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Press review: Putin signs landmark deal with Mongolia and what’s Macron offering Iran

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, September 4
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga
© Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS


Kommersant: Putin’s visit ushers in new era in Russian-Mongolian relations

Russian President Vladimir Putin has paid an official visit to Mongolia where he attended celebrations to mark the 80th anniversary of the victory at the Battle of Khalkhin Gol and signed a new intergovernmental accord on friendship and comprehensive strategic partnership with Ulan Bator, Kommersant writes.

According to Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga, cooperation between the two countries is entering a new era after the signing of this pact.

"The new agreement is an updated version of the 1993 treaty on friendly relations and cooperation, the underlying document, on which relations between the two countries rely," Vladimir Grayvoronsky, Head of the Mongolia Department at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, explained to Kommersant. The expert noted that Russia had been the only strategic partner of Mongolia until 2014, when Chinese President Xi Jinping signed an agreement on a comprehensive strategic partnership with Ulan Bator.

"So the current document officially raises Mongolia’s partnership with Russia to the level of its partnership with China," Grayvoronsky went on to say. "Given its strategic location between Russia and China and the reserves of undiscovered and discovered resources, Mongolia is trying to strike a balance between major powers, having signed accords on strategic partnership with the United States, India and Japan."

The trade turnover between Mongolia and Russia amounted to $1.65 bln in 2018, which is significantly less than Ulan Bator’s trade turnover with Beijing. Plans are in store to bring it up to $2 bln in 2020. However, Mongolia is dissatisfied with the trade imbalance (imports from Russia account for about 95% of the bilateral trade turnover) and high tariffs on Mongolian goods.

"Despite all our mineral resources, China is the largest market for Mongolia, and the most convenient transit is to China as well. There is no chance at all that we will be able to compete with China given the current environment. Actually, Mongolia used the negotiations with Russia to boost its standing at the talks with Beijing," Alexander Gabuev, Senior Fellow and Chair Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told the paper.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: France to offer Tehran loan incentives to save nuke deal

European capitals are trying to bring Tehran back to compliance with its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. This time, they plan to use financial incentives to ensure that Iran does not refuse to abide by the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

French President Emmanuel Macron offered his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani a loan in exchange for the implementation of the nuclear deal, Western diplomats familiar with the details of the proposal told Saudi Arabia’s Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. The initiative implies that Tehran will be paid $15 bln in instalments. In response, the Iranian leadership is expected to honor its commitments under the JCPOA. According to the Saudi publication, this plan, if implemented, will make it possible to buy time for diplomatic efforts.

Top Iranian diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier told the Rossiya 24 TV that Tehran had left the door open for diplomacy, in spite of plans to suspend another part of its obligations under the deal. He also assured that Iran was determined to continue talks to salvage the accord.

One of Tehran’s key requirements for the EU to preserve the nuclear pact is to ensure the purchase of Iranian oil, military expert Yuri Lyamin recalled in an interview with the paper. "Due to the fact that European companies are afraid to do so because of imminent US sanctions, in the summer, the parties began to explore the possibility of bypassing the sanctions and providing European loans to Iran in exchange for future purchases of Iranian oil. That is, it is proposed to provide a $15-billion loan to Iran in exchange for the implementation of the agreements under the JCPOA in the future," he pointed out.

Perhaps, Tehran might accept Macron’s proposal, the expert went to say. "However, as always, the devil is in the details. On the one hand, Iran finds it unacceptable that the loans are accompanied by requirements that go beyond the framework of the nuke deal. On the other hand, the United States could try to exert pressure on EU members and threaten European financial institutions with sanctions," he stressed.


Vedomosti: Upcoming military drills to demonstrate Russia’s stronger ties with China

The main stage of the Tsentr-2019 [Center-2019] strategic exercise will be held on September 16-21 on eight training grounds and in the Caspian Sea, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said. The drills are set to be held in four countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) and will be aimed at training for a prompt response to threats emerging in the Central Asian region, Vedomosti writes.

