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Press review: Tajikistan obstructs Iran’s SCO bid and Moscow works to end Palestinian rift

September 20, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, September 20

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© EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

 

Kommersant: Tajikistan blocking Iran from full SCO membership

Foreign Ministers from member states in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will hold a conference in New York. This will be the first meeting with the participation of Indian and Pakistani top diplomats,  since both states became full members of this organization this past June. According to Kommersant, Russia hoped to see Iran at the negotiating table, given that after the removal of UN sanctions, Tehran has the right to apply for membership in the SCO.

However, Tajikistan is accusing Tehran of supporting a banned Tajik party, so it is stonewalling Iran from getting SCO membership. Experts interviewed by the newspaper do not rule out financial issues behind the unexpected spat between the two previously closely cooperating states.

Moscow believes that the international role of the SCO will only strengthen if full membership is granted to Iran, which currently has observer status in the organization, the newspaper wrote. That said, there hasn’t been any formal obstacles to changing Tehran’s status since the removal of the sanctions over a year and a half ago.

However, a recent documentary filmed at the request of the Tajik Ministry of Internal Affairs accused Iran of orchestrating a string of terrorist attacks and contract killings in the late 1990s. Tehran rejects all accusations, noting that the information contained in the documentary is not true.

According to Andrey Kazantsev, an expert at the Valdai Club, director of the Analytical Center of the MGIMO Institute for International Studies, the belief that the current spat with Tajikistan is due to financial reasons is "widespread" in Iran. "But I would refrain from calling it anything more than rumors. There is no official evidence, and the charges are very serious," the expert told Kommersant.

Kazantsev suggested another possible reason for the discord between Dushanbe and Tehran is the growing influence of Saudi Arabia, a long-standing adversary of Iran, on Tajikistan’s policies. In 2016, Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon visited Riyadh, calling Saudi Arabia "an important partner" for his country in the Arab world. This spring, the media reported that the Saudis are going to build a parliamentary complex in Dushanbe, which required tearing down several buildings in the center of Dushanbe, including the Iranian embassy, Kommersant wrote.

 

Vedomosti: Central Bank set to take major Russian commercial bank under control

The Russian Central Bank might soon appoint a provisional administrator for B&N Bank, one of Russia’s largest commercial banks, and transfer it to its Fund for the Consolidation of the Banking Sector, created for the financial rehabilitation of banks, a source close to the Central Bank told Vedomosti, as well as six other finance sector sources close to the Central Bank and B&N Bank. Rost Bank and B&N Bank Digital, currently undergoing financial recovery through co-ownership of B&N Bank, might also be moved into the Consolidation Fund, sources told the newspaper. According to two of them, the Central Bank may announce its decision on Thursday.

According to two Vedomosti sources, B&N Bank's shareholders were negotiating its transfer to the Central Bank, and currently the situation is relatively stable, with prospects to negotiate "amicably". In August, B&N Bank's liabilities fell by 5%, the bank cut borrowings from the Central Bank and other financial institutions by one-third to 34 bln rubles ($585 mln) and 50 bln rubles ($860 mln) accordingly, individual bank deposits declined by 22 bln rubles ($378 mln) to 534 bln rubles ($9.2 bln).

This would be the second project of the regulator’s new fund created to assist in consolidating the banking sector after it seized control of Otkritie Holding. The financial recovery of Otkritie Bank, Trust Bank, Rosgosstrakh and three non-state pension funds had been announced on August 29.

"They have similar weaknesses," Senior Director of ACRA - Analytical Credit Rating Agency Kirill Lukashuk told the newspaper. According to him, this is an extremely aggressive business development model seen over the recent years, built on inorganic growth. In B&N Bank's case, growth was due to low-quality assets, primarily Rost Bank and MDM bank.

