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Press review: BRICS to widen membership and US eyes trade pressure on North Korea

September 05, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, September 5

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© Grigory Sysoyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: New US threats target Pyongyang’s trade partners: Moscow and Beijing

Washington is prepared to clamp down on certain countries that have close economic ties with North Korea. President Donald Trump tweeted that the US could stop trade with any nation doing business with North Korea, hinting at China and Russia as the potential targets of this move, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Trump’s statement was quite possibly addressed primarily to China, which accounts for about 90% of North Korea’s foreign trade. However, some experts are skeptical about this plan, considering that trade turnover between the US and China hit $650 bln in 2016.

As for Russia, it has a meagre trade turnover with North Korea, Georgy Toloraya, Director of the Asian Strategy Center at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explained in an interview with the paper. "Most trade goes through China and third countries, that is, we have no formal direct contacts with North Korea. These are small contracts for supplies of seafood, cars and chemicals," he said.

According to Alexey Maslov, Head of the School of Asian Studies at the Higher School of Economics, Trump’s initiative is an excessive measure. "If we look at North Korea’s major trading partners, these are China, Russia and partially South Korea, strange as it may seem," he told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "Here it is important to understand whether Trump is referring to importers or exporters, those who supply products to North Korea or those who purchase North Korean products. Washington’s key task now is to cut Pyongyang off from any foreign exchange earnings so that it won't be able to pay for the development of its nuclear program. However, this has actually been happened. China, just like many other countries, has stopped purchasing ore and rare earth metals from North Korea, which were the source of Pyongyang's foreign exchange earnings. Moreover, the foreign accounts of North Korean manufacturers have been frozen," he stressed.

 

Izvestia: Saudi king to visit Moscow in October

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia is due to pay a visit to Moscow in October, two Russian diplomatic sources informed Izvestia. In an interview with the paper, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that preparations for the visit were underway, though he declined to specify the date of the visit. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who recently returned from a tour of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks.

According to Izvestia’s diplomatic sources, basic agreements on the visit have been reached, while details are being hammered out.

"Russia is trying to contribute to resolving the conflicts in the region - from the Qatar crisis, in which Saudi Arabia is directly involved, to profound disagreements between Arab countries in the Gulf and Iran. That’s why discussing these issues and other problems with Riyadh at the top level would be timely now," the source said.

"Russian President Vladimir Putin invited the Saudi king, and he has accepted the invitation," Saudi General and Director of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies Anwar Eshki told Izvestia. "Military contracts are likely to be signed. I believe the Saudi side will raise the issue of the war in Syria, Yemen and the war on terror. Just as Russia needs Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia needs Russia. This is mutually beneficial cooperation."

The visit is going to be very significant, according to Boris Dolgov, Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Oriental Studies. "Saudi Arabia plays an important role, holds significant sway in the region and actively influences developments in the Middle East. So, the king’s visit and the top-level talks can generate new trends in tackling various international issues," the expert emphasized.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: BRICS opening its doors for new members

The ninth summit of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is coming to a close on Tuesday, in Xiamen, China, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The global economy, international and regional conflicts and national security were among the issues topping the discussion by the leaders of the group of five nations. The host of the forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping, put forward a plan for widening the association, dubbing the initiative "BRICS Plus."

China’s leader raised the issue of increasing the number of BRICS members in his speech at the Business Forum on September 3, stressing that "the importance of BRICS cooperation goes beyond the framework of the five member-countries."

According to Vladimir Davydov, Chairman of the Presidium of the Academic Council at the National Committee for BRICS Studies, BRICS Plus is an interesting and promising idea that could change the traditional notion of integration processes in the 21st century. "Profound changes to the status quo are underway in the international relations system. The BRICS Plus initiative provides a chance for many world economies to find their place in the new system where there are many options for forging mutually advantageous alliances," he told the paper.

According to the expert, BRICS is becoming an association that inspires hope for stability, bearing in mind the impressive financial and economic potential of China. "The idea reflects not just the needs of BRICS itself, which has to search for broad alliances but also of a number of countries, which see the group of five countries as sort of an anchor in the turbulent sea of international relations today," Davydov elaborated.

 

Media: EU demand can trigger new talks between Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine

High demand for natural gas in Europe along with repairs being carried out on the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline have led to Russian gas transit through Ukraine breaking a long-standing record for the summer months by reaching 8.82 bln cubic meters, Kommersant writes citing data provided by Russia’s energy giant Gazprom. Despite the fact that relations between Moscow and Kiev leave a lot to be desired, Gazprom is intensifying the use of the Ukrainian route, and the transit can approach 100 bln cubic meters by the end of this year. If European demand for Russian gas remains at this level during the coming years, Gazprom will have to agree to negotiations on a new major transit contract with Kiev, as the alternative gas pipelines - Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream - cannot completely replace this route, the paper notes.

However, Maria Belova, Research Director at VYGON Consulting, believes that even by maintaining gas exports at their current level - more than 170 bln cubic meters per year - the implementation of Nord Stream 2 and the two Turkish Stream legs will make it possible for Gazprom not to extend the transit contract with Ukraine expiring in December 2019. However, given the recent US sanctions, there is a risk that Nord Stream 2 and Germany’s transport infrastructure will not be fully up and running on time. In that case, it will be necessary to use the Ukrainian route, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

"The upbeat thing is that once these intense negotiations on the issue begin, Gazprom will have a clear understanding of the deadlines and amounts of the next transit agreement with Ukraine it will sign," the paper quotes Belova as saying.

 

Kommersant: Russia and Kazakhstan agree to expand flights

Russian and Kazakh aviation authorities, which had disagreements about the rights of Kazakh companies to fly along the Trans-Siberian routes to Mongolia since 2016, have reached a consensus. 

Russia and Kazakhstan agreed to expand flights between the two countries, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency reported. As of March 2018, the number of flights from St. Petersburg to Astana and Almaty will increase from seven to ten per week, and as of March 19 – to 14 flights. That said, the number of flights between Moscow and Astana will expand from nine to twelve as of spring 2018.

Some well-informed sources told Kommersant that Kazakhstan also agreed to the use of a second Russian air carrier with the right to fly from Zhukovsky Airport in the Moscow region to Astana.

Meanwhile, a source familiar with the situation informed the paper that Kazakhstan has consented to increase the number of flights, provided that Air Astana will have the right to fly to Ulaanbaatar along Russia’s Trans-Siberian routes. He noted that the issue at hand could be "a token payment" to the designated carrier, Russia’s Aeroflot, "for a limited number of flights per week."

On the other hand, Boris Rybak of Infomost noted that the ambiguous regional status of Zhukovsky Airport was used in light of relations with CIS member-countries, as this airfield plays a major role of a tool to liberalize air traffic.

 

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

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