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Press review: Trump may boost Iran’s hardliners and what Russian-US talks hold for Kabul

October 13, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday

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© AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Izvestia: Moscow to host Russian-US consultations on Afghanistan

Russia and the US will seek opportunities for cooperation on the Afghan track, Izvestia writes. Zamir Kabulov, Russian Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan and Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department, informed the paper that the issue would be discussed at the upcoming consultations with Acting US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Alice Wells, in Moscow.

The two diplomats met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. According to Kabulov, Washington realizes the need for cooperation with Moscow on the Afghan track. "The United States wants to find common ground on Afghanistan with Russia. The search for ways and mechanisms continues. However, it is premature to talk about full-fledged cooperation between us. However, we do see some changes for the better in their approaches," he stressed.

He admitted, though, that disagreements between Moscow and Washington persist, which make it difficult for the parties to reach a compromise due to the complexity of Russian-US relations.

Similarly, Omar Nessar, Director of the Center for Contemporary Afghanistan, is certain that profound changes in bilateral cooperation along this line are unlikely. In his view, the most likely area of cooperation between Moscow and Washington may be related to repairing Afghanistan’s helicopter fleet. As for prospects for cooperation, more in-depth contracts are possible in the future, as they are mutually beneficial. But anyway, cooperation will be limited, he noted.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump’s Iran regime change plan may bolster Tehran’s hardliners

A looming US sanctions clampdown on Tehran could deal a blow to the positions of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Trump administration officials have never kept it a secret that Washington’s policies are aimed at internal changes in Iran. However, such moves could backfire on Washington, because they will make the opposition, namely, the most hardline conservatives in Tehran stronger, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The threat of US sanctions has loomed over Iran both due to Washington’s objections against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its dissatisfaction with Tehran’s attempts to develop its missile potential.

In October, the White House announced new sanctions against Iran, which should be a response to missile tests, the alleged support for terrorism and cyber activity. Reviving the restrictive measures related to Iran’s nuclear program would be more difficult, but their effects could be devastating, the experts interviewed by the paper noted.

"Iran will respond to the sanctions negatively," Vladimir Sazhin, Senior Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Oriental Studies, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "That would deal a serious blow to the current presidential authority and Rouhani’s team. Of course, his opposition, primarily the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and religious extremists, will take advantage of the situation. They will insist, of course, that the US cannot be trusted. That will be a significant blow to the president’s relatively liberal policy," the analyst said, adding that the economic effects of the US sanctions will be no less serious.

On the other hand, some analysts reject the idea that sanctions or Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal could destabilize the current regime in Tehran. "For its part, the Iranian government has always said it was committed to the nuclear deal and complied with it," Yuliya Sveshnikova, Research Associate at the Higher School of Economics, explained in an interview with the paper. "Hassan Rouhani, the ‘sheikh of diplomacy,’ has a fairly strong position in society and in relations with some hardliners opposed to the nuclear agreement that are facing major difficulties on the domestic political front, as the May presidential election showed. I do not think that Trump sees this tantalizing idea of nullifying the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a means of ‘rocking the boat’ and seeking regime change in Tehran. He seems to be looking at the issue solely from the outside, from a geopolitical perspective rather than in the context of potential social engineering within Iran."

 

Kommersant: European Commission moves to amend EU energy legislation

The European Commission (EC) is set to present its version of new legislation for offshore gas pipelines in November. The passing of this statute could apply the provisions of the EU’s Third Energy Package to Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 project, Kommersant writes. If that is the case, the Russian energy giant’s access to the pipeline could be limited in order to formally leave room for some alternative suppliers. Another option is placing the pipeline under the management of an independent operator.

The EC asked for the EU Council’s mandate for negotiations on Nord Stream 2 with Russia in the summer in response to complaints from its opponents (including Poland, Denmark and the Baltic States). The marine part of the pipeline is regulated by the International Maritime Law, and its on-shore sections - by Russian and German laws.

Denis Durashkin of BGP Litigation believes that plans to extend the provisions to the Third Energy Package to the territory outside the EU are "a rather dubious initiative," which contravenes the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Under this convention, the jurisdiction of countries does not extend to neutral waters. If the amendments become a law, Gazprom will have to transfer control over Nord Stream 2 to an independent gas transportation company or abandon the project, he explained.

On the other hand, Anastasia Khudyakova of Heads Consulting noted that attempts to appeal to the WTO’s basic principles of non-discriminatory access can be interpreted both in favor of Gazprom and against it in case with Nord Stream 2. "If the amendments are passed, Gazprom will once again have to look for ways out of a difficult situation and implement schemes for transferring assets to third companies," she noted. However, experience shows that Gazprom and its partners have recently been able to overcome the restrictions imposed by EU legislation, the analyst added.

 

Izvestia: Moscow, Tokyo to kick off cooperation on Kurils by inking contracts

Putting joint Russian-Japanese economic activity into effect on the Kuril Islands should begin with the selection of specific projects by businesspeople in both countries, after which the parties will provide the legal framework for them, some diplomatic sources close to the negotiation process told Izvestia.

Tokyo, which considers Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai to be Japanese territory has said on numerous occasions that any economic activity on the islands at the expense of Japanese investors should fall under Japanese legal jurisdiction. Moscow proceeds from the assumption that these islands are Russian soil, and only Russia’s legislation is applicable there.

An agreement on joint economic activity on the southern Kuril Islands was reached by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in December 2016. Since then, one of the key obstacles to its implementation was the legal status of the potential projects. However, some progress has already been made.

"We have told the Japanese clearly that the projects come first, followed by the legal framework and not vice versa. First, we come up with joint projects and technical parameters, and only after that legal experts from both sides agree on all legal details," a diplomatic source told the paper.

One of the potential cooperation formats, specifically, the Kuril Islands priority development territory, has already been offered to Japan, a diplomatic source said.

"The Kuril Islands priority development territory provides for considerable privileges that could be of interest to foreign investors. However, if the Japanese continue to drag their feet, we will not hesitate to invite other investors," he stressed.

 

Kommersant: Russian traffic police to offer ‘tips’ for movie scripts

The Ministry of Culture plans to make sure that filmmakers stop shooting episodes where movie heroes don’t buckle up their seat belts, speed recklessly, run red lights or violate other traffic laws, Kommersant writes. The recommendations to this effect are being drawn up in accordance with instructions issued by the Russian government.

According to Deputy Chief of the State Traffic Safety Inspectorate, Vladimir Kuzin, the police want all traffic participants to comply with the rules. "We do understand, however, that there is such a thing as an artistic concept," he has been quoted as saying.

A Kommersant source familiar with the situation noted that the future recommendations will concern only movie heroes. "The hero’s actions should be unequivocally proper," he stressed. "When he does not fasten his safety belt, speeds excessively or violates traffic rules by wildly veering into oncoming traffic, this sends a wrong signal for viewers."

Meanwhile, filmmakers interviewed by the paper are skeptical about the Interior Ministry’s plans. "In my films, I try to show that all heroes fasten their safely belts, although a child in a safety seat looks awful on the screen," said director Murad Aliyev.

"Movies should not obey traffic rules, the film’s concept is entirely different," screenwriter Yury Arabov added. "Of course, if there are such recommendations, many filmmakers will just ditch traffic episodes."

 

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

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