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Press review: Ukraine to dominate UNGA agenda and Turkey, Syria step up contacts

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, September 20th

Izvestia: Ukraine issue set to dominate 77th UN General Assembly

The situation around Ukraine will be the main focus of the High-Level Week of the 77th United Nations General Assembly, said experts interviewed by Izvestia. Western countries will take the opportunity to promote their anti-Russian rhetoric.

"Russia’s focus will be on establishing stability and a world order based on international law. Russia will also highlight the unacceptable hybrid war that the United States and the West are waging in Ukraine, these are the main things," said former UN Under-Secretary General Sergey Ordzhonikidze. In addition, Russia will touch upon regional conflicts and arms control. Moscow may also raise the issue of protecting the rights of the Russian-speaking population in Europe. Besides, NATO’s movement towards Russia’s borders won’t be ignored, the diplomat noted.

Member of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Dmitry Belik believes that Western countries will keep bringing up the Ukraine issue, aiming to form a negative attitude towards Russia. The collective West will try to take advantage of the situation around Ukraine to justify its policy towards Russia and weapons supplies to Kiev, Ordzhonikidze pointed out. However, the statements of major players from Latin America, Africa and Asia will matter more to Russia.

The thing to understand is that fateful decisions are unlikely to be made at the High-Level Week. The annual event provides countries with an opportunity to clarify their positions before the international community but that’s all, Ordzhonikidze explained. Still, it’s highly important for Russia to address the High-Level Week, particularly amid sanctions and the resolutions against Moscow, Belik stressed. According to him, Russia is open to equal dialogue even in a situation where the atmosphere is filled with hostility from Western countries.


Media: Possible resumption of Russia-Ukraine talks back on agenda

Although Western countries are resolved to see military activities continue in Ukraine, there is some positive potential for the resumption of negotiating rhetoric, said experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Russian International Affairs Council Director General Andrey Kortunov points out that although there are no signs of a rapprochement in the positions of the parties to the conflict, it doesn’t mean that there is no chance of resolving some issues. There is the grain deal, prisoner swap talks and the issue of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant’s safety. These are areas where progress is possible, which may lay the groundwork for more important agreements.

However, Western countries' rhetoric hasn’t changed, Dean of the World Politics Department at Moscow State University Andrey Sidorov noted. Western politicians are actively discussing financial assistance to Kiev and weapons supplies. Clearly, their main goal is to prolong the ongoing military activities.

In the meantime, Russia has once again confirmed its readiness to resume talks. This is what President Vladimir Putin spoke about on the sidelines of the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, Sidorov emphasized. Still, Moscow expects more favorable conditions to be formed. It should be noted here that winter campaigns have always been more successful for the Russian military, while Kiev’s foreign allies will have to worry about providing the Ukrainian army with food, warm clothes and fuel, along with weapons. In such a situation, strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure facilities must have been postponed with a plan to conduct them shortly before a general advance.

Meanwhile, the civic chambers of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics have called on the LPR and DPR leaders to hold immediate referendums on accession to Russia, which would provide Moscow with new opportunities to protect its own territory, Vedomosti writes. When asked if the two republics came up with the initiative on their own, political scientist Yevgeny Minchenko said that it hardly could have happened without consultations with Moscow. "The only question is whether it is a sign indicating that referendums will take place soon or an element of pressure in terms of negotiations," he noted.


Kommersant: Turkey and Syria seek to build dialogue backed by Russia

Moscow has confirmed its interest in contacts between Ankara and Damascus amid media reports of a series of talks involving Turkish and Syrian intelligence chiefs. Middle Eastern and Western news outlets point out that Russia needs a thaw in Turkish-Syrian relations because of a prolonged conflict in Ukraine. So far, it’s just about the return of Syrian refugees and not a political reconciliation but Moscow can still view this as an achievement, Kommersant writes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointed to Moscow’s interest in contacts between Ankana and Damascus after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in August. Although no high-level talks are expected to take place at the moment, the two countries’ intelligence agencies contacted each other regularly and a meeting between the top diplomats took place last fall.

