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Press review: Gaza hostage handover hits hurdles and Kiev says Johnson quashed truce talks

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, November 27th

MOSCOW, November 27. /TASS/. The Israel-Hamas hostage exchange process is being hampered by mutual recriminations; a leading Ukrainian politician has blamed ex-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the failure of cease-fire talks with Russia in spring 2022; and Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul are seeking to restore ties and planning a trilateral leaders’ summit. These stories topped Monday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: Israel-Hamas hostage exchange hampered by mutual threats, recriminations

November 26 was the third day of a ceasefire between militants of the radical Palestinian movement Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The parties agreed to establish a truce and exchange two groups of hostages, including women, children and teenagers, at the end of last week. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that a Russian national with dual citizenship had been handed over to the Red Cross as part of a direct agreement with the Palestinians. However, the exchange process is constantly being hampered by mutual threats and accusations between the parties to the conflict, which may not only have an impact on the timing of the agreement but could also spark a resumption of fighting in the Gaza Strip, Izvestia writes.

Many observers see a strong chance that yet more problems and disagreements will crop up further to stymie the process. In particular, the IDF radio station reported on November 26 that a Qatari delegation had arrived in Tel Aviv for talks on prolonging the ceasefire and the prisoner exchange. Meanwhile, Israeli officials have been making it clear that the war will last for months, and hence the ceasefire is just a temporary measure.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Gaza to review troops deployed to the enclave, where he also inspected one of Hamas’ underground tunnels. According to a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter) by Netanyahu’s office on November 26, Israel has three goals: eliminate Hamas, return all the hostages and prevent any potential threat from Gaza in the future.

Hamas has an extensive history of conducting prisoner swaps with Israel. The last time the parties made a major deal was in 2011, when an Israeli service member was released from captivity in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. However, dozens of those released were detained anew afterwards due to loopholes in the agreement. Today, the Palestinian side has taken its past experience into account, managing to apply it to the new accord.

Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs, stated that a key clause had been included in the agreement this time in order to prevent the same situation from recurring. "The current deal took all the necessary aspects into account so that Israel doesn’t have the opportunity to arrest the released prisoners again on the previous charges. They still may be detained for administrative offenses, but not based on their past cases," he said.


Vedomosti: Ukrainian official blames ex-UK PM for failure of 2022 truce talks with Russia

Kiev abandoned cease-fire talks with Moscow in the spring of last year after receiving insistent recommendations to do so from then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, David Arakhamia, leader of the parliamentary faction of Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People party, said in a television interview. In 2022, he was the head of Kiev’s delegation for talks with Moscow. According to Arakhamia, Russia was demanding that Ukraine adopt neutrality and drop plans to join NATO in exchange for an end to military activities, Vedomosti writes.

Arakhamia’s revelation of Johnson’s direct interference in the negotiation process just made public something that has been an open secret for quite some time already, Dmitry Ofitserov-Belsky, senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, noted. According to the expert, on the one hand, the lawmaker did not say anything new but, on the other, his statement indicates that the Ukrainian authorities are attempting to blame the ex-British prime minister for the failure of talks. "This is how Kiev is trying to use media resources to pressure the leaders of Western countries to continue providing military and financial aid to Ukraine," the expert said.

Vladimir Bruter, an expert with the International Institute for Humanitarian and Political Studies, believes that Arakhamia’s remarks make it clear that Ukraine lacks agency in international politics. "Back then, Johnson flew to Kiev not to give advice but to impose a political agenda. Senior US officials were reluctant to make trips to the Ukrainian capital at that time, so the British were called in" to handle the delicate task, the export pointed out. The Ukrainian leadership, in turn, shifted the burden of making tough decisions on to the West, Bruter stressed.

At this point, the prospects for a ceasefire look vague at best, Ofitseroov-Belsky said. First, the US and its allies are one way or another revisiting their approaches to the Ukraine issue in terms of the volume and quality of military aid they can provide. Second, it would be extremely difficult for Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to put forward truce terms favorable to Kiev following the abject failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.


Izvestia: Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul seeking to restore ties, setting stage for leaders’ summit

China, Japan and South Korea have made another attempt to restore ties amid geopolitical discord stemming from US policies and internal divisions. The three countries’ foreign ministers held a meeting in Busan, South Korea, for the first time in four years to set the stage for a trilateral summit, discuss increasing regional tensions, and Moscow’s growing cooperation with Pyongyang, Izvestia writes.

