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Press review: OPEC+ to tighten oil spigot and Erdogan, Armenian PM to hold historic summit

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, October 6th

Media: OPEC+ takes strong step to limit global oil flows

The OPEC+ alliance, which brings together major oil producers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia, decided to reduce output quotas by two mln barrels per day at once amid a looming recession, and extend coordination efforts on the oil market until the end of 2023, Kommersant writes.

Market players already included a quota reduction in Brent crude prices at the beginning of the week, so there may be a moderate reaction to OPEC+’s move, investment market analyst at BCS World of Investment Igor Galaktionov noted.

Russia’s oil production remains under the country’s OPEC+ quota, BCS World of Investment Senior Analyst Ronald Smith pointed out. According to him, in fact, only Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates will have to reduce their output, but it will support oil prices all the same.

"The decision is particularly important for Russia because the European

Commission approved its eighth package of restrictions against Moscow on October 5, which includes a price cap on Russian oil. The move will probably make Russia offer higher discounts to oil importers but the higher the prices, the more money Russia’s budget will get," Freedom Finance Global analyst Vladimir Chernov told Izvestia.

BitRiver Financial Analyst Vladislav Antonov believes that the oil market is being affected by geopolitical factors, namely sanctions and armed conflicts. Restrictions against Russia are bringing oil supply down, while pushing prices up, the expert pointed out. However, a thing to note is that OPEC+ is not fulfilling the allowed quotas in terms of actual output so the alliance’s decision does not mean an actual reduction in oil production by that amount, Head of Analytical Research at the IVA Partners investment company Dmitry Alexandrov stressed. Still, a signal has been sent to the markets that producers are ready to fight to maintain oil prices amid increased risks, a decline in demand and pressure from the strengthening US dollar, the expert explained.


Izvestia: Russia, US achieve significant progress in New START talks

Russia and the United States have managed "to achieve significant progress" in talks on resuming inspections under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a Russian Foreign Ministry official told Izvestia. According to the ministry, preparations are underway for an in-person meeting of the two countries’ delegations but while Russia is fully committed to all of the treaty’s provisions, Washington’s restrictions are actually blocking possible inspections. Experts agree that US sanctions are the main obstacle preventing Russian pilots from conducting inspection flights.

So far, neither of the parties has revealed any details of the upcoming in-person talks. Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canada Studies Valery Garbuzov explains that dialogue on New START is progressing because "it is the only issue that Washington is interested in resolving" more than Russia is. "It is clear particularly from how [US President Joe] Biden moved to address the issue of talks on extending the treaty right after taking office. The US has not neglected the arms control issue as this track is highly important for Washington. However, progress in this field does not mean that everything else will improve in terms of relations with Russia," the expert added.

Senior Researcher at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation Nikolay Sokov emphasized that both the United States and Russia had expressed interest in resuming inspections, "so in principle, it should happen."

However, the expert noted that "there is always the temptation to play politics and take a tough position instead of searching for a compromise, and blame the other party" for disrupting talks. Another factor influencing the situation is that the US will hold its mid-term congressional elections in November, which is preventing Biden from taking steps to meet Russia halfway.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: White House facing pressure for regime change in Tehran

US President Joe Biden’s administration is facing pressure to crack down on Iran amid the nationwide protests. The US intel community does not rule out that the current social unrest triggered by the death of a girl detained by Iran’s morality police may lead to a revolution but so far, the White House is not going to do more than announce targeted sanctions. Some experts believe that of all the overseas-based Iranian opposition forces, Kurdish separatists are the ones who could have the most impact on the protests, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Nikita Smagin, a Tehran-based expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, pointed out that there was no organized opposition force inside Iran at the moment that would be able to play a significant role by intervening in the protests. "If we talk about overseas-based groups, all of them are trying to somehow impact the protests but they have almost no influence or support ‘on the ground’," the analyst noted.

"Opposition groups received funds from the US at various stages, which sustained them to a large extent," Smagin explained. It’s another thing that it did not have a significant impact on the domestic situation in Iran, the expert added.

"Organizations supporting separatists in Iran are the only overseas-based force that in theory would have some potential," Smagin went on to say. "First and foremost, it’s the Kurds. They have a network in Iraq and they also have opportunities to interact with Iranian Kurds. They seek to do it actively so they keep coming under missile attacks. The US may try to affect the situation through them," the expert noted. "Otherwise, the current protests in Iran neither have leaders nor are organized well. They are spontaneous. So far, it doesn’t look like foreign powers could intervene in the process," the expert concluded.


Kommersant: How Russia will manage Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant

Russia’s authorities have determined the legal status of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant located in the Zaporozhye Region that recently joined Russia. The facility will be transferred to the Russian Federation’s ownership and a new subsidiary of the Rosenergoatom nuclear power plant operator will manage it. Ukraine’s operational licenses will remain effective until Russian regulators issue new documents based on Russian laws. The transitional period will last until January 1, 2028. Lawyers believe that the scheme is aimed at reducing the risk of sanctions for Russia’s Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, Kommersant writes.

The move to separate the nuclear power plant’s operation and its ownership is probably necessary to reduce sanctions risks for Rosatom, Managing Partner at the Yakovlev and Partners law firm Andrey Yakovlev noted. According to him, Western countries will hardly dare to impose restrictions against Rosatom due to nuclear security concerns because they depend on Russian fuel and uranium supplies themselves. So far, there have been no sanctions on Rosatom and Russia’s nuclear industry in general.

If the West eventually decides to introduce restrictions, they are highly likely to be targeted so that they won’t harm any projects that are being implemented in Western countries, Senior Researcher at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research Andrey Baklitsky emphasized.

By imposing significant sanctions, Western countries can also spoil relations with their allies and partners for whom Rosatom is constructing nuclear power plants, including India, Turkey and Egypt. "In 2019, then-US President Donald Trump’s administration demanded that Rosatom stop the construction of the second energy unit of Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, threatening sanctions, but when Rosatom refused, no sanctions followed," Baklitsky noted.


Kommersant: Armenian PM, Turkish president to hold historic meeting

The process of normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey has reached a point of symbolic importance. On Thursday, the Czech capital of Prague will host the first meeting of the two countries’ leaders, Nikol Pashinyan and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The talks will take place amid the launch of substantive peace treaty negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Kommersant writes.

Experts believe that the historic Pashinyan-Erdogan summit became possible only after Armenia had taken crucial steps to meet Azerbaijan halfway. The two countries’ top diplomats recently held a meeting in Geneva in order to start working on the text of a peace treaty.

The move to normalize Turkey-Armenia relations is directly linked to the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkish political scientist Umit Nazmi Hazir stressed. Another Turkish analyst, Valdai International Discussion Club expert Hasan Selim Ozertem also supposed that the start of peace treaty discussions between Baku and Yerevan had been the catalyst for the Erdogan-Pashinyan meeting.

However, Director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute Alexander Iskandaryan does not view the meeting as a crucial breakthrough. "It only marks hope for the continuation of a diplomatic process between Armenia and Turkey," the expert noted. He explained his pessimistic approach by saying that Ankara’s behavior fully depended on Baku who had not yet abandoned the tactics of putting pressure on Yerevan.

On October 7, the Armenian prime minister and the Azerbaijani president plan to take part in an informal summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in St. Petersburg, Russia, which may strike a balance in the negotiation efforts by Russia and the West aimed at resolving the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.

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