MOSCOW, September 1. /TASS/.
Washington’s decision to close the Russian Consulate-General in San Francisco and consular annexes in Washington, DC and New York City is "a totally unfriendly and unprovoked step," Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house) International Affairs Committee Andrey Klimov told Kommersant.
"The Americans are going out of their way to show that they are ‘tough guys’, and that the Trump administration is ready to push ahead with sanctions. I believe this is partially due to the desire to show the American public what a bold and resolute person Trump is. On the other hand, there is a desire to make the most of the Russophobia situation in order to prove that the US president is not as pro-Russian as some people in Washington believe him to be," the senator said. "However, by and large, this is very sad news, because it is steering Russian-US relations into a dead end, and we will have to respond to this unfriendly move anyway."
For his part, Head of the State Duma (lower house) Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashnikov described Washington’s actions as cynical, adding that Russia will have to retaliate in accordance with diplomatic ethics.
"The potential tit-for-tat moves are likely to affect one of the US Consulates General in our country. Like a normal person, I would not like this to happen, since the issue at hand is contacts between people, but this is an accepted diplomatic practice, and we will have to do that," he told the paper.
Meanwhile, newly-appointed Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov did not warn about any immediate tit-for-tat moves. "We need to look into the matter and act very calmly and professionally," he told reporters upon arrival at Washington Dulles International Airport.
Russia and Pakistan will discuss regional cooperation in light of Washington’s new strategy for Afghanistan, Izvestia writes. The meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Asif will be held in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, a high-raking diplomatic source told the paper.
"In September, Sergey Lavrov will be in New York at the UN General Assembly. A number of bilateral gatherings will be held on its sidelines. A meeting with Pakistan’s top diplomat Khawaja Asif is planned too," the source said.
One of the key issues to be discussed at the meeting will be cooperation on Afghanistan. This has been confirmed by Pakistani diplomatic sources who noted that, in light of Washington’s new strategy, Islamabad is planning to hold consultations with its partners on defusing the Afghan crisis, that is, with China, Russia and Turkey.
Despite some progress in Russian-Pakistani relations, the ties can hardly be called friendly, according to Alexey Malashenko, expert of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute.
"Pakistan openly supported the Afghan mujahideen who fought against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Their training camps were located on Pakistani soil. By and large, Moscow and Islamabad have always been on opposite sides of the fence," the paper quotes the expert as saying.
He also noted that, given the new US Afghan strategy, Pakistan is in a difficult position and is "looking for contacts with various countries and organizations," including Russia or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. However, not much should be expected from this meeting, as this is merely an exchange of views, Malashenko added.
Russian Muslims are beginning the Hajj to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. This year the pilgrimage to the holy places of Makkah and Medina falls on August 31-September 3, Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council and Russian Government Commissioner for Hajj Affairs Ilyas Umakhanov told Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
He noted that safe routes are being used for transporting believers, all pilgrims have been vaccinated and are accompanied by doctors and translators.
According to Umakhanov, the absolute majority of Muslims are law-abiding people who wish to live, work, and raise their children peacefully. "The ‘Islamic terrorism’ card has long been played by our overseas partners. The infamous Osama bin Laden was created by the CIA to fight the USSR in Afghanistan. By installing American-style democracy and toppling the regimes of Saddam Hussein and Muamar Gaddafi, they only sparked chaos and created conditions for terrorists of all stripes," he stressed.
He noted that it is impossible to defeat terrorism just by using force, the recent terrorist attacks in Spain, France and other European countries prove that point. In this regard, the clergy’s role, the imam, who draws the line between religion and terrorism, is of great importance, he said. "Most militants are poorly educated and ignorant people. Terrorist recruiters have mastered the related techniques, and are actively enlisting and brainwashing people, later using those militants as cannon fodder," he emphasized.
Umakhanov added that Russia is part of the modern Islamic world and has been an observer state at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation since 2005. He recalled that this process had been initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Malaysia in 2003. "The head of state said there that attempts to provoke Islamophobia in our country had failed, our country’s strength, dignity, wealth and advantages are in its religious harmony. We can see that these fundamental provisions continue to be fully relevant almost 15 year on," he highlighted.
Armenia’s ruling Republican Party has spoken out against renaming its streets, schools and other institutions bearing Soviet names, Izvestia writes. This ‘renaming’ proposal was earlier put forward by the country’s main opposition force - the Elk opposition bloc.
According to Gagik Melikyan, Secretary of the Republican Party’s parliamentary faction, the opposition’s initiative will not be supported by the parliament. "I believe that even in the Elk party, many do not share this view. This is just a politically biased step, which will not get serious support from either the population or the political parties in Armenia’s parliament," the lawmaker said.
Meanwhile, a high-ranking source in the Armenian presidential administration who talked to the paper on condition of anonymity stressed that the country’s leadership will not allow a campaign to change the names of urban infrastructure facilities.
However, Leonid Kalashnikov, Chairman of Russia’s State Duma (lower house) Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots said in an interview with Izvestia that Russia should not ignore such initiatives.
"If this happens, or, at least, there are debates on the issue, Moscow will, of course, respond to such hostile moves," the MP noted.
Kalashnikov added that the opposition’s objective is to whip up the discussion itself and grab the limelight.
"Neither the parliament nor the government will support this initiative. However, the fact that these conversations have begun is a source of concern. When this is done in the Baltic states or in Ukraine, it is understandable. At least, we have gotten used to that. Armenia received maximum assistance from the Soviet Union and has always been friendly towards Moscow," he emphasized.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rescued the BRICS summit from failure by agreeing to arrive in China, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Beijing, in response, agreed to withdraw its troops on the disputed stretch of the border. However, geopolitical differences between the two countries still persist, as each of them vie for dominance in Asia. Questions are now surfacing on whether the two Asian powerhouse economies and members of the BRICS club can cooperate in earnest.
Alexander Larin, leading research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, stressed in an interview with the paper that "China is likely to fulfill the goals it has laid out. "If it does make some concessions, they will be insignificant. For Beijing, the most important thing is to quell India in terms of the economic corridor to the Indian Ocean. The corridor passes through Pakistan, including part of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. However, India considers all of Kashmir to be its territory."
The expert noted that China would eventually succeed in creating this corridor. "Beijing has got the experience, and everyone has to come to grips with that. This applies, in particular, to South China Sea islands. China will try to iron out disagreements with India. It is likely to propose some deals that are beneficial for New Delhi, that is, it will quell India’s dissatisfaction with its wealth, money and investment," Larin said.
This economic corridor is part of China’s large-scale One Belt, One Road project. It is important for China - both for the supply of goods to Pakistan and from a strategic point of view. The construction of the Gwadar port is underway in Pakistan with China’s participation. It is to become China’s foothold on its way to Africa and Europe. China will try to preserve this route and seek India’s neutral approach, at least, to avoid exacerbating the situation and provocations, the expert concluded.
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