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Press review: What Davos 2020 focused on and why Putin asked UNSC members to meet

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, January 24


Izvestia: Davos 2020 zooms in on ecology and sustainable development

The 50th anniversary of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos has concluded. The forum’s official theme was "Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World", but discussions about environmental degradation and climate change became the focus, Izvestia wrote. Prior to and during the forum, supporters of teen eco-activist Greta Thunberg held demonstrations, preventing forum participants from getting around Davos and its surrounding areas. Her performances became one of the most anticipated in Davos as the speech by US President Donald Trump. At the same time, on the sidelines every now and then there was talk that Davos was not the way it used to be.

Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin was expected to head the Russian delegation to the World Economic Forum. However, a week before the event, he suddenly became acting minister, and on the day of his first speech in Davos, he was just an "economist". There were no officials from other Russian departments at the forum. However, Russia’s powerful business sector was present almost in full force. The forum was attended by CEO of Rusal and En+ Oleg Deripaska, Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh, Head of Renova Viktor Vekselberg, founder of VKontakte and Telegram Pavel Durov, Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov, and others. The main session of the Russia House was a discussion of inequality as a barrier to economic growth. In total, 3,000 people from 117 countries participated in the forum, including 53 heads of state and government.

Despite the intense agenda, Russian WEF participants on the sidelines talked about the 2020 forum being not as good as it was in 2019, the newspaper wrote, adding that one of the Russian representatives even said that the forum, in principle, is getting worse every year.

Managing Partner of EY for Russia Alexander Ivlev did not agree with this opinion. He told Izvestia that Davos is a platform "where you can meet with customers, and discuss issues related to global trends and global business". "Russia’s agenda is well covered in the framework of the Russia House. I can’t say that this year has become worse than last year. I reached all the goals that I set for myself," he said.

Another forum participant, CEO of Integral Petroleum SA Murat Seitnepesov considers the Davos forum to be the most important platform for discussing pressing issues. "It is absolutely right that at a forum of such caliber as WEF, the environmental problem was raised. Sustainable development includes sustainable ecology. This may not be as important right now, but the forum always looks further. This is one of the development goals," he said.


Izvestia: Putin calls on UN Security Council members to join forces for peace

During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the Jerusalem-hosted World Holocaust Forum, the president proposed that leaders from the permanent members of the UN Security Council could meet in 2020, Izvestia wrote. According to him, the dialogue would work towards finding solutions to many regional problems and avoid large-scale conflicts. In Israel, the Russian leader also took part in the opening of a monument to honor the wartime residents and defenders of Nazi-besieged Leningrad. In addition, Putin held bilateral talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, he also managed to talk with the mother of an Israeli woman, Naama Issachar, jailed in Russia on drug charges.

During his speech, the Russian president proposed a specific initiative. He invited the leaders of those countries that are permanent members of the UN Security Council (Russia, the United States, China, France and the United Kingdom) to hold a meeting in 2020 to solve global problems. According to him, the UN founding states shoulder primary responsibility for maintaining peace, and their actions should serve as an example to the rest of the world. Putin noted that the event could be held in any convenient place.

The idea is very timely, given how many new conflicts have arisen in recent years, Vladimir Dzhabarov, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs told Izvestia. "The initiative of the Russian president is remarkable, since it is not always possible to discuss all complex issues in the Security Council. If a separate summit of "the five" is held, then they could make decisions, for example, on saving Libya, and avoid the final collapse of the state," he explained.

Israeli and Russian stances on World War II coincide, Dzhabarov also pointed out. According to him, these two countries can be considered leaders in the movement to preserve historical memory. "The memory of the World War II is what unites us. Attempts to distort history have very specific political reasons. However, some Eastern European countries are trying to form some alternative version of the history of the Holocaust, denying the involvement of their "national heroes" in these horrific crimes. Moreover, it is specifically these countries that are the driving forces behind anti-Russian resolutions, which, as we have seen, are adopted by the European Parliament," Alexander Dyukov, director of the Historical Memory Foundation, told Izvestia.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Belarus bluffs with alternative oil supplies to haggle over price with Russia

A tanker with Norwegian oil for Belarus arrived in the port of Klaipeda, Lithuania. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko made it clear that this was a trial supply to hammer out a mechanism for operating with world oil prices. There is no official data on its cost, but according to experts, Belarus will have to shell out more money on this oil than for Russian supplies. In their opinion, careful thinking will force Minsk to seek a compromise with Russian suppliers, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

The information and service website, referring to its sources in the oil sector, wrote that transportation would cost $20 per tonne. Taking into account the market price of oil of around $470 per tonne, then it could cost Belarus $490-520 per tonne. Meanwhile, Russian oil was offered for 83% of the world price, or about $385 per tonne. Thus, Minsk’s losses could rocket to about $2 bln per year, if the entire volume is bought from alternative sources.

