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Press review: Russia, Saudis boost cooperation and Trump's policy frustrates Palestine

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, August 28


Kommersant: Russia, Saudi Arabia to hold first meeting of joint military-technical panel by end 2017

The first meeting of an intergovernmental commission for military and technical cooperation between Russia and Saudi Arabia will be held by the end of 2017, Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugayev told Kommersant business daily on Monday. In July, Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov said Russia and Saudi Arabia had signed a tentative agreement for military and technical cooperation estimated at $3.5 bln.

"By the end of this year, the first meeting of the intergovernmental commission for military and technical cooperation will be held: this is the backbone for cooperation in this area. I believe this is a vital confirmation that the Saudis have serious intentions: the intergovernmental agreement for military and technical cooperation was signed with them in 2015 and until recently the commission has not been assembled, yet now it is convening. The process is very difficult, and we have great preparations underway for it since we view Saudi Arabia as one of the most interesting countries for us in this region," Shugayev said.

He noted that intergovernmental commissions also work with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Lebanon. "We cover almost the entire region, and cooperation is strong and long-term," Shugayev emphasized.

Speaking on a major arms deal clinched during US President Donald Trump’s May visit to Saudi Arabia, to the tune of nearly $110 bln, he said this reminds him of a PR stunt. "Frankly speaking, I don’t believe that it is possible to put together such a large amount of military contracts in such a short time, and sign all of them with financial obligations and so on. This is just unrealistic," he stressed.

Shugayev also hoped that talks on a contract to supply a Russian S-400 missile system to Turkey would soon bear fruit. "This deal has practically been sealed," still we discussed not only the supply of small arms, but also a serious system, that’s why there are nuances. I am pinning great hopes on the fact that we will soon reach a positive outcome. Certainly, our friends across the ocean are frustrated, but Turkey is an independent country and can make a decision on its own whether or not to buy … This system has demonstrated its superiority over others, and this is indeed the best air defense system that currently exists," he said.


Izvestia: Russia to bring up code of cyberspace conduct at UN General Assembly

Russia will put forward the issue of an international code of cyberspace conduct at the UN General Assembly in New York on September 12, Russian Presidential Envoy for International Cooperation in Information Security Andrey Krutskikh told Izvestia.

The envoy noted that "important progress will take place much earlier": the efficiency of proposals on international rules of conduct in cyberspace will be first established at regional platforms - the Collective Security Treaty Organization, BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. "This issue will be certainly discussed at the General Assembly. But very important decisions will be made during the first week of September when BRICS will gather (for its summit in China on September 3-5). A number of rather interesting proposals will be unveiled there," he noted.

At the meeting of the UN Group of Governmental Experts on International Security, Russia suggested including in the final report, the conclusions on the need to draft a resolution for the UN General Assembly on guidelines for responsible behavior of states in cyberspace. However, the envoy said not all countries share this "peacekeeping approach" and they try to defend "the rule of force" and advance their stance based on settling conflicts rather than on preventing them.

Despite the failure of the UN Governmental Experts group, Russia is working hard to promote these steps. According to the diplomat, an international code on cyberspace conduct "will start taking serious shape" thanks to the efforts of participants of the CSTO, BRICS, the SCO and the UN. "This issue is in great demand and is becoming more and more popular," he stated.


Izvestia: Palestinian leadership frustrated by Trump’s Middle East policy

Washington’s contribution to a Middle East settlement is next to nothing, a senior Palestinian official from the Fatah movement, Nabil Shaath, who is part of Palestinian delegation at bilateral talks with Israel, told Izvestia. US representatives have not put forward any particular proposals on overcoming the conflict between Palestine and Israel, he said. Russian diplomatic sources expressed doubt over the competence of the US chief negotiator for Palestinian-Israeli settlement Jason Greenblatt.

