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Press review: Putin could update foreign policy and Israel hits Syria amid Shoigu’s visit

October 17, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, October 17

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Israeli fighter jet

Israeli fighter jet

© AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

 

Izvestia: Iraqi Kurdistan’s leadership plans to visit Russia this year

The leadership of Iraq’s Kurdistan plans a series of visits to the permanent member-states of the United Nations Security Council, beginning the tour with France, several sources in the autonomous region’s administration told Izvestia on Tuesday. The talks will focus on the recent independence referendum in the region. The Kurdish delegation plans to visit Russia by the year-end, Iraqi Kurdistan’s representatives in Moscow told the paper.

Russian diplomatic sources said Moscow was ready to receive the delegation and discuss the prospects for cooperation, but the region should not expect Russia’s support for its independence.

Spokesman for the Iraqi Kurdistan mission in Russia, Danar Mustafa, said the Kurds have great respect for Moscow and its position on the September 25 referendum.

Political scientist and President of the Society for Solidarity and Cooperation with the Kurds, Yury Nabiyev, said the supreme political council of Iraqi Kurdistan views Russia as a key international mediator. "Russia’s position on the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan is the most acceptable for the Kurds. Moreover, Moscow’s role in the region is constantly expanding, that’s why the exchange of views is necessary." Besides the rights of the Kurds to self-determination and energy issues, the sides will also discuss the prospects for military and technical cooperation.

This September, Russia became the top investor in energy-rich Iraqi Kurdistan. Russia’s energy companies, namely Rosneft, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil and Zarubezhneft, have been actively working in geological exploration and extraction of oil and gas in Iraq. This June, Rosneft and the government of Iraqi Kurdistan signed a deal on cooperation in the gas sector.

 

Kommersant: Israeli strike on Syria overshadows Russian defense chief’s visit

The Israeli Air Force carried out a strike on an anti-aircraft battery near Damascus on Monday after its planes came under shelling while flying over Lebanon. The Syrian command accused the Israelis of aggression. The incident occurred just several hours before a scheduled visit by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to Tel Aviv, Kommersant business daily writes.

A Russian military source told the paper that Israel had indeed notified the Russian task force in Syria about the airstrike via the channels of communications. "But if our military had been there, this strike might have resulted in fatalities on our side - there was almost no time to react," he noted.

The incident did not prevent Shoigu from visiting Israel: several hours after the Syrian anti-aircraft battery was destroyed, his plane flew from the Moscow Region to Tel Aviv. However, the strike worsened the general climate of the historic talks, one of the military sources said. Shoigu paid his first official visit to Israel over the past five years.

At the talks, Shoigu and his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman focused on the Syrian crisis. According to Kommersant, during the meeting the members of the Russian delegation told their Israeli colleagues about Russia’s military campaign in Syria and Iran’s contribution to the fight against radical Islamists in Syria. The sides also discussed the four de-escalation zones in Syria, set up with mediation by Russia, Turkey and Iran. Despite protests by Israel, Moscow does not plan any changes to the deal.

The Russian Defense Ministry also said the top brass of both countries would discuss military and technical cooperation. However, according to Kommersant, Israel has only shown interest in the Terminator armored fighting vehicle. On Tuesday, Shoigu is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

 

Izvestia: Republika Srpska to stonewall Bosnia-Herzegovina’s NATO accession plans

Republika Srpska, one of two constitutional and legal entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, will obstruct the country’s planned accession to NATO. As soon as the issue is put up on the agenda, Republika Srpska will hold a referendum, its leadership told Izvestia. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the second candidate for joining the North Atlantic Alliance after Macedonia, and the talks on granting membership to these Balkan states are continuing.

Republika Srpska believes that NATO plans to convince the Bosnian authorities to join the alliance under the Montenegrin scenario - through a parliamentary vote while ignoring the opinion of the majority of citizens. However, under the Constitution, this issue may be decided only through a consensus and only based on a plebiscite.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina won’t join NATO without a referendum in Republika Srpska. This is an important constitutional issue. The constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina says that the two entities should decide such issues through a plebiscite rather than a vote in the parliament. Republika Srpska will definitely hold a referendum as soon as the issue on joining NATO finally comes up," said Dushko Perovich, who heads the mission of Republika Srpska in Russia.

Political scientist and head of the Serbian diaspora, Dragan Stanoevich, has warned that any attempts to integrate Bosnia and Herzegovina into the military alliance without taking into account the opinion of its citizens may turn into a disaster. "With all efforts of the West, namely the US, to drag Bosnia and Herzegovina into NATO, the accession will only result in the breakup of the Bosnian federation. The West has no chances of forcing Republika Srpska into joining the alliance," he affirmed.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Valdai Club awaits crucial statement by Putin on turn towards US

The Valdai International Discussion Club has started its work in Sochi and Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to make an "important statement" there. Most likely, this will concern Russia’s foreign policy agenda, expert of the club and Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute Richard Weitz told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He stressed that the Trump administration is not seeking to further worsen ties with Russia but they can only improve if the two presidents reach personal agreements. Weitz stressed that Washington and Moscow do not know how to shape their policies towards each other now.

The American expert explained that this comes as Trump’s election pledges to improve ties with Russia have been stonewalled by US Congress. So, relations develop along a scenario, which cannot be predicted.

The risk that Russian-US relations may further deteriorate is very high, and it is clear that there is expectation that Moscow should take a step towards easing tensions. The Valdai Club is a suitable platform for making these statements if the Kremlin still has any plans on improving relations with Washington, the paper writes.

Speaking on the appointment of Jon Huntsman as the new US Ambassador to Russia, the expert explained that Trump was looking for a person who had no ties to Moscow. Thus, Huntsman did not share the path with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is known and respected in Russia. However, he immediately earned a reputation of being a pro-Russian politician in his own country and this nullified any chances of rolling back the rhetoric in bilateral ties, Weitz noted.

 

Vedomosti: Russia’s industrial output may continue to stagnate for some years

After showing serious growth in the second quarter (3.8%), Russia’s industrial production returned to its usually low rates: in September, it increased only by 0.9%, year-on-year, and dropped 0.4% when compared to August, Vedomosti writes, citing the Russian Federal State Statistics Service. This is the lowest annual rate since March, when the output grew only by 0.8%. In January-September 2017, Russia’s industrial production rose 1.8%.

The lower growth rates are linked to a 2.6% decline in oil output, Deputy Director of the Russian Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-term Forecasting Vladimir Salnikov told the paper. Gas production also slowed down. With the stable dynamics of exports, Russian gas output will drop by 12-15% leading to a decrease in the industrial production index by 0.5 percentage points, Nikolai Kondrashov, an expert at the Center for Development at the Higher School of Economics, said.

Russia’s industrial production continues to stagnate, Salnikov said. According to the Russian Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-term Forecasting, Russia’s industry lost its growth rate seen in 2016. By the year-end, growth will remain within 2%, Vladimir Tikhomirov, chief economist at BCS Financial Group, said.

The expert notes that the growth in the Q2 was abnormal. Oil production will be contained by the OPEC deal and a weak domestic market. Moreover, gas output will also start slowing up and the manufacturing industry will be affected by low economic growth rates, he said. Even the country’s car industry may also decline due to the exhausted effect from the ruble’s strengthening and Russians’ low incomes, he warned.

Russia’s industry is also limited by weak investment and consumer demand, low working efficiency, a very slow recovery of real incomes and also high uncertainty, Director of the Center for Market Research at the Higher School of Economics Georgy Ostapkovich said.

 

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

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