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Press review: Trump’s Golan move infuriates Lebanon and PACE haggles over Russia’s rights

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday

Izvestia: Council of Europe to partially restore Russia’s rights for electing Secretary General

The Council of Europe is set to harmonize statutes and bring back the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). However, at this stage, the Council is ready to give Moscow only a temporary right to elect the organization’s Secretary General, a high-ranking source in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia. According to the source, neither Russia nor the Council members want Moscow to leave the organization and the situation will become clear in May. Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev told Izvestia that the Russian delegation is not satisfied with the partial restoration of Moscow's rights: the right to vote in PACE is important, but not the only goal. "Either our rights are fully restored or not… Everything will become clear in May," the source told Izvestia.

Meanwhile, Kosachev pointed out that despite the permission to vote for the Secretary General, Moscow will not participate in the process. He noted that for Russia, the partial restoration of the rights of delegations to PACE is unacceptable. "We did not join the organization to vote for someone. These are important powers, but this is not an end in itself," he told the newspaper. "Therefore, we could come there to vote for the Secretary General, and then they will once again show us our place somewhere on the side with limited powers for participating in monitoring missions, in the elections of statutory bodies of the Council of Europe, and on many other issues," he added.

At the same time, Kosachev did not rule out that this spring, the situation could radically change at the PACE session in April.

Over the past year, Russia’s possible withdrawal from the Council of Europe have been discussed repeatedly. Yet, a source in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia that neither Moscow nor members of the organization are interested in that outcome. "Russia does not want to withdraw for two reasons: first, because of the work of the European Court of Human Rights, and second, because of Moscow participating in about 80 conventions," the source said. In the event of a withdrawal, Russia would have to agree on each convention.


Izvestia: Lebanese leader draws Moscow’s attention to Golan Heights dispute

The Trump administration’s recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel undermines the foundations of international law, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun stated during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, expressing hope that a solution to this problem will be found soon. According to the Lebanese leader, Washington’s actions have sparked the ire of other countries in the region. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov added that this clearly has negative consequences both from the point of view of the Middle East peace process and the general atmosphere for the peace process in Syria.

Lebanon is a traditional, long-time partner of Russia in the Middle East, Putin noted during the meeting. At the talks, the Lebanese leader drew the attention to the news about the recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel by the US, which, according to him, undermines the foundations and rules of the UN, and international law. According to Peskov, the proclamation signed by US President Donald Trump on recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights will have negative consequences for the situation in the Middle East.

The US recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights is a step that undermines the UN’s common position on this issue, Valdai Club Program Director Oleg Barabanov told the newspaper. At the same time, the expert believes that a serious reaction to this event should not be expected, as this is not an unprecedented decision.

The reaction of the Arab world to the US president’s decision was predictable, Head of Center of the Near and Middle East at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Vladimir Fitin told Izvestia. "There is not a single Arab country that agrees with Trump. I have no doubt that everyone will protest, but this is unlikely to have a real impact on the situation," he added.


Kommersant: Ford to drastically downsize in Russia

Global automaker Ford has chosen not to continue its independent business in Russia, the company plans to focus on developing its segment of light commercial vehicles, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said in an interview with Kommersant.

"Ford has problems with product sales and has decided not to continue its independent business in Russia. They will focus on developing the segment of light commercial vehicles, where they already have a successful and highly resilient product: the Ford Transit. This business will be managed by their Russian partner, the Sollers Group, which will receive a controlling stake in the Ford Sollers joint venture as a result of its restructuring," he told the newspaper.

Now, the government is looking into concluding a special investment contract (SPIC) to manufacture Ford Transit at the Elabuga Assembly Plant, he added, saying that the deal might be finalized within the next two months. "Therefore, we can say that the issue with the continued presence of the Ford brand in the Russian market was solved in the most cost-effective manner," Kozak added.

On March 26, it was reported that Ford Sollers turned to VEB with a proposal to restructure the debt. Head of VEB Igor Shuvalov in an interview with reporters did not rule out that the deal could be prepared for the next meeting of the financial institution's supervisory board.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Prime Minister Theresa May heading towards resignation

After the House of Commons partially took control of London’s stalling Brexit process, the political fate of Prime Minister Theresa May might be in jeopardy, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. Despite her warning that she does not intend to end the fight for her twice-rejected Brexit deal, the attention of the global media has again been glued to the action that took place on Monday evening within the walls of Westminster. The outcome of the session of the House of Commons turned into another defeat for Prime Minister. They have the authority to determine the further course of Brexit.

Trying to force lawmakers to vote for a third Breixt plan that they have already twice rejected is not a way to solve the problem, the newspaper wrote, and neither would be resigning in exchange for the plan’s support. A second referendum could be proposed, as an extreme case, and early elections can be considered.

Associate Professor at the Department of Integration Processes of MGIMO Alexander Tevdoy-Burmuli supports the last option. "Extraordinary elections would lead to a new balance of power in parliament. Another leader will rise, who will succeed in one direction or another, and now they are at an impasse," the expert told the newspaper.

The analyst sees the reason why London still cannot decide how the United Kingdom should leave the EU in the parliament’s unwillingness to take responsibility for the outcome of this process. "The problem is not so much with May as with the House of Commons," the expert explained. "First, May had a virtually impossible task - achieving favorable conditions for the UK, which the EU would agree to, which was not easy. Then when she did this, the parliament blocked the adoption of her agreement with the EU several times," Tevdoy-Burmuli told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Meanwhile, May might speak at a meeting of the so-called 1922 Committee, announcing the date of her resignation, the newspaper wrote.


Kommersant: Law enforcement agencies might get access to Internet of things

The Russian Ministry of Communications and Mass Media plans to focus on the Internet of Things (IoT). According to it, law enforcement agencies will be able to access information stored on IoT platforms, and a closed network will be created to protect the Russian segment of the Internet of things, Kommersant wrote. Market participants still have questions about the concept, and they are also concerned about the prospects of import substitution amid a shortage of domestic equipment.

According to the proposal, IoT networks are vulnerable, and their devices not only collect data, but also manage processes in the economy. The draft concept was reviewed on March 26, one of the meeting participants told Kommersant. To protect the Russian Internet of Things, it was proposed to form a closed network domestically using the register of device identifiers, access points and other elements. The project also provides support to domestic equipment manufacturers and developers.

According to Kommersant, on Wednesday, a meeting will be held with the Federal Security Service (FSB) and on Thursday the final version will be sent to all participants, the Ministry of Communications confirmed.

Industry insiders told Kommersant, the restriction of foreign equipment is overly strict. According to VimpelCom, "Russian manufacturers are not ready to offer solutions for a number of standards, which could lead to a technological vacuum."


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