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Press review: Moscow as mediator for Libyan crisis and Trump's threat on cutting UN budget

September 18, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, September 18

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© AP Photo/Evan Vucci

 

Moscow may become venue in mediating Libyan crisis

After representatives from Libya’s two rival political forces visited Russia last week, word has it that Moscow is becoming a new platform for the Libyan settlement, RBC daily writes on Monday. Though Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq and National Army Spokesman Ahmed Al-Mismari simultaneously paid officials visits to Russia, neither of them wanted to hold bilateral talks. "I have no intention of meeting Maiteeq even if he asks me to," Mismari told the newspaper. However, the politician assumes that Russia may become another platform for talks that will complement all previous formats and platforms. "This is probably the right path that we should take now. We have already tried several other platforms, though unfortunately they turned out to be idle talk and promises, and we hope that the Russian platform will be sounder and more effective," he told RBC.

After Gaddafi’s overthrow and murder in 2011, Libya plunged into chaos, and to date a single command center hasn’t been hammered out. Currently, the country has three governing bodies - the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, the National Salvation Government in Misurata unrecognized by the international community and the so-called Eastern Cabinet loyal to the House of Representatives, the elected permanent parliament located in Tobruk and recognized by the international community. According to Maiteeq, the Tripoli-based government is less enthusiastic about the prospect of Moscow becoming a mediator in the Libyan crisis, and welcomes efforts by all countries to help the country out of its predicament under the aegis of the United Nations. Also, he does not expect the national election to take place in March, he told RBC, since first it is necessary to restore the key institutions and draft a new constitution, though he added that the election might be held before end-2018.

Experts admit that potentially Russia may become a new platform for settling the Libyan crisis. Oleg Bulayev of the Center for Arabic and Islamic Research at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences said that Moscow’s representatives are undertaking active efforts to cooperate with the country’s dissenting camps, though it might be very challenging to eventually accommodate the parties due to their "self-confidence and reluctance to reach compromises." "Rivals still stick to the military way of settlement, and it is going to be one of the most difficult tasks for Russian diplomats to reverse this trend," he added. However, Moscow’s interest in contributing to the settlement is obvious both from the political and economic viewpoints, the expert said.

 

Izvestia: Trump threatens to slash funding to UN budget

The UN is working closely with US President Donald Trump on its budgetary issues, what's more, information about Washington’s plans to starve the global organization of contributions is invalid, Izvestia says citing a source in the organization’s press service. "We hope to be constantly in contact with the United States, the biggest donor to the United Nations, and we are in talks on the budget issue," the source said, reassuring that Washington will not radically alter its contributions to the UN budget.

Meanwhile, another source in the State Department told the newspaper that Trump nevertheless intends to reduce or even totally cut off financing. "The US Congress has not yet finished reviewing the budget for fiscal year 2018. The US president has officially submitted the budget request to reduce or cut off direct financing to the UN and its affiliated agencies, whose mission does not promote US global interests. Also, the White House occupant has submitted the budget request for fiscal year 2018 to the State Department and USAID," he noted. The paper’s diplomatic sources said that President Trump would announce his decision on the issue at the 72nd session of the General Assembly where he plans to come up with an initiative to reform the global institution.

President Trump has incessantly castigated the UN for inefficient work and excessive spending. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has also voiced discontent with the way the global institution functions. In recent months, Washington, which contributes 20-25% of its budget annually, has cut funding for a number of its programs. Vladimir Vasilyev of the Moscow-based Institute for US and Canada Studies told Izvestia that Donald Trump’s goal is to deprive the UN of its role as ‘chief justice’ in international conflicts and diminish its role in global issues on the whole. "Donald Trump plans to cut the UN’s budget by at least 40%. Congress where the Republicans hold the majority will most likely support the initiative. And this is fairly in line with their vision of global politics," he said.

