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Press review: Saudis turn heat up on Iran and Russian start-ups aim for Silicon Valley

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday
Arab Foreign Ministers meet at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty
Arab Foreign Ministers meet at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo
© AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Saudi Arabia calls on allies to unite against Iran

The Arab League has threatened to turn to the United Nations Security Council to condemn Iran’s destabilizing policy in the Middle East, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes on Tuesday. This statement was made during the organization’s emergency meeting on Sunday in Cairo at the level of foreign ministers. Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil was the only top diplomat to skip the meeting.

The goal of the emergency meeting in Cairo was not to declare war on Tehran, the Arab League’s Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said. The organization’s members sought to inform the global community about Iran’s violations in the Middle East in order to agree on the right position to counter Tehran’s steps, he noted.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain called on the Arab world to unite to oppose the Islamic Republic in regional conflicts, especially where there is Iranian involvement with Shia armed units. The Arab League considers Lebanon’s Hezbollah as one of the major tools of Iran’s influence in the region.

The standoff between Iran and Saudi Arabia is expected to move to Lebanon, following the resignation earlier this month of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who was considered to be a pro-Saudi politician. Beirut traditionally boycotts the Arab League’s meetings on Hezbollah as it believes it is unacceptable to discuss domestic affairs in this organization, the paper writes.

"If officially Lebanon boycotts the meetings, this does not mean that there are no Lebanese political forces, which want Lebanon to become a site for a new strike," Grigory Kosach, Professor of the Department of History, Political Science and Law at the Russian State University for the Humanities, told the paper.

As for Lebanon, Saudi Arabia is trying to exert pressure on Hezbollah there, the analyst said. The key demand is for the group to disarm, and although this idea won’t be implemented, attempts towards this objective will continue.


Izvestia: Shanghai Cooperation Group outlines priorities

On November 30 and December 1, Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi will host a meeting by state leaders from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), for the first time with the participation of India and Pakistan, which became full-fledged members of the group this summer.

Russian President’s Special Envoy to the SCO Bakhtier Khakimov told Izvestia that although no major deals are expected to be signed, the talks will allow the parties to fine-tune their positions and priorities on a number of important areas. Among them is the deadlocked implementation of an agreement on automobile transportation, Russia’s idea on setting up a forum of heads of regions as part of the SCO and also advancing Moscow’s ambitious initiative on creating a great Eurasian partnership.

Meanwhile, India disapproves of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative and is suspicious about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. At the Sochi meeting, Pakistan will call on the other SCO member-states to join the project, an expert on the SCO from the Islamabad Institute of Strategic Studies, Muhammad Taimur Fahad Khan, told the paper.

However, another SCO member, Uzbekistan, which refuses to join the Eurasian Economic Union, cut out from the organization’s final documents any mention of the EAEU and linking it to the Chinese project, a source close to the Uzbek representatives in the SCO said.

"We need to look for the right schemes and make the right priorities, and one of them is that the more we speak about the big Eurasian partnership, the easier it will be to sell the idea. Even if it is not included in the final documents, this issue will be discussed behind closed doors," Khakimov said.

The final agenda will be approved at the meeting of the national coordinators of the SCO member-states in Moscow some two or three days before the Sochi talks, the SCO Secretariat in Beijing said.


Izvestia: Jabhat al-Nusra only militant group rejecting talks with Damascus

The Jabhat al-Nusra terror group (outlawed in Russia) remains the only force that refuses to hold talks on a peaceful deal in Syria and is not intending to lay down its arms. That said other organizations have demonstrated their readiness to reach agreements, Russian diplomatic sources told Izvestia. Sources in the Syrian army said this situation has sparked discord among the militants and resulted in large-scale armed conflicts in the country’s north. The Syrian parliament confirmed to Izvestia that the Aleppo province is the scene of fierce battles between two such former allies, Jabhat al-Nusra and another influential group, the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement.

Militant groups active in the country have different views on Syria’s future and armed conflicts flare up between them on this basis, Russian diplomatic sources said. "Jabhat al-Nusra is the only organization that will never accept any peaceful settlement to the Syrian conflict and any initiatives on this process. By the way, therefore the United States defends and supports this group," the source explained.

Meanwhile, Moscow expects Ankara to separate the terrorists and opposition in the region.

Several weeks ago, a group of high-ranking Turkish military officials arrived for talks in Darat Izzah, in the Aleppo province, one of the major strongholds of Jabhat al-Nusra. Although no details of talks were disclosed, the Turks have apparently made no progress, the paper writes.


RBC: OSCE comes under fire over inefficiency

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the world’s largest regional security-oriented organization, often takes a lot of heat for being ineffective, RBC writes. In an interview with the paper, OSCE Secretary General, Thomas Greminger, acknowledged that the crisis in Ukraine has tarnished the organization’s reputation and reduced trust in it among the region’s key players. He also noted that the implementation of the Minsk agreements on Ukraine is in a "political deadlock."

Over the past 20-25 years, the OSCE’s potential has not been fully utilized, as it remains dependent on its member-states, Program Director of the EU Eastern Neighborhood and Russia Research Program at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs Arkady Moshes told RBC. The OSCE cannot pursue policy on its own, as the political will of its member-states is a crucial factor, he explained.

Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov said the OSCE is one of a few European organizations that has more legitimacy than the others (NATO and the European Union), but the consensus principle muddies the decision-making process.

It would be wrong to blame the OSCE for being responsible for the failure to resolve conflicts, said Head of Department of Strategic Assessment at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Sergey Utkin. The success of any international organization regardless of its structure is the result of its member-states cooperation: so if there is no efficiency, individual countries should be responsible, he explained.

The expert emphasized that the organization does not have a charter, one of the key means for boosting its efficiency. This would make its decisions legally binding. However, amid the current low level of confidence, it is almost impossible to adopt any charter, he noted.


Kommersant: Russian start-ups set sights on Silicon Valley

Russia’s top lender Sberbank, along with the FortRoss Ventures investment fund and the Internet Initiatives Development Fund have set up Global Pitch, a platform for making Russian start-ups go global, Kommersant writes. In the coming years, they plan to select 60 start-ups, and provide them with "international expertise" to assist them in reaching out to US investors.

In spring 2018, teams for the first 20 projects will set off for Silicon Valley to meet "with major investors, and representatives of global funds and corporations," the Internet Initiatives Development Fund told the paper. Talks are underway with several universities as well, Managing Partner at FortRoss Ventures Viktor Orlovsky said.

"Our goal is to bring the newcomer entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley, namely the budding stars that are unable to stand out," he said. The areas of particular interest are artificial intellect (AI), Internet of things, marketplaces, cloud services, and projects in financial and blockchain technologies.

The start-ups selected for Global Pitch will also get priority in accessing the Internet Initiatives Development Fund’s acceleration program. "Sberbank is one of drivers and the major consumer of innovations in the country," First Deputy Chairman of Sberbank’s Board Lev Hasis said. "We are actively cooperating with the venture community in both Russia and abroad. Global Pitch is an excellent initiative and we will be glad if other partners join it."

However, venture market participants note that US investors’ interest in Russian business is now at its lowest point over the past few years. "They fear any ties with the Russian government like the plague," partner at Flint Capital Andrew Gershfeld said.

This is not the best time for launching the project, partner at Target Global Mikhail Lobanov said, noting that not a single deal involving US capital with a Russian start-up has been clinched this year.


/TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review