Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to visit two countries in one day, Egypt and Turkey, on Monday. That said expectations are high that he may decide to resume civil aviation service with Cairo, sources told RBC business daily. The agenda also includes the current state of affairs in Syria and Jerusalem, as well as economic and political cooperation, and the pursuit of stability and security in the Middle East and North Africa. Putin last visited Egypt in February 2015, while his most recent trip to Turkey was back in September.
The decision to resume flights between Russia and Egypt may end the long-lasting negotiations, which have been underway since late 2015. Moscow suspended air service with Cairo in November 2015 following a terrorist attack on board a Russian A321 passenger jet that was en route from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh to Russia’s St. Petersburg. The airliner crashed over the Sinai Peninsula early on October 31, 2015 killing all 224 people onboard. A source in Russia’s Transport Ministry told RBC that Putin’s visit to Egypt, which prior to the crash had been one of the most popular tourist destination with Russian tourists, might draw this issue to a close.
Political scientist Abbas Gallyamov presumes that by lifting the ban on flights to Egypt, this would give the Russian president an easy win, noting that Putin had just unveiled plans to run for re-election for a fourth term. "It (resumption of air service with Egypt) is not going to be a sensation, but the general feeling that things are getting better will be reinforced, which will obviously play into Putin’s hands," the expert stressed. "Many people will make vacation plans, which is positive," he said, adding that "positive (feelings) usually work in favor of authority."
Meanwhile, the visit to Egypt is unlikely to focus on Jerusalem, since Cairo has remained neutral on most regional problems, even on Syria, RBC writes. On the contrary, Turkey in addition to Russia and Iran is a guarantor of the Syrian settlement. Last week, the Russian and Turkish presidents also voiced profound concern over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and plans to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The issue is expected to top the agenda for Ankara.
Israel has refused to take Kiev’s side on the Crimean issue as the country’s foreign ministry said it would maintain neutrality until Moscow and Kiev reach an agreement on the status of the peninsula. Deputy Director General and Director of the Eurasia Department of Israel’s Foreign Ministry Alexander Ben-Zvi said in an interview with Izvestia that the Jewish state "will be satisfied with any solution based on dialogue between Russia and Ukraine."
"If Moscow and Kiev agree that Crimea is Russian (soil) then we are not against it. Until a consensus is reached Israel intends to maintain a neutral position," he said, adding that "Kiev has repeatedly turned to Israel’s foreign ministry and asked to lean toward its side, but we do not plan to change our position."
Israel Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told the newspaper that the issue of recognition of the Crimean referendum in 2014 is not on the agenda now and is not currently the primary one for bilateral dialogue with Russia, which however does not mean that Israel wants to ignore the issues.
"The dialogue between Russia and Israel is currently at its peak after diplomatic relations were restored between the countries in early 1990s. Cooperation is expanding in all areas. As for Crimea, it is obviously necessary to solve the issue, though the initiative should belong to Moscow and Kiev," he said. Ties between the Soviet Union and Israel were cut in 1967 due to the Six-Day War, which ended with Israel’s victory over a coalition of Arab states.
The meeting of the special control commission on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty, is due to be held later this week in Geneva, sources close to Russia’s Foreign Ministry and the US State Department told Kommersant. The meeting will assemble delegations of experts from Russia and the US, as well as Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, who are formally members of the treaty. The US side has insisted on this format of talks, though Russia assumes bilateral consultations between Moscow and Washington would be more efficient as they are making claims against each other, sources said.
Signed in Washington, DC by then US President Ronald Reagan and ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on 8 December 1987, the treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles eliminated all nuclear and conventional missiles for the first time ever. The most recent meeting of the control commission was held in Geneva in November 2016, and before that, the commission had not convened for 13 years, considering that terms of the agreement are fully fulfilled.
However, the future of it is under threat now as Russia and the US trade accusations that the other side is violating the treaty. Kommersant’s sources refer to the upcoming meeting in Switzerland as the last chance to salvage the treaty. Russia's Foreign Ministry has hinted that its delegation might not attend the meeting if Washington imposes a new round of sanctions against Moscow.
Moscow plans to initiate a discussion over international legislation on mining asteroids and work on the Moon within the United Nations, Izvestia writes on Monday. Russia’s Foreign Ministry and the State Space Corporation Roscosmos have drafted an implementation agreement on the Outer Space Treaty, which entered into force in 1967. If it gets the go-ahead, the document will make the ban on tapping space objects, including mineral resources, stipulated by the Outer Space Treaty obligatory, and would leave no chance to skirt the international legislation through national loopholes, the newspaper says. The move follows permission given by the United States and Luxembourg for own companies to mine resources and appropriate them, which experts say may trigger a struggle for outer resources.
"Implementing agreement is based on the fundamental principles of the Outer Space Treaty for equal access to space, stopping discrimination and tapping space resources," Olga Volynskaya, an official at the Foreign Ministry told the publication. "We propose to the global community to make an agreement for introducing an internationally accepted statutory mechanism of this treaty’s implementation," she said, adding that the plan is to announce the initiative in April 2018 in Vienna at the meeting of the UN’s legal department for outer space affairs.
In 2015, the United States adopted a law, which enables American companies to mine, appropriate, own, transport and sell resources from outer subjects, including asteroids, which sparked a heated debate in other countries. Nevertheless, Luxembourg passed a similar regulation in 2017, enabling private companies to gain the right of ownership on mineral resources. Moreover, Japan and the United Arab Emirates are developing such laws as well. A source in press service of Russia’s State Space Corporation told Izvestia that such national norms betray international space law. "If one applies the basic principles of international cooperation, meaning mutual respect, mutual benefits, absence of conflict, compromises and the rule of law, it is clear that unilateral decisions by certain countries may cause a negative situation," the source said.
Russia’s Industry and Trade Ministry has proposed jacking up the utilization fee for passenger cars by 87-125% starting from 2018, which is expected to deal a severe blow to net importers as local carmakers will be granted unofficial compensation, Kommersant writes with reference to its own market source. Another automobile industry source confirmed the ministry’s initiative to the publication, adding that the document has already been submitted to the government. Earlier reports said the fee for lights cars might be increased 15%.
The utilization fee was imposed in 2012, which the market saw as compensation for reduced import duties after Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization. Initially, the fee covered only importers, but in 2014, it was expanded throughout the whole market, while Russian carmakers were granted industrial subsidies. Last year, the utilization fee encountered a 65% hike, which the government attributed to the ruble’s devaluation.
Experts anticipate that the new increase for passenger cars will have a negative effect on the market, that is only starting to recover, and this may trigger a price rise by an average of 10-17% in 2018. Most automakers declined to comment, though a source in BMW told the newspaper that such initiatives always put a financial burden on business and consumers. The company expects this adverse reaction to be particularly noticeable amid the current climate as the market recovery is very weak, while the premium segment is even declining. A source at one of the car companies told Kommersant that the producer "is shocked" as utilization expenses "absolutely have not risen by 100% and higher." Another source said that the move is unreasonable "from the viewpoint of business planning", and considers the hike in the utilization fee to be critical.
TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review