 

Kommersant: Russia not in crosshairs in run-up to German elections

In the run-up to Germany’s parliamentary election, after which the government will be formed and the chancellor will be elected, experts note that Russia has been playing a surprisingly insignificant role in the pre-election campaign of most parties so far, Kommersant writes. "The (topic of) Russia is a very emotional issue in Germany, and not all of German society favor the Chancellor’s tough position and (anti-Russia) sanctions, which is why it is rather surprising how small a role Russia has been playing in the pre-election race so far," Stefan Meister, Head of the Robert Bosch Center for Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia at the German Council on Foreign Relations, told the publication.

However, international political issues are gaining momentum as the national election slowly approaches, Professor of the Institute for Comparative Politics at the Heinrich-Heine-University in Dusseldorf Simon Franzmann points out. "The pre-election contest is going around the issue of which party is most competent in foreign politics and can offer its (foreign affairs minister). In this regard, initially Russia has always been very important, though its position has been challenged by North Korea’s nuclear tests and relations with Turkey," he told Kommersant.

According to Franzmann, The Greens party seems to be the only one that is "openly critical of Russia in its pre-election program," and its assessment of the Kremlin’s policy is extremely negative. Even the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) that names Russian President Putin’s politics as "the policy of interventions," proposes "to keep sanctions in force" and rules out Russia’s return to the G8, admits that "Germany and the EU are closely tied to Russia, politically, culturally and economically, and in difficult times it is especially important to remain in dialogue," the newspaper writes.

 

Media: Government seeks more sources to bankroll infrastructure projects

In its quest to gather 165 bln rubles ($2.8 bln) required for the development of infrastructure projects in Crimea and the Kaliningrad Region, the Russian government has proposed hiking charges on telecom providers, RBC says citing the minutes of an early September meeting headed by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak that was obtained by the newspaper. At the meeting, the Finance Ministry, the Communications Ministry and the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) were requested to consider the proposal, and mull over the possibility of slashing budget expenditures on public pay telephones and public Internet access outlets, which the state-owned Rostelecom provides nationwide using public funds within the project of eliminating ‘digital disparity’.

According to Irina Levova, strategic project director at the Moscow-based Internet Research Institute, the decision to raise such contributions coupled with charges stipulated by the so-called ‘Yarovaya package’ may become a serious financial burden for telecom operators. "If the ‘Yarovaya law’ is abandoned then operators will probably be able to slightly raise the amount of contributions," she added.

Meanwhile, the Transport Ministry has also initiated raising excise duties on fuel in a move to boost funding for infrastructure projects in Crimea and the Kaliningrad Region, Vedomosti writes with reference to Russian officials. Several federal officials told the newspaper that the decision on fuel excise hikes has already been made at the government’s budget meetings. Duties will be raised in two stages - by 50 kopecks per 1 liter starting January 1 and July 1. Currently, the Tax Code provides an inflation adjustment of 4%, which amounts to around 30 kopecks per 1 liter of petrol and 23 kopecks per 1 liter of diesel fuel. The budget will receive 55-60 bln rubles worth of additional funds, officials told Vedomosti. Denis Borisov, Director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Centre at EY stated that he agrees that additional budget funds will equal around 60 bln rubles.

 

RBC: China’s CEFC to buy Rosneft stake using Russian funds

China’s CEFC will raise funds for the purchase of a 14.2% stake in Rosneft via Chinese and Russian banks, a source in the company told RBC. "Chinese and Russian banks are involved in the transaction," he said without giving any details on any particular banks, or possible credit value. Meanwhile, a Russia-based banker involved in operations with oil and gas firms told the newspaper that the country’s second-biggest lender VTB would probably syndicate a loan for the purchase of a stake in Russia’s top oil producer.

Earlier reports said that CEFC planned to purchase a 14.16% stake in Rosneft from the consortium of QIA and Glencore. Moreover, Glencore said that after the transaction it and QIA would retain an economic interest in Rosneft shares commensurate with their original equity investment announced in December 2016, which amounts to approximately 0.5% and 4.7%, respectively. A source close to the transaction told RBC that it might take a month to finalize the deal. Experts interviewed by the newspaper consider it unexpected and even strange to raise funds for the deal in Russia since it is cheaper to get financing in China. The Russian side may be insuring risks for the buyer, which is a normal practice, the publication says.

 

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

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