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Press review: Can the Iran deal be saved and new US embassy in Jerusalem sparks violence

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, May 15
Palestinian protesters burn tires near the Israeli border fence, in the Gaza Strip AP Photo/Adel Hana
Palestinian protesters burn tires near the Israeli border fence, in the Gaza Strip
© AP Photo/Adel Hana


Media: World powers struggle to rescue Iran nuclear deal

On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will discuss with his British, French and German counterparts and also the EU’s foreign policy chief the options of saving the Iran nuclear deal. On Monday, he visited China and Russia to receive guarantees on the willingness to defend the deal, which is being undermined by Washington, Kommersant writes.

Meanwhile, experts doubt that Iran’s partners will be able to safeguard their business from the new US sanctions and ensure Tehran’s financial interest in honoring the 2015 Vienna accord.

It is unclear now how other parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are going to ensure the deal’s implementation after the US walkout, the paper says.

According to Director of the Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS) Anton Khlopkov, its technical implementation is not in jeopardy. "The Americans had been actively involved in a technologically challenging and costly project on modernizing the research reactor in Arak. But if the other countries show political will, this project’s implementation may be even bolstered," the expert told Kommersant, explaining that the US had the bulk of restrictions on cooperation with Iran in the export control area, thus stonewalling the process. "The Americans’ departure may ease the work on the project."

However, the major challenge does not concern the technical aspects of the deal. During his talks in Moscow, Zarif signaled that Iran seeks to get an economic advantage from complying with the demands on limiting its nuclear program as envisaged by the JCPOA. It is important for Tehran to "obtain guarantees that the Iranian people’s legal interests will be protected," the expert stressed.

Neither Russia, China nor the European troika (Germany, the United Kingdom and France) have unveiled any strategy to protect their companies working in Iran from US sanctions, he noted.

Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs foreign policy magazine, told Vedomosti that despite the attempts by European leaders to mitigate Donald Trump’s stance, it is impossible to change his resolution. "Europe is angered by this Trump’s decision, but they have no real possibilities to stand against the United States," he said. However, the statement by the International Atomic Energy Agency that there is no evidence that Iran has violated the deal will give the Europeans more justification to say that the US decision is illegitimate and they should not comply with it, he said.

If the US imposes extraterritorial sanctions and no one else backs them, the measure won’t be effective, political scientist Ivan Timofeyev told the paper. But the question is how long the Europeans will stick to the hard-line position and if European companies are ready to counter US sanctions, he said.


RBC: US embassy’s opening in Jerusalem triggers fierce clashes

On Monday, the United States moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, sparking fierce clashes in the Gaza Strip. However, despite dozens of deaths among the Palestinians, they are unlikely to swell into a large-scale conflict, experts told RBC.

The opening of the US Embassy on the day of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel is a fateful reason for the Palestinians to step up their protests, Chief Researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Irina Zvyagelskaya told the newspaper. However, despite the symbolic date the Palestinians understand that the US decision on moving the embassy cannot be changed, she noted. Israel believes that the diplomatic mission’s opening did not produce the anticipated effect.

Clashes in the Palestinian territories continue, but without the Palestinian leadership’s political decision they are unlikely to swell into large-scale protests, Elena Suponina, adviser to the Director of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, said.

"The Gaza Strip is de facto ruled by Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement), while the West Bank is under control of Fatah (the Palestinian National Liberation Movement). Without overcoming the differences between these two movements any mass protests are not in the cards," the expert said.

According to Suponina, the major hazard from the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem is that terrorist attacks may increase in the Middle East and outside the region under the slogan of ‘revenge for Jerusalem.’

Israel should not show weakness under any circumstances, former Israeli Ambassador to Russia Zvi Magen said. "We live in the Middle East, not in Western Europe. Unfortunately, here they understand only the language of force. The better the organizers of protests and provocations understand that our intentions are serious, the calmer our borders will be. It will be easier for everyone when they think twice before starting a conflict," he emphasized.


Kommersant: Gazprom to continue drilling despite US sanctions

Russia’s energy giant, Gazprom, plans to use foreign equipment for underwater exploration of the colossal Yuzhno-Kirinskoye offshore gas field on the Sakhalin Island’s shelf, although the project has been hit by US sanctions, Kommersant writes.

Major equipment manufacturers suitable for this project are companies from the United States and the European Union, which won’t agree to supply it to Gazprom overtly.

According to Kommersant’s sources, the monopoly expects to either get Chinese equipment or clinch a deal through an intermediary, which will buy the equipment produced by the West and undertake the risk of sanctions. The latter option is challenging as this equipment is manufactured for a particular project and this situation may repeat the scenario involving the supply of Siemens turbines to Crimea.

Gazprom hopes to install the foreign wellhead equipment in 2019 on four drilling wells of the Yuzhno-Kirinskoye field and the drilling will begin in mid-June, said Vsevolod Cherepanov, a Gazprom Management Committee Member.

"China may supply the equipment to Gazprom despite the sanctions if the terms are attractive," Head of the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center Alexander Gabuev told the paper. He recalled that the Chinese companies had supplied a cable for the energy bridge in Crimea. "There is the technology, it has already been tested, so this creates a sufficient number of intermediary companies, and when one of the companies from this chain is targeted by the sanctions, a new one is set up," Gabuev said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Uzbekistan balances ties with Moscow and Washington

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev arrived on Tuesday on his first official visit to the United States and is scheduled to meet with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The sides plan to sign 45 documents and investment agreements to the tune of $4bln. The visit’s major intrigue is whether the Uzbek leader will be able to maintain a balance between the interests of the US and Russia, which is an important partner for Tashkent.

Uzbekistan is a crucial country for Washington due to its influence in the region, as well as its potential role in the Afghan settlement, the paper says. Uzbekistan is receiving advantageous proposals on reequipping its military, but this does not mean that there are preconditions for switching the Uzbek army over to US weapons and standards. Russia remains the number one military partner for Uzbekistan, according to the paper.

Over the past year and a half, Uzbekistan has improved its relations with all regional states and also brought its ties with Moscow to a new level, Chairman of the International press club and a member of Uzbekistan’s official delegation to the US Sherzodkhon Kudratkhodzayev said.

He also ruled out Uzbekistan’s plans to pursue closer ties with NATO, stressing that the country’s leadership adheres to a firm non-bloc position. "This visit should be seen through the prism that Uzbekistan supports a multifaceted foreign policy and diversified interstate relations with all major world powers. Constructive relations with both the US and Russia are important for Tashkent," he stressed.


Izvestia: Russian top brass cuts number of Topol ICBM launches

Russia’s Defense Ministry plans to halve the number of launches of Topol intercontinental ballistic missiles, Izvestia writes. According to the ministry’s plans, in 2018-2019, three ICBM launches will be carried out, as opposed to seven launches in the previous two years.

Over the past years, the spike in the number of launches had been tied to the program of creating new glide vehicles for this missile. However, the rival Avangard system using Sarmat ICBMs won the tender, the paper says.

"The reduction in the Topol launches is apparently explained by the decision to halt further works on creating new glide vehicles. The reasons are clear. They are linked to the launch of the serial production of the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which is invulnerable to any missile defense system," Editor-in-Chief of the Military Russia Internet project Dmitry Kornev said.

The Avangard system’s warheads are capable of performing flights in dense layers of the atmosphere more than 20 times faster than the speed of sound. Russia’s cutting-edge intercontinental ballistic missile, the Sarmat RS-28, is expected to be the carrier for the hypersonic vehicles.


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