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Press review: Moscow gains from brokered peace deal and Trump to unleash Iran sanctions

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, November 11
Explosions seen in the mountains during fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijan's forces in Stepanakert, November 1, 2020  AP Photo
Explosions seen in the mountains during fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijan's forces in Stepanakert, November 1, 2020
© AP Photo

Media: Karabakh hostilities end with Russia’s mediation

The second war in post-Soviet history between Azerbaijan and Armenia ended as quickly as it started, Kommersant notes. After six weeks of intense hostilities, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed a joint statement on a complete ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. In accordance with the agreement, Armenian troops must leave three occupied districts of Azerbaijan. The key provision of the agreement is the deployment of Russian peacekeepers to the region. Acting as the guarantor of the peace deal, Moscow has reaffirmed its role as the key mediator of the Karabakh conflict, creating the conditions for the relaunch of the diplomatic process that has stalled for a quarter of a century, the newspaper points out.

Moscow has gotten back its leading role in the South Caucasus with this agreement, and this outcome is quite a triumph for Russia, Editor-in-Chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine Fyodor Lukyanov told RBC. "It was impossible to maintain the status-quo when it became apparent that Armenia could no longer win the armed conflict. Before that, Armenia’s victory had been presumed, but this time, the Azerbaijanis were better prepared, and when you don’t have enough military power, the whole structure built over the past few years falls apart," the expert explained.

While the new model benefits Moscow, Armenia becomes even more dependent on Russia’s presence, Lukyanov stated. The OSCE Minsk Group has basically ceased to exist after this agreement, the experts claimed. The OSCE has not been mentioned in the armistice, and the group’s co-chairs France and the US have not been listed as active participants involved in the preparations for the deal.

The return of a significant chunk of districts bordering Nagorno-Karabakh and a part of the unrecognized republic itself to Azerbaijan has been met with jubilation in Baku. The Armenian public had the opposite reaction: the agreement was seen as a capitulation and a national embarrassment, with PM Pashinyan painted as the one responsible for what happened by the radical opposition, Kommersant notes.

Meanwhile, support for Pashinyan, who was once popular in Armenia, has plummeted. Armenian political analyst Grant Mikaelian noted that the signing of the disadvantageous agreement is not the only mishap of the Pashinyan government. "During Pashinyan’s rule, society has been divided. And it is harder for a divided society to defend itself. Government bodies have been weakened, especially the legal system. There have been no preparations for a war for the past two and a half years, and there has been no development in the relations with its allies: Russia and Iran," the expert told Kommersant.


Izvestia: Trump plans to slap new sanctions on Iran before his term ends

Washington is gearing up to impose a flood of new sanctions against Tehran with the support of Israel and some Gulf nations, Izvestia writes. Namely, the sanctions may cover Iran’s missile program, linked to alleged human rights violations or Tehran’s possible support of terrorist organizations. Meanwhile, Joe Biden, who declared his victory in the US presidential election, does not rule out Washington's return to the Iranian nuclear deal. Izvestia takes a look at what Iran can expect under a new US administration.

"The Trump administration, in coordination with Israel and several Gulf states, is pushing a plan to slap a long string of new sanctions on Iran in the 10 weeks left until Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20," the Axios news portal reported earlier. The US plans to introduce new sanctions every week until Biden’s inauguration.

Trump understands that his strategy has failed and that he lost, Adlan Margoev, an analyst at the Institute of International Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), told Izvestia. "However, giving up is not his style, so in the remaining weeks, he plans to make the most of his mandate and make the first few months of the new administration harder. The US sanctions machine is a state within a state, and taking into account the fact that [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani plans to resign in the summer of 2021, the Biden administration will not have time for a quick return to the JCPOA," the expert said.

The Biden administration may go back to diplomatic bargaining between Tehran and Washington, Head of the Center for North American Studies at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) Viktoria Zhuravleva told the paper. "The position of the Democratic Party fundamentally differs from the position of the Trump administration and the Republican Party on the whole. Obama didn’t promote this Iranian deal for nothing. The Democratic Party thinks that this deal was of fundamental importance, that it was the basis for building relations between the US and Iran. Trump understands that the Democrats will try to get the deal back, and right now, he is trying to complicate this process as much as he can," she explained.

She added that so far, it is hard to say whether Trump will have time to damage the difficult relations between Washington and Tehran even further. "The pressure from his administration will be pushed to the maximum. Will Biden be able to fix it? Definitely not immediately and definitely not quickly: but if Biden sends certain signals to Iran right now, they will understand that what is happening is temporary, and they will have a different reaction to the new sanctions," the analyst concluded.


