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Statements by US military officials on cooperation between Moscow and Washington in Syria show that the Pentagon could be a convenient and promising communication channel with the US, which could help reduce tensions in bilateral relations, Anton Mardasov, Head of the Department of Middle Eastern Conflicts at the Institute for Innovative Development, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "On the one hand, the military likes clarity. It needs to have specific demarcation lines to prevent casualties, so there are more chances here. On the other hand, experience shows that, unlike diplomats, military officials are more categorical in their statements. While the Russian Defense Ministry adheres to a tougher line, Russia’s Foreign Ministry says dialogue is possible. The same thing goes for America, so a balance is needed here. The military can maintain contacts to reach agreements, but diplomats’ involvement is important for them too, even through some informal channels," he explained.
US Strategic Command Chief, General John Hyten, earlier said speaking in Omaha, Nebraska, that US senior military officials are developing communication with their Russian counterparts to defeat terrorism in Syria. "I believe that having open communication between the United States, Russia, China is a good thing from a military prospective," Hyten said. "I will continue to advocate for that."
According to Mardasov, there is another side to Russian-US coordination. Russia needs cooperation the US, and, for one, with Israel, because it helps balance its ties with Iran. "The Syrian conflict is the platform where Russia wants to make the US talk with it and see it as an equal partner," the expert emphasized. "This idea runs through all statements. Naturally, it affects the military level as well. The Americans realize that but disagree with this wording. At the same time, they see that it is important for Russia to maintain the communication channel with the US to counterbalance its interaction with Iran." The Americans often take advantage of this need, the expert added.
Newly-appointed Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov has gotten Washington’s formal consent, a high-ranking source in the Russian Foreign Ministry informed Izvestia. The American side’s agreement was received just over a week ago, following a meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon in Washington. The issue of granting Antonov a US diplomatic visa is being worked on.
"The agreement has been received. Issues related to the diplomatic visa are yet to be resolved. Everything is transpiring not so rapidly, but these are minor technicalities," the source said.
Earlier reports said that Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak would complete his tenure and return to Moscow on July 22. He is to be replaced by Anatoly Antonov.
Antonov’s nomination as Russia’s new Ambassador to the US was endorsed by the Russian parliament in mid-May. Meanwhile, his US counterpart, Jon Huntsman, was formally nominated by US President Donald Trump on July 18. Despite the fact that his selection has not been yet approved by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Moscow has already consented to Huntsman’s appointment.
Antonov has been working in the Russian Foreign Ministry since 1978 and served as Deputy Foreign Minister in 2011-2016.
Sergey Ordzhonikidze, former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, noted talking to Izvestia that the chief hurdle in changing the Russian ambassador to the US is now over.
"That means that the parties apparently do not want and will not downgrade the level of their diplomatic representation. The most important thing is the receiving agreement," the diplomat stressed, adding that obtaining a diplomatic visa is a purely technical issue.
The decision to strip former Georgian President and ex-Governor of Ukraine’s Odessa Region Mikheil Saakashvili of Ukrainian citizenship can lead to unexpected political consequences, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Representatives of many opposition parties lashed out at Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko’s move. Political scientists do not rule out that the "Saakashvili factor" will create a strong opposition in Ukraine, which is likely to be supported by some American circles.
However, another widespread opinion is that the scandal will be forgotten by the end of the summer, and the Ukrainian opposition is unlikely to gain any momentum, or any ground.
Judging by statements made by some opposition politicians in Kiev, they oppose the current Ukrainian leaders more than they support the former Georgian president. Yulia Timoshenko, leader of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) political party is convinced that the decision to strip Saakashvili of Ukrainian citizenship is a dirty and underhanded political trick against President Poroshenko’s opponents. "Poroshenko’s sole objective is to stay in power by any means," she stressed. Leader of the Samopomich (Self-Reliance) party Andrey Sadovy noted that Saakashvili’s persecution began once he became the presidential team’s political opponent. Member of Pyotr Poroshenko Bloc Sergey Leshchenko described the incident as an onslaught against civil society and the opposition.
Meanwhile, a source close to the presidential administration said in an interview with the paper that the legitimacy of this move is not being questioned by anyone. "Western countries respect (the rule of) law. I believe some questions would arise if Ukraine agreed to extradite Saakashvili to Georgia. But since the decision was made while he was abroad (in the US), this is unlikely to happen. It is up to the US authorities whether they’ll extradite him to Tbilisi or not."
The basic objective of convening Venezuela’s Constitutional Assembly is to begin discussing the problems afflicting the country and to try to find solutions to them, Venezuelan Ambassador to Russia Carlos Rafael Faria Tortosa said in an interview with Kommersant.
"The opposition refused to take part in the assembly labelling it illegal. I’d like to recall though that in 2014 the opposition vigorously called for convening the assembly. Those were the same people who still lead the opposition. They used the same arguments that President Maduro uses," the ambassador noted.
On Sunday, Venezuela will hold elections to the Constitutional Assembly, which will oversee the constitutional reform and state administration of the South American country.
Referring to an unofficial referendum staged by the opposition, he noted that the calls for a population survey were legitimate. "What we strongly disagree with is a call for a plebiscite that would have legal consequences, for example, the creation of parallel government bodies by the parliament, first with the Supreme Court, then followed by other agencies," he stressed.
When asked to comment on the current level of relations with Russia, the envoy said that Venezuela appreciates Russia’s stance, since it spoke out in favor of respecting the country’s constitutional norms. "Another important point made by your president and your government is the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela," he added.
According to the ambassador, the two countries are expanding economic cooperation, especially in the oil industry, and are maintaining ties in other areas. He noted that during meetings with Russian entrepreneurs, Venezuelan diplomats try to show them that, despite a certain level of instability in the Latin American country, the current environment is conducive to investment. "They may come to our country, explore our markets, and conduct business with both state-owned companies and those self-employed entrepreneurs who are ready to work on the country’s development in the future."
Tashkent is ready to purchase up to 500,000 tonnes of oil for a refinery in its Jizzakh region before the end of this year, Izvestia writes citing a letter sent by Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov to Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.
Despite the fact that Russian companies have long distributed export oil flows, Rosneft is ready to consider the possibility of ensuring these supplies. "Rosneft is looking into the possibility of supplying Russian oil to Uzbekistan via the Omsk-Pavlodar-Shymkent pipeline," a source in the oil company told the paper.
The pipeline, which has a capacity of 10.3 mln tonnes per year, is now fully loaded, Transneft Vice President Sergey Andronov said earlier. Through it, about 10 mln tonnes of oil are supplied to China as part of a contract between Rosneft and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).
Meanwhile, a source close to the Russian Energy Ministry informed Izvestia that there is an opportunity to boost the pipeline’s capacity from 10.3 mln to 10.8 mln tonnes per year, so that the necessary 500,000 tonnes could be delivered to Uzbekistan without detriment to China.
The joint business between Russia and Uzbekistan in the oil and gas sector is clearly mutually beneficial. However, Russian companies are in no hurry to supply oil to the Central Asian country, IFC Markets analyst Dmitry Lukashov said. "I do not rule out that this may be due to special payment conditions taking into account the work in the gas and other sectors. I believe the technical issues of transporting oil are secondary and could be resolved after mutual financial obligations are settled," the expert noted.
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