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Press review: German president seeks better ties and EU, Kiev plot against Nord Stream 2

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, October 25
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier
© AP Photo/Matthias Schrader

Kommersant: Moscow and Berlin cannot afford not talking to each other, German president says

The downward spiral in relations between Russia and the European Union seen in recent years is detrimental to both sides and carries serious risks for the future, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Kommersant in the run-up to his meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow scheduled for Wednesday.

"I would be glad, if my meeting with the Russian president will provide an opportunity to grasp whether there are prospects for restoring the lost confidence between our two countries and an understanding on how that could be done."

According to Steinmeier, he has no illusions about the upcoming meeting. "However, I do realize that our relations, both at the level of the top officials and between people in Russia and Germany, are essential. We cannot afford not to talk to each other. Our duty to our peoples is to prevent any further alienation between Germans and Russians."

He stressed that both countries should not forget about their responsibility stemming from the common history, which has lasted for more than one thousand years, including two world wars, "whose victims must remind us of the need to preserve peace," the German president noted.

He added that there are close ties between Russia and the European Union in many areas, above all, culturally, but today they are coupled with both distrust and political tensions. In his view, to remedy the situation, the parties should maintain a direct dialogue, even at top levels. "That’s why I came to Moscow to personally hear from the Russian president what he thinks about the future of relations with Europe," Steinmeier stressed. "Our modest but important goal should be to make sure that the clear standoff of recent years is replaced by something more constructive, that is, a sensible approach towards our disagreements."


Izvestia: Russian and US top diplomats to meet in Vietnam

Moscow and Washington are determined to use the November APEC summit in Vietnam to synchronize their watches at various levels. Some sources close to the event informed Izvestia that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are expected to meet on the forum’s sidelines. The diplomatic sources explained that the proposal to hold private talks between the two top diplomats came from the American side, and Moscow supported it.

Over a month has passed since their last negotiations in New York on September 17, and there are plenty of issues that need to be discussed. Another source added that it would be strange, if Lavrov and Tillerson did not hold bilateral talks, being in the same city at the same time.

Relations between Moscow and Washington are apparently not at their best right now, hence, the need for substantive dialogue on such crucial issues as Syria, eastern Ukraine, the diplomatic property spat, the Iran nuclear deal and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

According to Vladimir Jabarov, First Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house) International Affairs Committee, such contacts should be maintained even amid the acute crisis in bilateral relations. "Such contacts are useful anyway. The top envoys must meet, even if bilateral relations deteriorate. If they can’t, who else can establish contacts? That said, I see the potential meeting as a positive step. I hope it will take place and help restore Russian-American ties," the politician told the paper.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: EU, Kiev, US scheming to derail Nord Stream 2

Contrary to Moscow’s plans, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline won’t start operating in 2019, the European Commission cautioned. Instead, another plan dubbed by Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko "the revolutionary transit" has been proposed. It provides for relocating the point of Russian gas delivery to Europeans from Ukraine’s western border to its eastern one, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. On Tuesday, the European Commission demanded that Brussels’ Third Energy Package be extended to the Nord Stream 2 project, while US officials claimed the pipeline would harm the Ukrainian economy.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak dismissed Kiev’s proposal as irrelevant. The spokesman for Russia’s Gazprom noted that the point of gas delivery to customers by the energy giant is between Russia and its European clients under long-term contracts rather than with Ukraine.

The transfer of transit control functions to Ukraine’s eastern border will create a tool for Kiev’s pressure on the EU, and Brussels is aware of that, the experts interviewed by the paper warned. "If this proposal is implemented, Gazprom will lose part of its margin, while part of its revenue will go to third companies," said Sberbank Investment Research Valery Nesterov.

He believes that Kiev’s proposal is unlikely to have an adverse effect on the prospects for Nord Stream 2. "It is necessary to make a difference between the stance of some European political circles and the interests of EU business circles involved in the project," he stressed.

The EU takes into account common interests, and Kiev’s voice is far from being decisive, according to Ivan Andriyevsky, First Vice President of the Russian Union of Engineers. "There is every likelihood that the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will continue. However, the EU will also invest in the modernization and disposal of some parts of the Ukrainian gas transportation system to ensure transit reliability," he said.


Kommersant: Russia, India to discuss military-technical cooperation in December

Industrial and military-technical cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi will top the agenda of bilateral talks during Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin’s December visit to India, Kommersant writes.

Russia’s arms exporter Rosoboronexport said on Tuesday that the two countries are continuing their efforts to develop a joint fifth-generation fighter jet refuting reports by Defense News on India’s alleged withdrawal from the project.

A source in the military-technical industry informed the paper that external pressure is being exerted on India. "Particularly strong pressure is being exerted by the Americans, but India is interested in cooperation with Russia, both in terms of equipment supplies and localization," he said.

Meanwhile, a source close to the Russian-Indian Intergovernmental Commission highlighted the presence of "unfair competition" in India. "They will never get any localization from the US, while we are ready to transfer technologies. If they refuse, it will be their fault entirely, and we will not lose anything."

According to Konstantin Makiyenko, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, New Delhi is unlikely to quit the project, but could delay implementing it. "India’s Air Force has $2.5 bln in its annual budget to purchase aircraft, which is clearly not enough," he stressed.

Russia will try to accelerate the implementation of bilateral projects as early as December, when Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin is scheduled to visit New Delhi to discuss the issue, Kommersant’s sources said.


Vedomosti: Russian coal exports to China reach new highs

Russian companies are stepping up coal exports to China against the backdrop of relatively high prices, Vedomosti quotes Airat Khalikov, Director of Gazprombank’s Center for Economic Forecasting, as saying.

In September 2017, exports of Russian coal to China surged 83% compared to last September, from 1.28 mln to 2.35 mln tonnes, according to Thomson Reuters. In 2016, Russia exported a total of 18.93 mln tonnes of coal to China, which is an 18-percent increase compared to 2015 when Russian coal exports to China sank 60% compared to 2014.

China is restructuring its coal industry, small uncompetitive coal projects are being scrapped, Khalikov noted. "The Chinese government plans to shut down 800 mln tonnes of coal-mining capacities until 2020. Beijing also intends to launch 500 mln tonnes of new low-cost capacities," the expert explained.

Besides, in 2016-2017, there were some interruptions in coal supplies to China from Australia because of natural disasters. "The missing volumes were replaced, in particular, by supplies from Russia," he noted.

Currently, China also has to fill the void of previously imported coal from North Korea, since Beijing has imposed sanctions on its supplies, Andrey Tretelnikov, Chief Investment Officer at TKC Partners, stressed.


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