Shoigu said that troops from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, China and Pakistan would take part in the drills. Heads of state and defense officials from the participating countries are expected to attend the events. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not rule out that Russian President Vladimir Putin would attend the exercises.

Chinese aircraft will take part in joint aviation maneuvers along with planes operated by Russia’s Aerospace forces, the paper’s military source said. He also stressed that the upcoming drills would "focus on the counter-terrorism agenda, and foreign defense attaches have been briefed on the issue."

According to military expert Ivan Konovalov, Director of the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Studies, the drills will demonstrate further rapprochement between Russia and China in the military field. Moreover, they will be held in a region, where a genuine threat of extremism and terrorism for both countries exists. The exercise shows that Russia and China are key security partners in Central Asia, the paper quotes the expert as saying.


Izvestia: Northern Sea Route attracts companies from Scandinavia and Asia

The first meeting of the international public council of the Northern Sea Route will be held in Vladivostok as part of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF). Transport companies in a number of countries, including Japan, Denmark, Germany, Finland and South Korea, have shown interest in the Arctic route, the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation informed Izvestia. The corporation is in charge of Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet and the development of the Northern Sea Route.

Denmark’s Nordic Bulk Carriers was the first foreign company whose ship travelled along the Northern Sea Route back in 2010. In 2013, the company was the first to transport coal from the west coast of Canada to Europe through the Northwest Passage (NWP) running through Greenland and North America.

"The obvious advantage of the Northern Sea Route is its geographical location, which reduces the time of delivery by an average of 15 days compared to the southern route and guarantees navigation safety. Despite the improvement in the situation with piracy in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia’s coast, vessels sailing through the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean inevitably pass this section of the route. The danger is still there," the Atomic Energy Corporation noted.

It also stressed that navigation through the Northern Sea Route would be year-round with the commissioning of three new icebreakers in the early 2020s. Their construction is directly related to servicing large gas field on the Arctic shelf, in particular, the Yamal LNG plant and the Arctic LNG-2 project.

Small wonder that Asian countries are among the potential investors in the Northern Sea Route, Alexander Pilyasov, Head of the Center for Northern and Arctic Economy, explained to Izvestia. They want to diversify the delivery of their goods to Europe, he said.

"However, one must understand that this is a long-term investment. There is no quick commercial impact in the Arctic," he stressed.

"The Northern Sea Route’s only problem is the lack of upgraded ports, and foreign companies could invest in the port infrastructure," he added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Militants derail ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib

Terror groups having links to Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) are not complying with the ceasefire in Idlib, Syrian media outlets reported. That was confirmed by the head of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria Alexei Bakin who said that 40 violations had been recorded in the Idlib de-escalation zone over the past 24 hours, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

It is becoming apparent that Damascus’ decision to declare a unilateral ceasefire was a temporary measure. Secondly, the truce will be used by the warring parties to regroup their forces and will likely mark the beginning of new hostilities.

During Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan’s recent visit to Moscow, Russia backed his plan to set up a so-called safe zone on the Turkish-Syrian border, most of which is now controlled by the Kurds. Damascus opposed such plans, but, as always, did not criticize Russia for this approach.

Kurdish media reported that Turkey’s threats to invade northeastern Syria under the pretext of creating a ‘safe zone’ could become a reality soon. They quoted Erdogan as saying that Turkey could enter northern Syria in two or three weeks’ time.

"There is every likelihood that Turkish troops, with Moscow’s tacit support, will conduct an incursion into the Euphrates River area after a military operation in Idlib. The United States and coalition forces will hardly be able to, or rather, want to prevent that," military expert Yuri Netkachev told the paper. In his view, Erdogan is provoking an outbreak of new hostilities in Syria, which could spread to Turkey’s southern provinces, specifically, areas inhabited by its Kurdish and Armenian populations.


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