The foreign ministers’ meeting was particularly important as it took place amid strategic competition between the US and China, South Korean political scientists pointed out. Together with the upcoming summit, the meeting will help the parties to ease relations, but mostly in the economic field.

"For South Korea and Japan, it primarily was about a meeting with China. They have clearly stepped up military cooperation with the US recently and the Chinese are not happy about that. However, both countries understand that China is their main economic partner and they need to search for ways to somehow combine cooperation and competition," Vasily Kashin, director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University), noted.

Maintaining close economic ties with Seoul and Tokyo will also benefit Beijing. "Given that South Korea and Japan are becoming increasingly incorporated into the US policy of sanctions and technology restrictions, China is largely interested in preserving an open economic environment, investment, and the flow of capital and technology free of barriers and political obstacles," Alexander Lomanov, head of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, emphasized.

The recent meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco also played a role in stepping up preparations for the China-Japan-South Korea meeting. Japan and South Korea have recently been taking active steps to integrate into Washington’s system of foreign policy priorities, so the Biden-Xi meeting served as a signal for both countries. Since the US is working to stabilize its relations with China, the two key US allies in the region will also try to adopt the same path, Lomanov concluded.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia may be compelled to cough up for nascent climate change fund

The United Arab Emirates will soon host a UN international climate conference where the idea of creating a fund to help those countries that have suffered the most from climate change will be discussed. Various initiatives are being put forward as to how to raise money for the nascent fund. One of the initiatives comes from the European Union. European Commissioner for Climate Action Wopke Hoekstra has suggested imposing a toll on those countries that harm the environment the most. According to him, they include China, the Persian Gulf monarchies and, interestingly enough, Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

The idea of creating such a fund was voiced last year at a similar climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. However, the event’s participants failed to agree on the terms for establishing such a fund and which country would have to make the largest contribution to it.

"The tarnished reputation of global management is one of the problems hindering efforts to resolve the pressing issue of climate change. There is a credibility gap, which is proved by what has recently been going on with organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. Tensions are rising, while the authority of global bodies is on the decline," Alexander Tevdoy-Burmuli, associate professor with the Integration Processes Department at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), pointed out.

"Russia’s emissions are significantly lower than those of, say, China. However, it is difficult to reach a consensus on who should pay and how much because of divergent environmental trends and the fact that a request to pay the bills may be interpreted as part of a politically motivated struggle between different economic systems: the new one and the old one, focused more on energy-intensive production. Attempts could be made to negate the advantages of the old system by reducing its competitiveness," the expert said.

Tevdoy-Burmuli doubts that any methods based on pressure, including those employed by developing countries, could actually compel Russia or China to spend more on the fight against climate change.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia, Saudi Arabia to agree on oil output quotas for 2024

OPEC+ nations will hold a ministerial meeting on November 30 after a six-month hiatus to decide on the cartel’s agenda for next year. The main question is whether OPEC+ will increase production cuts or keep the previous agreements in place, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

Under the agreements, Russia and Saudi Arabia, the leading players in the deal, will for the first time have different quotas in 2024. Moscow will reduce production more than all other parties, to 9.8 mln barrels per day (bpd). Riyadh, in turn, will cut output to 10.5 mln bpd. However, the figures do not include voluntary reductions in oil supply. In 2023, Saudi Arabia voluntarily removed 1 mln bpd of oil from the market.

Many experts believe that the current deal will remain unchanged. According to Freedom Finance Global analyst Vladimir Chernov, OPEC has repeatedly said that it sees a Brent crude price of $90 per barrel as appropriate, while a 10% rise and decline in prices is acceptable. In Chernov’s view, there may be no need for additional production cuts as long as the Brent price remains above $80 per barrel, or there will be only a slight reduction.

The reason why the current round of talks will be difficult is because oil prices have recovered from the previous wave of declining demand, which stemmed from a reduction of quotas in May and Saudi Arabia’s move to voluntarily cut oil output. These decisions served to maintain a shortage on the oil market. However, there is now a surplus on the market once again, mostly because of rising production in countries outside of OPEC+, the expert said.

If OPEC+ reduces output again, it will grow in other countries. This is why it would be the best option to maintain the status quo, which would also include extending Saudi Arabia’s decision to voluntarily cut production by 1 mln bpd, at least for the first six months of 2024, Kirill Rodionov, an expert at the Institute for the Development of Technologies, pointed out.

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