Izvestia: EU looks to change its immigration policy after spate of terror attacks

After a string of terrorist attacks in Europe, the EU has decided to once again revise its approach to immigration and security. French President Emmanuel Macron stated that EU members must radically change the Schengen system, beefing up control of its external borders. The European Commission told Izvestia that Schengen reform is definitely necessary. In this regard, the EU is working on a new strategy that will determine how the system will work in the future, with its outline set to be announced in December.

Sources in the European commission told Izvestia that the Schengen zone is one of the greatest achievements of the EU, and it is in the EU’s shared interest to maintain its integrity and the functionality without introducing control over its internal borders. However, the Schengen zone has been under growing pressure in recent years due to a number of crises, and it needs to be reformed, the source added.

The source noted that by early December, the European Commission will hold its first forum on the Schengen zone, which will involve members of the European Parliament, interior ministers and other representatives of national governments. The new strategy will include the following elements: increased control and management of external borders; more active cooperation and information exchange between national government bodies, especially the police; mutually linked security systems on the borders; and increased support from EU agencies.

As for immigration reform, Nicolas Bay, a member of the European Parliament, told Izvestia that Brussels had tried to introduce quotas for migrants, with each country having its share, however, some countries, like Hungary and Poland, are strongly against this policy. Some countries want to admit as few migrants as possible, but they don’t say so openly, he told the paper. Besides, the low level of cooperation between the origin countries complicates the process of repatriating those who have been refused entry. The system is running out of steam, and the EU is looking for a solution in a new pact, the French politician concluded.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Top Erdogan official steps down following US election

The resignation of Turkey's Minister of Treasury and Finance Berat Albayrak has been met with widespread speculation over the atmosphere in President Erdogan’s government following the outcome of the US election, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Albayrak is Erdogan’s son-in-law, so he held a key position within the government. The Turkish media predicted that the government was likely to undergo other big shake-ups in the future.

Albayrak’s resignation came after Erdogan’s decision to dismiss Murat Uysal from the position of Turkey’s Central Bank governor.

There are several versions regarding the Turkish economy czar’s resignation. One of them is tied to the Turkey’s state bank - Halkbank - which has been accused by the US of violating American sanctions against Iran, fraud and money laundering. "The resignation of the Central Bank chief and the treasury minister may be related to the outcome of the US election," Timur Akhmetov, an Ankara-based expert from the Russian International Affairs Council, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "The previous head of the Central Bank worked at Halkbank, and the investigation into it may reach an active phase under a new administration. The expert does not rule out that Albayrak may be tied to "the Halkbank case" as well.

The Trump administration’s position on Halkbank has been rather sympathetic, the paper notes. During a briefing a couple of years ago, Erdogan claimed that his US colleague had promised to influence his subordinates to end the criminal proceedings against the bank. Nevertheless, in December 2019, a New York court dismissed Halkbank’s motion to suspend the court proceedings.

"There was noticeable discontent in the US over the fact that Ankara was allegedly trying to extend its own political game rules to America’s system, and that there was alleged pressure on the court from Trump," Akhmetov pointed out. "Halkbank may become a means for the Democrats to stage a public smack-down of Erdogan, or at least to put pressure on him," he concluded.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russian researchers develop device that can detect virus particles

Russian researchers with the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute) have developed a device with the ability to track and detect specific virus particles, Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports.

The "Trigger-BIO" detector has shown record sensitivity: in 1-2 seconds, the device is able to detect a virus in the air with the concentration of 10-20 particles per liter. This is about ten times more than the existing devices. Besides, the device can detect any type of virus, bacteria and so on, the paper notes. With its high sensitivity, the machine can send out a signal that can allow people to take swift measures to eliminate the threat.

"The device is based on the phenomenon of luminescence," one of its developers, candidate of physical and mathematical sciences Gennady Kotkovsky told Rossiyskaya Gazeta. "In this case, viruses and bacteria begin to glow under the rays of light-emitting diodes. As a result, we receive emission spectrums of these particles. Each particle has its own spectral print, so technically, we can say what type of virus or bacteria it belongs to, identifying the dangerous microorganism," he explained.

Additional research should be carried out to avoid mistakes during the functioning of the device, with tests held at the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, known for developing the first Russian COVID-19 vaccine. If successful, the device can help organize screening at public places, thereby ensuring safety at civilian and military facilities.



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