escalation matters and conflict prevention. "I hope we will be able to make considerable progress on the remaining issues soon as well."

According to Lieberman, Russia plays a leading role in the Middle East, and not only in that region. "Russia is a world power, and to tackle any issue, it is necessary, first of all, to reach an agreement between the US and Russia. Following an agreement between the US and Russia huge chemical weapons stockpiles were removed from Syria. After all, it was none other than the US and Russia that agreed on the de-escalation zones in Syria," the minister emphasized.

 

Izvestia: Finland gives green light to Nord Stream-2 project

Helsinki has no objections to the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, Director of the Nuclear Energy and Fuels Unit at the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment Liisa Heikinheimo informed Izvestia.

She noted that the planned Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, which will pass through Finland and the Baltics, will not affect the Finnish gas market, so Helsinki’s stance on the issue is neutral.

According to the ministry, the pipeline’s construction could help improve the situation for the local industry. The beginning of the construction in Finland’s waters is scheduled for March 2018. However, Russia’s energy giant Gazprom earlier said that it would begin three months later.

Finland’s consent shows that the project is being carried out according to schedule, a source in the Russian Energy Ministry told the paper. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the project operator, Nord Stream 2 AG, noted that the talks to coordinate the project will begin in August or September 2017. The next step is its approval by Sweden and Denmark.

Finland’s green light for the project was predictable, according to analysts of the Polish Center for Eastern Studies (OSW). They explained that Finnish state-run company Fortum was Gazprom’s initial partner in the first Nord Stream project and until 2005 it had half of the shares of the Russian-Finnish company North Transgas (later Nord Stream AG).

According to their data, today Gazprom provides 100% of all natural gas consumed by that country, and Finland regards it as a reliable partner.

 

Kommersant: Russian Helicopters to expand civilian rotorcraft business

Russian Helicopters, Russia’s sole developer and manufacturer of helicopters, is beginning to reassess its developing strategy. The company foresees a decline in military orders after fulfilling the bulk of the Russian Defense Ministry’s orders and expects a slump in global demand for their share of military equipment, Kommersant writes. The company is planning to quadruple and even quintuple supplies of civilian products inside Russia and throughout the traditional markets of Asia. Another area, which is expected to compensate for the declining military orders, is the development of maintenance services.

In 2016, Russian Helicopters reduced sales to 189 rotorcraft in 13 countries (compared to 212 in 17 countries in 2015), while revenues from the sales of helicopters fell from 177 billion rubles ($2.9 bln) to 165.8 billion rubles ($2.7 bln).

According to the company’s CEO Andrey Boginsky, the company needs to adjust its plans and development strategy to the projected situations." He noted that "the issue at hand is, above all, increasing the share of civilian products in sales, where noticeable results are already being seen."

Head of Infomost Boris Rybak noted that the main demand for military helicopters and dual-purpose equipment fell on 2010-2012, so now clients chiefly focus on civilian products. In this segment, the company has pretty tough competition from the US-based Sikorsky corporation, Europe’s Airbus Helicopters and the Anglo-Italian AgustaWestland company, he explained. Russian helicopters are known for their simplicity and ability to work in difficult conditions, so they will be able to occupy their niche in the market, the expert emphasized.

 

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

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