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Press review: US, Russia eye Iran retreat in Syria and Russian mogul seeks Rothschild aid

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday
Syrian-Iraqi border in Al-Tanf, Syria EPA/STR
Syrian-Iraqi border in Al-Tanf, Syria

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Southern Syria may bring Putin, Trump closer

Syria may become one of the key issues for discussion during a full-fledged meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says. Experts believe a good impetus for the meeting may be an agreement on southern Syria. How things unfold in this area would indicate that here the positions of Russia and the United States coincide, the paper writes.

Sources from the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper say the US is ready to pull out the opposition from the southern areas and even dismantle its Al-Tanf base in exchange for the withdrawal of Iranian and pro-Iranian forces. The point of contention is how far the forces controlled by Tehran should retreat.

If no full-fledged summit between the two presidents is held, they will have a chance to briefly meet in Buenos Aires this fall at the G20 forum, Maxim Suchkov, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council and head of the Moscow bureau of Al-Monitor, said. One of the major problems is the presence of US forces to the east of the Euphrates River, the expert noted.

"As far as I understand three key issues have been announced - Syria, Ukraine and strategic stability, this means extending or not extending the treaties on reducing strategic offensive weapons, and short-and intermediate- range missiles. It will be more difficult to agree on Ukraine as well as on strategic stability," Suchkov stressed. It is unclear whether the Americans will enter talks with a joint stance, according to the expert.

Another problem is whether Iran is ready for a compromise. It remains an enigma if Russia has secured Iran’s guarantees that the forces loyal to Tehran will leave Syria’s southern areas, the paper says. 


RBC: Sanctioned Russian tycoon seeks Rothschild’s assistance

Oleg Deripaska’s En+ group, which controls assets from energy to aluminum and mining, has hired French-British investment bank Rothschild to find investors who could buy the assets of the holding owned by the sanctioned Russian billionaire.

Hiring Rothschild as an agent to find a buyer of En+ assets is a demonstration that Deripaska is ready to make concessions to the US, partner of NAFCO Law & Tax Advisers company Irina Mostovaya told RBC.

The participation of an international agent as an independent party makes it possible to lower the risks of noncompliance with the US Treasury Department’s demands that Deripaska should be deprived of control in the company, and ensure that persons and companies affiliated with the tycoon do not become new owners of the assets. Meanwhile, Rothschild shoulders serious reputational risks in this deal, Mostovaya cautioned.

It’s hard to imagine an investor, who could have the guts to buy shares from Deripaska now, Corporate Ratings Group Director at ACRA analytical rating agency Maxim Khudalov told the paper. He did not rule out that the Kremlin could make a political decision to lure an investor.

Khudalov expects that Deripaska won’t meet the deadline to sell off his share in En+ by August 5, but it won’t be a problem for the US Treasury Department to extend the deadline. "Now, we see that US sanctions against Russian businesses aren’t getting unanimous support from the Europeans anymore, especially after President Donald Trump slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU," Khudalov said. Rusal’s foreign clients may step up pressure on the US Treasury Department because they do not want to lose lucrative business. However, it may take nearly a year to lift the sanctions against Deripaska’s companies, he noted.


Kommersant: No breakthrough expected at Singapore-hosted US-North Korea summit

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has announced its readiness to launch inspections at North Korea’s nuclear facilities within several weeks if an agreement on these checks is reached at the June 12 meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

Russian and Korean experts told Kommersant that the parties are expected to achieve some sort of an agreement, but no major breakthrough is expected.

Vasily Kashin, senior research fellow at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the paper that the June 12 meeting would become "an introduction to endless talks."

Most likely, the sides will ink a symbolic document that the Korean War has ended de jure, said Vladimir Khrustalev, an expert in non-proliferation. "This is a beautiful project allowing everyone - Pyongyang, Washington and Seoul - to declare themselves as winners," he told the paper.

Expert of South Korea’s ASAN Institute for Policy Studies Go Myong-Hyun believes that Kim Jong-un should meet Donald Trump halfway, otherwise the domestic political climate in the US won’t permit a second meeting. "If Kim makes concessions, Donald Trump will declare his victory and may allow South Korea and China to provide North Korea with humanitarian assistance." According to the expert, this will ease the economic situation in North Korea.

"Sanctions will remain in force, but maybe the US will stop blacklisting those vessels which smuggle goods into North Korea," he said.


Izvestia: Foreign investors return to Russian market

Panic among foreign investors over new US sanctions against an array of Russian companies did not last for long, Izvestia writes. In early April, foreign investors rushed to pull 19 bln rubles ($306.7 mln) out of the Russian stock market, but by the end of the month non-residents brought back more than 60% of their investments (12 bln rubles, $194 mln). According to the experts, interviewed by the paper, this was attributed to the calming of sanctions rhetoric and simultaneous oil price growth.

Fundamentally, the Russian market is attractive and that’s why foreigners quickly regained their positions, Darya Zhelannova, an analyst at Alfa Capital, told Izvestia. When the US Treasury Department explained the terms for lifting sanctions against Russian aluminum giant Rusal, investors understood that this was a single measure, she explained.

Foreign investors are behaving rather pragmatically, Head of the analytical department at Loko-Invest Kirill Tremasov told the paper. Most investments were poured into the shares of raw materials exporters, whose revenues grew alongside oil prices while the ruble continued depreciating, he noted.

The interest in Russian assets will continue rising provided that there are no external shocks, Zhelannova noted. Foreign investors still prefer Federal Loan Obligations (OFZs), Russia’s sovereign Eurobonds and shares of oil and gas companies, the expert said.


Izvestia: Moscow suggests UNSC reforms meet developing world’s interests

The United Nations Security Council should meet modern-day realities and more countries should become permanent members, Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva, told Izvestia. There is no consensus on this issue among members now, he said, noting that any reform should ensure that all world regions are represented.

"The Security Council’s reform is a vital issue, but the solution to it demands the agreement of 100% of the permanent members of the Security Council. Now, none of the proposed options have been supported," the diplomat elaborated.

An imposed decision, which won’t be backed by a significant number of countries, would split the global community, Gatilov noted.

"Of course, we should prevent this since our goal now is to unify efforts in the Security Council to solve important issues facing the international community. Until now, no decision on expanding the Security Council which would suit all countries has been found," he emphasized.

One reform proposal is the cancellation of veto rights by the UNSC permanent member-states. The French Foreign Ministry told Izvestia that Paris is calling on all five permanent members to give up their veto right if mass crimes are concerned. However, Russia is against this option.

Moscow has been calling for its BRICS partners, India and Brazil, to be granted permanent membership, but not everyone backs this proposition, former UN Deputy Secretary General Sergey Ordzhonikidze told the paper.


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