At the same time, the most non-transparent component of B&N Bank's assets is loans to Rost Bank, Yury Belikov, leading expert at Expert RA, told the newspaper. More than half of B&N Bank's assets or 670 bln rubles ($11.53 bln), are inter-bank loans primarily to Rost Bank, which presents a high concentration of credit risk for one counterparty.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow invigorates efforts to overcome intra-Palestinian rift

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, sent a delegation to Moscow to discuss progress in settling the intra-Palestinian dispute. The Islamists in power made a number of concessions to its rival Fatah faction, announcing the dissolution of the "administrative committee", a quasi-governmental body in Gaza, and transferring it to the National Unity Committee. Experts, interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, believe that Russia played a significant part in the process of national reconciliation.

According to an official statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry, the parties exchanged views on the Middle East with an emphasis on the situation in the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip. The Hamas delegation outlined its principled approach in favor of promptly overcoming the intra-Palestinian rift.

According to the newspaper, earlier the leadership of Hamas announced it was ready to begin direct talks with Fatah after a 10-year conflict. It is likely that after the potential reconciliation of the Palestinian factions, the international community will also encourage Israel to get back to the negotiating table.

According to experts, interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, an impulse to intra-Palestinian agreements was given a long time ago. "In general, the idea of national (intra-Palestinian) reconciliation is not hopeless. The other question is how realistic is the resumption of negotiations and the political process on the Palestinian issue?" Chief Researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Irina Zvyagelskaya told the newspaper.

Analysts say that Russia has made a huge contribution to Palestinian reconciliation. Moscow was always in favor of them getting a unified voice in negotiations with the Israelis. "This position by Russia remains unchanged, despite the fact that the US and Israel adhere to a different line," Elena Suponina, Adviser Director at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “Moscow has not only declared the need for agreements between the main Palestinian organizations of Fatah and Hamas, but also mediating the process in practice,” the expert added.

 

Izvestia: Russians choosing domestic resorts

The Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation summed up the preliminary results of the summer resort season for 2017. Agency head Oleg Safonov told Izvestia that this summer even Sochi was loaded at a record 80%. According to Safonov, those market players complaining about declining tourist flow in domestic destinations are simply not efficient enough.

Even though resorts in Turkey are once again open to Russian tourists, domestic destinations remain attractive for Russians. According to large travel operators, this year's flow of tourists to Sochi surged anywhere from 23-40%, especially during the summer vacation months.

The federal tourism agency suggested publicizing the results of such reviews. According to Safonov, this it will help avoid the appearance of  giving ‘unreliable information’ aimed at smearing domestic resorts.

"Every year we see Sochi’s popularity rising. In particular, in the ski cluster. This year, the load of the alpine cluster in summer reached 80%, a record figure since 2014. Last year, the load was 50%," Safonov told Izvestia.

At the same time, he noted that market players who complain about the decline in the number of tourists in Sochi and Crimea, simply "don’t work efficiently enough." According to tour operators, a serious increase in the flow of tourist domestically was recorded in July. So, the flow of tourists to Sochi increased 40%.

 

Izvestia: German, Austrian delegates plan to visit economic forum in Crimea

Representatives from Germany and Austria intend to participate in the fourth Yalta International Economic Forum (YIEF), which will be held on April 19-21, 2018 in Crimea, Co-chairman of the All-Russia Public Organization Delovaya Rossiya, Chairman of the YIEF Board Andrey Nazarov told Izvestia.

"We expect 50 representatives from Germany and Austria to attend among them prominent politicians, businessmen and public figures are expected to come," he told the newspaper. The final decision on the participation of the German-Austrian delegation in the fourth Yalta International Economic Forum will be taken in the coming days.

"We will visit Crimea despite the sanctions and political pressure, because this is an important sign of reconciliation and cooperation between Russia and the West," one of the Bundestag deputies told Izvestia. "Today, we must recognize that Crimea is an integral part of Russia and the majority of Germans are against anti-Russian sanctions. We need to put an end to the policy of confrontation and replace it with a policy of cooperation," the deputy added.

The Yalta International Economic Forum is an annual international business event held in Crimea. In 2017, more than 2,000 participants from 46 countries attended the YIEF.

 

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

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