RBC: Autumn thaw in Russian-French relations
Monday’s 2+2 meeting between the Russian and French top diplomats and defense chiefs was held in Moscow for the first time in several years. Although some experts call it purely ceremonial, in the future this communication channel can help iron out a number of problems in relations with Europe, RBC writes.
These contacts were frozen in 2014 because of the crisis in Ukraine. Efforts aimed at fostering dialogue with Moscow are being made on instructions from French President Emmanuel Macron, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. He warned that the dialogue would be demanding and would take into account both countries’ interests.
For his part, Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov called on the Europeans to create a security architecture in the Euro-Atlantic region "together with Russia, and not as a counterbalance to Russia."
The revival of 2+2 contacts is an important symbolic step, but, at the same time, they have a major pragmatic value, Sergei Fedorov, a leading researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, told the paper. According to the political commentator, a communication channel like this one is important for coordinating positions on major issues between Moscow and Paris. "This is a vital aspect, given the tense relations between our countries," the expert said. He noted that Russia and France could cooperate more closely on the Ukrainian issue, arms control and the Iran nuclear deal. "We do have substantial disagreements, but we can overcome some crises, if France has a realistic stance at the talks," he stressed.
Macron is currently the most suitable interlocutor for Russia in the EU, given the imminent completion of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tenure and Macron’s desire to appear as Europe’s political leader, even along the eastern front, the paper quotes Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), as saying.
Izvestia: Russian gas supplies to China to begin in December
Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller to explore the possibility of transporting Russian natural gas to China via Mongolia. For his part, Miller briefed the head of state on the readiness level of the Power of Siberia gas pipeline, which would transport fuel to consumers in Russia’s Far East and China, and assured that Russian gas supplies to China would start on December 1, Izvestia writes. According to Miller, Russia will supply 1 trillion of cubic meters of gas to China in 30 years.
Putting the Power of Siberia project into effect demonstrates closer ties between the two countries, Dmitry Novikov, First Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma’s (lower house) Foreign Affairs Committee, told the paper. Nevertheless, Russia needs to ensure the implementation of other projects focusing on the supplies of hi-tech Russian equipment to China, the lawmaker added.
"It is essential to invest in the relevant sectors to ensure the supply of raw materials and other products. That would enable us to withstand any sanctions pressure more confidently," he said.
Gazprom will pump at least 11.4 bln cubic meters of gas into underground storage facilities in Europe by the end of 2019, which is twice as much as last year, Miller said. Ukraine, which stopped purchasing gas from Russia in the fall of 2015, currently receives gas through reverse supplies.
Kiev’s decision, which was politically motivated, contravenes economic considerations, Denis Denisov, Director of the Institute for Peace Initiatives and Conflict Studies, stressed to Izvestia. "Looks like pragmatists came to power in Ukraine. This offers hope that the country will resume purchases directly from Russia. If Kiev takes a constructive stance, gas issues can be resolved by the end of this year," he pointed out.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump and Rouhani ready for backstage negotiations
US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani could meet face to face on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in late September. However, officials in Washington say that it depends on Iran’s supreme leader whether or not the talks will take place, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Washington’s European allies back the idea of an American-Iranian summit. French President Emmanuel Macron earlier highlighted the need to arrange the potential US-Iranian presidential talks. Paris, just like some other European capitals, wants to make sure that Tehran is allowed to sell certain volumes of oil in exchange for a series of commitments.
The news of the upcoming encounter has triggered Israeli concerns, particularly among its security establishment, the Haaretz newspaper writes. According to insiders, Trump has become less inclined to listen to the most hawkish anti-Iranian individual in his administration, that is, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton.
"It is difficult to say what will happen by the end of September. However, it is Trump’s unpredictability that has remained unchanged," Yulia Sveshnikova, Research Fellow at the Higher School of Economics, told the paper. "There are two diametrically opposite viewpoints on that score in Iran. The first is a conspiracy theory, asserting that Trump allegedly has some very complicated plan for Iran. The second one claims that Trump doesn’t really understand what he is doing," she explained.
The expert cast doubt on claims that someone in Tehran could want to arrange a meeting with the US president. Any hints at backstage talks between Trump and Rouhani would cause an uproar in the Iranian establishment, Sveshnikova went on to say.
"Washington disapproves of Macron’s credit incentive plan for Iran. So, what could the two discuss at their face-to-face meeting? Iran’s stance is as follows: when the US returns to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), then it will be possible to discuss something else. It is one thing to agree to scale back [the country’s] nuclear program, which was not aimed at obtaining nuclear weapons. Another thing is to abandon your influence and missile capacity. Iran will not agree to do that," she stressed.
Izvestia: US-Taliban dialogue breaks down due to total distrust
Russia has voiced regret over the collapse of talks between the United States and the Taliban (outlawed in Russia). Moscow fears the situation in Afghanistan could escalate further but hopes that the parties will return to the negotiating table after a break, Russian Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told Izvestia.
US President Donald Trump has cancelled the Camp David summit due to the Taliban’s role in the latest terrorist attack in Kabul that resulted in the death of a US soldier.
"While keeping a close eye on both sides’ statements, we note for ourselves that they are still determined to continue talking with each other. This emotional moment will lead to a certain pause in the negotiation process. However, in the end they will probably embark on the path towards peace rather than enmity," Kabulov said.
The diplomat admitted that the risk of violence in Afghanistan escalating even further is currently high. The use of force by one party to prove it is right would trigger similar steps in response.
It is more than likely that both sides will intensify hostilities, the paper quotes Omar Nessar, Director of the Russian Center for Contemporary Afghan Studies, as saying. The expert noted that one could expect the resumption of talks after the presidential election in Afghanistan scheduled to be held on September 28, but a meaningful step should be taken by the Taliban for this to happen.
Meanwhile, the Taliban accused Trump of impatience, arguing that the Americans would stand to lose more from cancelling the Camp David meeting. Taliban members also threatened to carry on what they call a ‘jihad’ against foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Kommersant: Abkhazia’s president re-elected to second term
The Abkhaz presidential election held on September 8 culminated in the defeat of opposition politician Alkhaz Kvitsiniya, who was widely referred to as the frontrunner of the runoff vote, Kommersant wrote. On Monday morning, Kvitsiniya said he disagreed with the outcome of the vote announced by the Central Election Commission, according to which the incumbent President of the partially recognized republic, Raul Khajimba, was re-elected to a second term.
Khajimba who vowed to step up the fight against corruption and crime, and diversify the economy, enjoys Moscow’s support, and his re-election guarantees that Russia will remain Abkhazia’s chief ally and donor.
The incumbent president earlier explained that his decision to run for re-election stemmed from the fact that the reforms that had been launched during his first term had not been completed and many planned projects were far from being implemented.
Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Raul Khajimba during the 2014 election. In early August, he met with his Abkhaz counterpart once again, thereby de facto expressing his support for him. On the other hand, had Alkhas Kvitsiniya won the presidential election, this would not have resulted in any drastic changes in relations between Moscow and Sukhum.
Manana Gurguliya, Director of the Abkhazia Inform news agency assured Kommersant that there were no politicians in her country who would be fundamentally anti-Russian. "To begin with, Russia is our neighbor. Secondly, we have a shared history," she stressed.
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