Izvestia: Russia opposes West’s bid to politicize aid to Syria, envoy says
Western countries continue to cite the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to block Damascus' efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to northwestern Syria, Russian Permanent Envoy to the United Nations Office in Geneva Gennady Gatilov told Izvestia. According to him, the West fears that the Syrians delivering humanitarian supplies will also bring COVID-19 to Idlib. However, when it comes to a cross-border mechanism promoted by Germany and Belgium, the pandemic threat seems to fade away.
Gatilov pointed out that "the Americans and their allies actively seek to take advantage of the humanitarian issue to achieve their own political goals in Syria." "The goal is, in fact, to undermine the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly through creating political and economic preferences for areas not controlled by Damascus. It is well known that militants from anti-government groups are in charge there," the envoy specified.
Similarly, Gatilov noted that the West ignores the fact that domestic humanitarian routes to northeastern Syria have been operating steadily for six months.
"By pursuing such a policy, the West clearly seeks to continue providing support to militants active in areas that the country’s legitimate government doesn’t control, with an eye on annexing these territories. Illegal unilateral sanctions are being used as a tool to achieve this goal as they continue to worsen the living conditions of Syrians," the diplomat said. He emphasized that Russia would steadily oppose that politicized agenda, which ran counter to the United Nations Charter.
However, it doesn’t mean that Moscow will obstruct efforts to boost humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. "If our Western colleagues really want to help Syrians living in areas not controlled by the government, then they should facilitate domestic humanitarian aid activities. The Syrian authorities are ready for meaningful work like that," the Russian envoy concluded.
Vedomosti: Fighting continues to rage along Azerbaijan-Armenia border
The clashes that broke out on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan on July 12 are still raging on. Russia has called on both parties to exercise restraint and expressed its willingness to act as a mediator, Vedomosti wrote.
Senior Research Fellow from MGIMO University's Caucasian Studies Center Nikolai Silayev pointed out that this is the biggest military engagement since April 2016. According to him, the 2018 change of government in Armenia was expected to have a positive impact on the negotiation process, but now the situation is going back to square one.
The expert noted that it was important for Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh region to maintain the status quo as Azerbaijan had lost control of Karabakh almost 30 years ago. In contrast, Baku seeks to make sure that no one gets used to the status quo. Out of the two options Azerbaijan had, it chose military tensions over talks. However, people get used even to constant military strife, so Baku has to send stronger signals, Silayev explained. "The fact that the incident took place on the very border between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and not in Karabakh points to a stronger signal. Instead of Karabakh, it concerns Armenia, which is in a military and political alliance with Russia and is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO]," he noted.
However, Silayev believes that the CSTO will avoid getting dragged into the quagmire. "On the other hand, unlike other mediators - the US and France, the co-chairs of the [OSCE] Minsk Group - Russia maintains trust-based relations with both parties. This balanced approach makes it possible for Russia to act as a mediator. Combat activities ended in April 2016 after a Moscow-hosted meeting between the two countries’ chiefs of the general staff," the expert emphasized.
Izvestia: Five years on, Iran sees no reason to maintain nuke deal
This July 15 marks five years since Iran, Russia, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which limited the development of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the gradual removal of sanctions imposed on the country by the UN Security Council, Izvestia writes.
Moscow believes that it would be unreasonable to amend the JCPOA or sign a new deal, Russian Ambassador to Tehran Levan Dzhagaryan told the newspaper. "The agreement needs to come into force for real so that it can demonstrate its full potential. However, it has not happened yet because of the unilateral US withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018. I am sure that if Washington refrained from this unconstructive move, the plan would have led to the desired result," the ambassador stressed, adding that Russia urged its "Iranian friends to exercise restraint."
Meanwhile, Iranian Ambassador to Moscow Kazem Jalali told the paper that Tehran saw no use in maintaining the JCPOA. According to the envoy, the agreement was supposed to be beneficial to all parties but given the US move to undermine the deal, there is no benefit in sight. A meeting between the remaining participants seems necessary in such a situation, but no agreement has been reached on that matter yet, Jalali noted.
Although the JCPOA has been in a state of lethargy for two years, the mechanism continues to operate de-jure. The so-called arms embargo will expire in October and restrictions on Iran’s purchase and sale of any weapons will be lifted. Andrei Baklitsky, an analyst with the Institute for International Studies at Moscow State Institute of International Relations believes that the move to extend or end the embargo has a more symbolic meaning, but it will give each of the parties a chance to score political points.
The political commentator explained that it was crucial for Iran to show its ability to achieve foreign policy goals and resist US pressure. As for Washington, it seeks to prove that Iran won’t get any advantages. However, the situation is complicated by the upcoming presidential elections that will take place in the US in November 2020 and in Iran in 2021.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Middle East to face brewing protest sentiment
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has trimmed its economic forecasts for Middle East and North African nations due to the coronavirus pandemic and a drop in oil prices. According to a recent IMF report, the crisis may lead to an increase in anti-government sentiment in the region, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.
Even before the coronavirus crisis broke out, the IMF’s forecasts for some of the countries of the region were far from optimistic. The fund’s winter report on the economic situation of the Gulf Cooperation Council nations said that their financial well-being might dry up in 15 years. Experts explained that declining oil demand was one of the main reasons. Now, the situation has significantly deteriorated, particularly in social terms.
Senior Researcher at Higher School of Economics Alisa Shishkina points out, however, that as a rule, there is no direct link between the sluggish figures of economic development and protests in Arab countries. "If we look at indicators such as the GDP, poverty and unemployment levels, we will see that countries involved in the Arab Spring were in a situation similar to that of some European nations," the analyst noted. "It was not the unemployment factor on its own, but youth unemployment that was the reason behind protests, particularly unemployment among young people with university degrees, who were dissatisfied with their social standing," she emphasized.
"If countries fail to clarify their approach to the labor market, unemployment and education amid the current crisis, as well as reshape existing educational programs, then I think that the forecast will come true and we will see a new round of protest activities in the coming 20 years," Shishkina predicted.
"On the whole, the trend for population growth, job cuts and the education system’s collapse makes the latest IMF forecast look credible," the expert pointed out.
Vedomosti: Russians ready to travel to the office less often
The actual number of Russians who moved to remote work amid the coronavirus pandemic has turned out to be higher than official figures, Vedomosti wrote, citing a poll conducted by the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) Institute of Social Analysis and Forecasting. According to Labor Minister Anton Kotyakov, the rate stood at 11%, while the poll showed that it was 43%.
Most of those who moved to telecommuting are college-educated employees. Personnel with university degrees are capable of assuming more responsibilities, managers trust them better and are more willing to let them work remotely, said Yevgenia Tudaletskaya, the author of a business course dubbed No Office No Problem.
At the same time, only 37% of workers had their move to telecommuting documented officially. "Russia’s Labor Code poorly regulates issues related to remote working," Ancor Operations Management Vice President Alexey Mironov pointed out.
The lack of regulations led to an increased workload on remote workers. In particular, half of those surveyed pointed to extended working hours. Another 25% said that their managers had failed to organize the working process properly. As many as 35% of managers, in turn, noted that personnel performance had declined and only six percent highlighted improvements.
"The lack of a culture of teleworking is the reason," Tudaletskaya emphasized. "Employers are afraid of losing control and start investing in numerous controlling tools. As a result, employees work more because they have to write additional reports," she explained.
In a situation like this, only one in ten respondents said they were ready to work from home. Many found a combined pattern the most attractive, where they can work remotely and go to the office on a regular basis.
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