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Press review: Lavrov in no rush to referee Qatar furor and US threatens to isolate Russia

August 29, 2017, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, August 29

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Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

© Alexander Shcherbak/TASS


Kommersant: Lavrov ‘in no rush’ to mediate Qatar dispute

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with the Kuwaiti leadership on Monday about the Persian Gulf crisis surrounding Qatar, which has been in diplomatic isolation since early June. A source in Russia’s delegation told Kommersant that Moscow is not seeking to be a mediator although it can achieve this role after Lavrov’s trips to Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. At present, Kuwait is acting as the key mediator of the crisis.

Vladimir Sotnikov, Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, has not ruled out that Moscow’s mediating effort may be a success. "Russia has balanced relations with all parties to the conflict - Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Qatar," he said, hinting that during his tour, Lavrov may try to bring the parties’ positions closer.

Many factors may play an important role here, including the developments in Syria and Iranian behavior under Washington’s pressure, as well as relations between Tehran and the Saudis, the expert said. "Our task is to ensure that neither of these factors could become a trigger for bringing the crisis back to a confrontation phase."

A Russian delegation source told Kommersant ahead of the talks in Kuwait City that Moscow views the Qatari crisis first and foremost as a regional issue. "From the very beginning, we said that a key role in resolving the conflict should be given to the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and the Arab League, which includes Egypt," a source said. "If they ask us, we will offer mediation. But no such requests have been made. In general, we should wait until the end of the trip."


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US threatens Russia with total isolation

Washington is seriously considering plans of changing Russia's position on Ukraine and delivering lethal arms to Kiev, United States Special Representative on Ukraine Kurt Volker has told the Financial Times, also warning that Moscow would face full isolation. US-Russian relations will be "crippled" unless a solution is found on Ukraine, he cautioned.

Deputy Director of the Institute for US and Canada Studies, Pavel Zolotarev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta commenting on Volker’s statement: "If Trump is guided by his own opinion instead of the domestic political landscape, which may pull him in a completely different direction, then he won’t agree to supply lethal arms to Ukraine. This is not only because he favors normalizing ties with Russia. No doubt, Trump remembers Kiev’s position on his candidacy during the US presidential campaign."

However, the expert refused to predict Trump’s final decision, taking into account the domestic political factor that holds enormous influence on US foreign policy now.

President of the Institute for Strategic Assessments Alexander Konovalov told the newspaper that the US is ready to provide Ukraine with efficient weapons for anti-tank defense. "If Kiev receives Javelin portable systems, this may significantly change the balance of power on the battlefield."

As for Russia’s isolation that Volker predicts, Konovalov believes that it is inevitable. "We find ourselves in a strange group along with North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, and this is not a situation that should be welcomed," the expert said, warning that new sanctions would roll back years of Russia’s development gains.

Meanwhile, Zolotarev played down the isolation aftermath for Moscow. "Even if the US tries to isolate Russia, the possibilities for implementing this idea are limited now. Europe is tired of being a hostage to this situation. Even Poland sees what Ukraine really is, although its anti-Russian stance is unlikely to be mitigated," he said. "We have already passed the isolation peak."

Member of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Alexey Pushkov also voiced skepticism over Washington’s isolation threats. The US cannot isolate Russia as shown by the experience of the Obama presidency, he wrote on Twitter.


Izvestia: Russia eyes import replacement for perfumes and cosmetics

The ministry will ask domestic chemical producers about the prospects for making ingredients in Russia and turn to perfumery and cosmetics producers about the possibilities for using them. Later, it will furnish its assessments on whether import replacement measures in this sector are possible, the paper writes.

The ministry will select plants which could manufacture ingredients for Russian and foreign perfumery and cosmetics brands, according to a meeting protocol of the ministry’s department of chemical-technological and forest industry complex.

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Russian Perfumery and Cosmetics Association Tatyana Puchkova told the paper that some Russian companies don’t have any means for initiating production of cosmetics ingredients. "After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a powerful basis for manufacturing essential oils in Crimea and the Krasnodar Region was ruined, and many enterprises producing chemicals used in cosmetics fell into decay. Over the past 20 years, many new high-tech products have emerged, but Russia lags behind in this sector," Puchkova explained. "Many interesting innovations are still stashed away in our laboratories, but unfortunately, companies have neither the experience nor the financial prospects for launching production of new highly sought-after ingredients," she said.

According to Izvestia, the ministry has been looking for partners of Zara, Nike, Finn Flare and other major foreign retailers who are ready to deal with producing consumer goods in Russia.


Kommersant: Russian authorities see end to ruble devaluation

The Russian Economy Ministry’s September outlook foresees a stronger ruble rate against the dollar, and if the US currency weakens, the ruble’s depreciation will come to an end, Kommersant writes. The discussion on supporting domestic industry with a weak ruble is apparently over.

The discussion on the ruble will be inevitably resumed. By 2019, the ministry expects that current operations will haven been reduced to 0.4% GDP and this will again change the rules of the game for the national currency, according to Kommersant. Expectations for a stable ruble at the level that Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin had earlier considered as overestimated, coincide with a more optimistic GDP forecast for 2017-2020.
This year, the economy ministry expects it to grow 2.1% and in 2018-2020 – 2.1%-2.3% compared with 1.5% expectations in April. This change can be understood as accepting the thesis that “a strong ruble won’t hamper a certain boost in economic growth,” the paper says. Even a year with a strong ruble and 4% annual inflation is a very good forecast for foreign investors, Kommersant writes.

Vedomosti: Europe’s summer heat wave stimulated Gazprom’s gas export

Since early August, Russian energy giant Gazprom has already broken previous records of transiting gas to Europe several times. A new record was set on August 24 of 590.3 million cubic meters, the company said, according to Vedomosti. This increase comes amid the heat wave sweeping through Europe and a growth in prices on the spot market, analysts explain.

Last year, Gazprom exported 179.3 billion cubic meters of gas, setting a historic high. In 2017, the company continues stepping up supplies and is highly likely to renew its record. In early June, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller attributed the growth in transit volumes to an extended cold spell. But even after a long winter, the export of Russian gas to countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent States exceeded last year’s figures.

Europe’s record heat wave was recorded in July and the figures for gas power generation rocketed compared with last year. According to Fitch Ratings, the increases of 249% and 91% were seen in Germany and Italy, respectively.

The gas price on spot markets allowed Gazprom to maintain high volumes of supplies to Europe. In August, the figure exceeded $200 per 1,000 cubic meters and continues staying at this level.

Dmitry Marinchenko, who heads a department for corporations at Fitch Ratings, explained that it is more profitable to buy Russian gas now. "The surge of gas prices in the EU is attributed to this summer’s abnormally warm weather in Europe due to which the volumes of power generation rose and also the hike in prices for thermal coal," he said. No further growth of spot prices should be expected, the analyst stated.


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

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