However, right now, Belarus is not looking at completely rejecting Russia’s oil. Lukashenko has set out to buy only 30-40% of the required volumes in Russia. According to experts, this move indicates that by refusing to sign contracts on Russia’s terms, Minsk is merely bluffing and haggling over the price.

Analyzing the situation, project manager of BelarusSecurityBlog Andrey Porotnikov claims that Minsk was not ready for the Russian oil ultimatum and the decision to refuse Russian oil when buying on Russian conditions was made spontaneously and emotionally.

Experts also noted technical factors. In particular, Mikhail Grachev, a financial analyst said that Belarusian refineries could only work with the North Sea oil grade supplied by Norway, and Russian Urals oil. Therefore, "the choice of alternative supplies from our government is not so great," the expert noted.


Vedomosti: Libyan rivals will try to come to terms in Geneva

The first meeting of the Libyan Joint Military Commission is due to take place in Geneva next week, UN Special Envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame said. According to him, the parties to the conflict - Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj and Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar - gave him the names of the participants in the meeting. Vedomosti reported that this opened the door to convening the first meeting of the commission so that the Moscow-Ankara brokered truce announced on January 12, would move to a full-fledged ceasefire by the end of January. However, sources told Vedomosti, the future of the ceasefire would be difficult.

The event in Geneva is tentatively scheduled for January 28, this is the first attempt to bring the parties together for a personal discussion of the Libyan conflict since Haftar’s troops attacked Tripoli in April 2019, a diplomatic source told Vedomosti. It is obvious, that the position of representatives of each side based on the behavior of their leaders, especially Haftar, will be as tough as possible, which reduces the chances of an early rapprochement, the source added. Attempts to sign a ceasefire deal have failed, the source said. Haftar is still torn between his main allies, trying to please all of them, a source close to the Russian Ministry of Defense told the newspaper.

The full-scale conflict has been halted, the active use of pro-Turkish units in Libya recruited from Syrian militants has been avoided solely thanks to the agreements by the presidents of Russia and Turkey, another source told Vedomosti.

For Haftar, it is disadvantageous to withdraw troops when Tripoli is in their sights, and he wants to start negotiations from a position of strength, said Leonid Isaev, an associate professor at the Higher School of Economics. However, according to him, the decisive and still unknown factor for Haftar is Ankara’s position. "Turkey’s military intervention will seriously harm not Haftar’s army itself, but his allies, primarily Egypt," the expert said. Therefore, Haftar is taking this type of ambiguous position.


Kommersant: Ankara presents Moscow with gas manufacturing offer off the coast of Cyprus

Turkey and Greece renewed a long-standing dispute over the balance of power in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. Although formally the countries are part of one military-political bloc - NATO, Ankara has called on Greece to stop deploying weapons to islands located a few kilometers from the Turkish coast. Furthermore, disagreements around Cyprus have exacerbated the situation, Kommersant wrote. Nicosia slammed Turkey as a “pirate state”, but now Ankara is looking to Moscow as a possible ally.

The situation in the region is complicated by the fact that Ankara in the near future plans to start gas production off the coast of Cyprus. On January 20, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell, announced his readiness to extend sanctions against Ankara, adding a number of Turkish citizens and companies responsible for drilling to the blacklist. Turkey, in turn, also expects to enlist the support of a partner: Russia. According to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, he sees an opportunity between Turkey and Russia for gas production prospects off the coast of Cyprus. According to him, Cyprus was one of the topics that the presidents of the two countries had discussed during their last meeting.

According to Director of the Center for the Study of New Turkey Yuri Mavashev, the real goal of Ankara in the Mediterranean is to achieve the construction of its own gas pipeline to spite the EastMed project (East Mediterranean Gas Pipeline). The initiators of this project - Israel, Cyprus, and Greece - signed a construction agreement on January 2. "Turkey is annoyed that its opinion was not taken into account on the EastMed project, so it will pressure its neighbors in different ways," Mavashev told Kommersant. "The Turks want to use Russia as an irritant for the European Union. After all, EastMed is a competitor to the TurkStream gas pipeline. However, all this is nothing more than cunning maneuvers by Turkish diplomacy, the ultimate goal of which is to gain access to the gas fields of Cyprus," the expert added.


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