"When Donald Trump assumed power in the US, he declared his plans to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In fact, during the visits his representatives only asked questions and tried to clarify the situation. Meanwhile, the Americans’ position was not based on international law and the already reached agreements. In our turn, we want the peace process to reflect the situation on the international arena. There is no unipolar world anymore and we believe it is necessary to have Russia, China and some EU states as mediators," Shaath said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also expressed outrage over the current situation: "I have held some 20 meetings with the American delegation and have not understood how they plan to work and settle the situation."

Tatyana Nosenko, a leading researcher of the Israel department at the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, also told the paper that peaceful settlement requires certain skills. "People who don’t have the necessary experience have been tasked with conducting the peace talks. This also refers to Jason Greenblatt. Besides, the current US administration has taken a pro-Israeli stance.

Moreover, despite Donald Trump’s statements during the election campaign, the Middle East settlement is not a central issue for Washington. So, the situation largely depends on the conflicting sides," the expert said.

Meanwhile, Israel believes that the obstacle to a peace settlement lies with the Palestinians’ attitude rather than Greenblatt’s lack of diplomatic experience.


Kommersant: Iraqi forces take last major stronghold of Islamic State

Iraq’s forces have established full control over Tal Afar, the last major stronghold of the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia) in Iraq. This victory became the greatest success of Baghdad’s government forces after the caliphate’s Iraqi capital Mosul was seized in July, Kommersant writes.

After losing Tal Afar, a major link with Syria, the Islamists have lost even a hypothetical chance to turn the tide in their favor. However, the failure of IS terrorists in Iraq and Syria does not mean that the global project called the Islamic State is over, the paper writes. Experts are convinced that the war will be carried out on other fronts, including in Europe, which has been recently hit by a wave of terrorist attacks with IS claiming responsibility for them.

"No doubt, as a structure, the Islamic State is exhausted, but it is still early to speak about the collapse of its ideas and ideology," Alexey Malashenko, an expert of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said. "We recall that thousands of militants left Mosul seized by the Iraqi forces. These people returned to their homes, some went to Europe and others to the Caucasus, Libya and Morocco. All of them still want to fight and this means that they will take up arms.The Islamic State is regrouping forces in the Middle East and is searching for new areas of concentrating them. There has been no success in blocking the routes of the Islamists’ transit". 

Besides, according to the expert, Iraq’s problems are not only caused by IS. "Let’s suppose that there was no IS. Old conflicts would immediately erupt: the Sunni-Shia conflict, strife between Baghdad and the provinces, between Baghdad and the Kurds, between Baghdad and the Turkmens. Tensions in the divided country will not only remain but will mount."


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: One-third of Russian enterprises reports losses

The share of unprofitable enterprises in Russia during the January-June 2017 period reached 31.6%, a 0.8% increase year-on-year, according to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The total loss of almost 15,000 organizations exceeded 1 trillion rubles ($17 bln). Experts blame the current situation on the economic crisis.

The loss of construction enterprises soared compared with the first half of 2016, reaching 57.1%. The worst-performing enterprises were in the scientific, technical and professional sector - their losses more than doubled. Businesses related to postal and courier deliveries reported a 78% surge in losses.

The most risky business in Russia, according to official reports of companies, is related to utility services.

Meanwhile, companies that deliver cargos by rail stated that their profits had increased 41.4% compared with the first six months of 2016. Miners showed the best performance, as profits from coal extraction doubled. Companies extracting mineral resources reported a 29.2% increase in profits during the first half of the year.

More than 32,000 enterprises reported profits worth 5.9 trillion rubles ($100.7 bln) in the first half of 2017, the paper writes.

"The historic minimum in the share of unprofitable enterprises in Russia was recorded in 2007 when their number was only 23.4%. In its turn, the result of the first half of 2017 (31.6%) was one of the highest over the past decades: in per year terms, the worst performance was only in 2005 and some previous years," Timur Nigmatullin, an analyst at the Otkritie Broker company told the paper.

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