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Press review: Highly anticipated Putin-Trump summit and Russia's new investor incentives

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, June 22


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia-US: Breaking a vicious circle

Moscow and Washington recognize, at an official and informal level, that relations between the two countries have hit an unprecedentedly low point, and that’s, probably, one of the few issues Russians and Americans have no fundamental disagreements on at the moment, former Russian Foreign Minister and current President of the Russian International Affairs Council Igor Ivanov wrote in his article in Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

"It was much easier to create a crisis in bilateral relations than find a way out of it," Ivanov pointed out. "There will always be proponents of the so-called hard line in our countries rejecting compromise. However, everyone could see that, despite all kinds of sanctions, Washington has been unable to impose its line on Moscow. On the other hand, Russia’s attempts to impose its will on the US would be no less absurd."

This being so, the only way is to come to terms taking into account each other’s legitimate interests, he stressed.

Ivanov recalled that, back in 2001, Moscow and Washington were able to organize a meeting between the two presidents in Ljubljana when US President George W. Bush declared a large group of Russian diplomats persona non grata.

According to the former Russian minister, only a personal meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump could break the current vicious circle in Russian-US relations and bring them to the level corresponding to the two countries’ status. He warned that putting off the summit would be a gross mistake.

"The most important thing is to make sure that the two presidents have an opportunity to freely exchange views on a wide array of issues. That requires a full-fledged bilateral summit, while another meeting on the sidelines of a multilateral event would be insufficient," Ivanov wrote.

We must be prepared to dedicated and persistent efforts, which will not yield immediate positive results, he emphasized. "The confrontation inertia will continue to affect public opinion in the US and Russia for a long time. However, the complexity and scope of the task we are facing are not an excuse for not taking any steps to rectify the situation," Ivanov added.


Nezavismaya Gazeta: Seoul seeks Moscow’s help to denuclearize North Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and bilateral economic cooperation. The South Korean leader last visited our country 19 years ago, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

South Korean Ambassador to Russia, Woo Yoon-keun, recalled in an interview with the paper that Russia supported Seoul’s diplomatic efforts on the inter-Korean summit and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. He also stressed that the parties would work "to deepen economic cooperation, while trade turnover between the two countries is to reach $30 bln by 2020, which will mark 30 years of diplomatic relations [between the two countries]."

During his visit to Russia, the South Korean president is accompanied by nearly 200 businesspeople. According to South Korea’s media, they are expected to discuss business cooperation with their Russian counterparts, including the construction of power grids facilities and infrastructure for electricity and natural gas supplies from Russia and a railroad link from South Korea to Russia through North Korea.

Intense political dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington, Pyongyang and Seoul and Pyongyang and Beijing has been going on recently, and now the process of normalizing the situation on the Korean Peninsula is discussed by Seoul and Moscow, Alexander Vorontsov, Head of the Korea and Mongolia Department at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

"As for trilateral economic projects, their implementation is marred by tough sanctions imposed on North Korea. From Russia’s viewpoint, the railway project is affected by sanctions to a lesser degree," the expert explained. "The Russian and South Korean leaders are likely to discuss the agenda of the upcoming Eastern Economic Forum scheduled to be held in Vladivostok in September. It is not implausible that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could come to Vladivostok too. Anyway, this option was discussed with the DPRK leader."


Vedomosti: Russian government eyeing new incentives for investors

Russia’s government agencies have nearly agreed on a document on special investment contracts (SPIC) aimed at encouraging investment, but negotiations on their regulations are still underway, Vedomosti writes.

In the spring, the Cabinet disagreed in its assessments of a new way of attracting investment. The Finance Ministry suggested finalizing the regulations for special investment contracts to make that tool massive, but the Economic Development Ministry feared SPIC participants would enjoy excessive benefits.

At the June 14 meeting chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Anton Siluanov and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, the parties were able to handle most disagreements, which emerged while discussing special investment contracts. Its participants, however, prepared two versions of the protocol after the meeting. Both of them state though that it is necessary to submit the relevant bill to Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) as soon as possible.

Officials regard special investment contracts, above all, as a tool to secure the return of capitals to Russia’s jurisdiction. Besides, these projects will have unprecedented support from the government, as they are intended to improve Russia’s global competitiveness.

Investors need transparent rules to make sure that receiving government support is linked to complying with objective criteria, the paper quotes Vasily Markov, a partner in Dentons’ Russia Tax and Customs, as saying. It is important for the Cabinet members to see eye-to-eye on the issue, as disagreements between officials do not add to the tool’s popularity, he stressed.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: New Syrian government forces’ offensive can be a headache for Russia

The situation in Syria topped the agenda of the meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and visiting UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The negotiations were held against the backdrop of the offensive in Syria’s southern regions launched by the government forces. According to Anadolu news agency, the operation involves both official Damascus forces and Iran-controlled units.

Israel has demanded their withdrawal from southern Syria for a long time. Israeli diplomats and military officials maintain close contacts with their Russian counterparts to seek a compromise solution to the problem, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The experts interviewed by the paper noted that the offensive in southern Syria would not hinder efforts to set up a commission to draft the country’s new Constitution. "Only representatives of the Southern Front group could boycott this work, but their number is negligible against the background of the overall number of members of the negotiation group formed after the Riyadh II conference," Anton Mardasov, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

It is not improbable that steps by the Syrian army and allied units will soon be a headache for Russian diplomacy, the paper notes. After all, Moscow has been blamed for all mistakes made by Damascus during Russia’s military campaign in Syria.

The reason for Damascus’ actions in southern Syria is the remaining radical groups operating there. This point was recently made by Russian Presidential Envoy for the Syrian Settlement Alexander Lavrentiev. The diplomat explained that the situation in southern Syria was fairly calm until recently in spite of provocations. He stressed though that many Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (both terror groups outlawed in Russia) continue to operate there.


Izvestia: EU to consider plans to set up centers for migrants rescued at sea

The European leaders will discuss steps to set up special centers for migrants in North Africa at an informal meeting in Brussels on June 24, Spokesman for the Austrian Federal Government Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal confirmed to Izvestia.

He noted that the key elements would be stepping up the fight against illegal migration along with strong and effective protection of the external borders. Illegal migrants should be stopped at the borders, provided with food, if that is necessary, and later transported back to the countries of origin, he stressed. If that is impossible, they are to be accommodated in special centers located in third countries. The talks on setting up such centers are in progress, he explained.

One of the objectives of the proposed move is to dissuade people from embarking on dangerous sea voyages in the Mediterranean.

However, European politicians are guided not only by concern for people’s lives. Political considerations are no less important. Suffice it to mentioned profound disagreements between Eastern and Western Europe on the issue during the first migrant crisis in 2015. Now such disagreements have emerged between Western European nations.

A rift in the German ruling coalition has likewise shown the EU’s migrant policy needs to be changed. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer who is also the leader of the Christian Social Union recently issued an ultimatum to Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that, if she failed to reach an agreement with her European partners on effective measures to fight illegal migrants, the Interior Ministry would begin a large-scale expulsion of those who have been refused asylum in Germany.

That threat worked. A meeting on the migrant issue initiated by Merkel, which will bring together her counterparts from France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Bulgaria and Austria, will be held as early as Sunday.


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