Even before the conflict in Ukraine broke out, Moscow had repeatedly called for rapprochement between Damascus and Ankara, particularly for the sake of resolving the situation in northern Syria. Russia has also been actively promoting issues related to the return of Syrian refugees to their home country, which would become a sign of an improving situation in Syria and demonstrate Russia’s achievements in this regard. Turkey used to oppose the idea but now it seems that the interests of Ankara and Moscow are coinciding.

"I don’t see how rapprochement between Turkey and Syria can boost Russia’s influence in the region. Still, it clearly can ease tensions in Syria and allow representatives of Ankara and Damascus to solve all issues between the two countries," Russian International Affairs Council expert Kirill Semenov noted. "In addition, it will relieve Moscow of the responsibility to solve problems in the Idlib de-escalation zone in northern Syria and many other problematic aspects of Syrian-Turkish relations. This is exactly what Moscow may need to remove the risks of spoiling relations with its ally in Damascus and its partner in Ankara," the expert stressed.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Fate of Iran deal unclear ahead of US congressional elections

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi’s arrival in New York for the UN General Assembly has brought the future of nuclear talks between Tehran and international mediators into the spotlight again. Despite difficulties in the negotiation process, Raisi’s visit to the US is expected to help the parties find a way out of the deadlock. However, the upcoming US mid-term congressional elections are creating uncertainty as they may make negotiating maneuvers more difficult for the White House, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

The Iran nuclear deal talks stalled in recent months after Tehran had demanded guarantees that in case of another unilateral US withdrawal, the economic benefits that Iran would get from the agreement would be fully preserved. Tehran’s call on the IAEA to end an investigation into undeclared nuclear sites also created some obstacles.

Those opposing a diplomatic approach to the issue of Iran’s nuclear program are betting that the mid-term congressional elections set for November may change many things in Washington’s negotiating strategy. There are reasons to expect that the Democrats will lose and the Republicans will make it more difficult for the White House to reach any compromises with Iran.

Yury Lyamin, an Iran specialist and a military expert, explains that Tehran is highly likely to take a wait-and-see position. "Tehran understands that the US mid-term congressional elections are reducing the likelihood of a compromise ahead of the vote because the Republicans will try to paint it as the Democrats’ weakness in their election campaign, while the struggle is expected to be intense," the analyst noted. "Besides, after the mid-term elections, Iran may want to make an additional assessment of the chances that the Democrats and the Republicans have in terms of the elections scheduled to be held in two years in order to figure out its future strategy," the expert added.


Vedomosti: Capping Russian oil to trigger global price hike

After months-long heated discussions, the G7’s finance ministers agreed in principle to cap the price of Russian oil. Those who will join the initiative will have to buy Russian at the price ceiling or below it. Moscow reacted to the idea very negatively, Vedomosti notes.

Kept Managing Partner Anton Usov believes that the G7’s decision will affect Russian oil production less than the European Union’s ban on the seaborn import of Russian crude that will take effect in December 2022. According to the expert, the oil that Russia used to sell to G7 countries and the EU will be redirected to India, China and other Southeast Asian nations, as well as to Latin America and Africa.

If Moscow fully stops oil supplies to the unfriendly countries that colluded to cap Russian oil prices, it will trigger a price hike on the global oil market, Finam Analyst Andrey Maslov emphasized. Analytics Director at the Region investment company Valery Vaisberg said that "there is a risk that prices will soar past $110-120 per barrel" in the second quarter of 2023.

The price cap move is unlikely to be effective because G7 nations have already abandoned Russian oil and the idea did not gain much support from other countries, stock market expert at BCS World of Investment Igor Galaktionov noted. The reason is that joining a cartel of buyers "would damage the political interests of the countries who aren't members of the G7 group," Usov explained. "The decision is probably going to be a symbolic one because it will rather promote speculation on the political stage than create real restrictions for Russian suppliers," Galaktionov added.

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