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Press review: Who needs Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ and Russia to fight Iran sanctions

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, January 28
US President Donald Trump AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
US President Donald Trump
© AP Photo/ Evan Vucci


Izvestia: Russia opposes renewed UN sanctions against Iran

If the UN Security Council begins to discuss the re-imposition of sanctions against Tehran, Moscow will be opposed to that, a high-ranking Russian diplomatic source informed Izvestia.

"We strongly oppose the re-imposition of UN sanctions and have made it clear to Iran that it can count on our support on this matter," he said.

In mid-January, three European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal (the United Kingdom, Germany and France) triggered the dispute resolution mechanism stipulated by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In the worst-case scenario, it can result in the sanctions being re-imposed on Iran.

A high-ranking European diplomatic source told the paper that the EU countries expect Russia and China to join the mechanism. However, Moscow was skeptical about the initiative and warned that the Europeans could take advantage of the situation to blame Iran for everything that happened.

Meanwhile, the experts interviewed by Izvestia noted that the mechanism was likely to work until November 2020, when the US presidential election is set to be held.

"If the Democrats come to power, there will be chances of salvaging the deal. As far as Donald Trump’s re-election is concerned, it is very difficult to make any forecasts," Adlan Margoev, an analyst at the Institute of International Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), explained.

Russia and China should persuade the Europeans not to bring the matter to the UN, the expert went on to say. If they fail to do that, the only way to sabotage the process would be by refusing to comply with the restrictive measures. However, that would result in long-lasting adverse effects for the Security Council itself, while damaging the prestige of the sanctions mechanism. That, in turn, would discredit the entire UN, and none of its member-countries wants that, he concluded.


Vedomosti: White House to unveil ‘deal of the century’

US President Donald Trump is set to roll out the details of his long-awaited "deal of the century" at a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, that is, his plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

News commentators believe that Trump and Netanyahu hope to look like history-makers in the eyes of the American and Israeli public, and be lauded as the ones who "brought peace to the Middle East", Vedomosti writes.

Now that the situation in the West Bank is relatively calm, only Trump and Netanyahu need the peace plan, the paper quotes Avi Issacharoff, an analyst at the Times of Israel, as saying. He believes that "the pro-Israeli deal of the century" could upset the fragile balance in the region and trigger retaliatory measures from the Palestinians.

Washington is demonstrating a one-sided approach, and peace is out of the question here, says Irina Zvyagelskaya, chief researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies. It is important that [Benny] Gantz [leader of the Kahol Lavan political alliance] was invited to discuss the deal. That means that Trump wants to ensure the broadest possible support, if Likud again fails to gain an absolute majority and has to form a coalition, she stressed.

"However, in the long run, that deal will not mean anything good - either for the region, or even for the domestic policy of Israel, to which it will bring neither peace nor stability," the paper quotes her as saying.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US attracting wider line-up to keep an eye on North Korea

The number of countries monitoring Pyongyang's compliance with international sanctions is expected to increase. France, Japan and South Korea could join the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada, whose intelligence services track North Korea’s illegal activities, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Efforts aimed at tightening control over North Korea’s compliance with sanctions stem from the breakdown of negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. In late December, Kim refused to comply with a nuclear test moratorium, and in January, the Trump administration expanded sanctions against North Korea.

DPRK propaganda has been focusing more frequently on North Koreans gearing up for troubles caused by the long-term standoff with the United States.

Relations between the United States and North Korea can be described as complex but not hopeless, Alexander Vorontsov, Head of the Korean and Mongolian Studies Department at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, told the paper.

"Both parties are currently trying to secure concessions for themselves during potential negotiations. The fact that [US President Donald] Trump and Kim Jong-un have been exchanging letters and demonstrate mutual respect on a personal level is encouraging. North Korea’s firm stance is that the United States should respond to concessions with concessions. However, the Americans disagree. This is the chief obstacle to the dialogue between both countries," the expert pointed out.


Kommersant: Lukoil seeks to expand its resource base in Caspian Sea

Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide the company with three additional unexplored subsoil areas in the Caspian Sea shelf zone, Kommersant writes.

In his letter to the Russian leader, Alekperov stressed that Lukoil’s subsidiary (Lukoil-Nizhnevolzhskneft) had a shortage of new exploration projects.

The company is currently developing two deposits in the Russian sector of the Caspian Sea (the Filanovsky and Korchagin oil fields), which produce about seven mln tonnes of oil per year.

Lukoil has been interested in offshore projects for a long time. However, under the law, the company has no access to such areas. Alekperov earlier noted that all promising Arctic shelf sections had been acquired by Rosneft and Gazprom. In addition to the Caspian shelf zone, the company also is developing deposits in the Baltic Sea.

Lukoil knows the Caspian Sea shelf area quite well and has a wealth of successful experience there, says Fitch’s Dmitry Marinchenko. The renewal of its resource base is an essential long-term issue for the company, he stressed.

According to Raiffeisenbank’s Andrei Polishchuk, unallocated reserves are few in number in Russia, so Lukoil is trying to have dibs on some promising projects. Moreover, in Russia, the company’s ability to acquire new deposits is limited, the expert added.


Vedomosti: Russia may lose up to 80% of Chinese tourists due to coronavirus outbreak

The now-infamous novel coronavirus outbreak in China may have serious implications on Russia’s tourism industry, given that Chinese travelers account for 18% of the volume coming to Russia, Vedomosti writes citing data provided by the Russian Union of Travel Industry.

China earlier announced additional measures to combat the deadly virus, including a ban on package tours abroad.

If the coronavirus’ ability to spread gets stronger, Russia will have to change its strategy in order to attract tourists from new markets and fill up hotels and other tourist infrastructure, the paper quotes Sergei Shpilko, President of the Russian Union of Travel Industry, as saying.

January to March is the peak season for Chinese travelers visiting Russia, says Alexander Agamov, Executive Director of the World Without Borders tourism association, which fosters Russian-Chinese tourism. About 130,000-150,000 Chinese tourists came to Russia in the first quarter of 2019, he said, adding that the World Without Borders association expected a slight increase in the number of Chinese tourists in the first quarter of 2020. "Of these, 70-80% may not come now," he pointed out.

Companies specializing in welcoming Chinese tourists will be hit the hardest, according to Alexander Kurnosov, who heads the Academservice tourist agency. However, the market will compensate for that downturn. A drop in demand for hotels and transport will bring down prices, and that will attract both guests from other countries and Russians, he explained.


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