Press review: Putin opposes calls for sanctions on Georgia and Trump, UK envoy trade barbs

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Press review: Putin opposes calls for sanctions on Georgia and Trump, UK envoy trade barbs
Published 10-07-2019, 07:47
Russian President Vladimir Putin does not support the lower house’s initiative to slap economic sanctions on Georgia following the recent wave of anti-Russian incitement there. Although State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said that lawmakers’ stance on the issue had remained unchanged, the probability of anti-Georgian sanctions is now close to zero, Kommersant writes.

Kommersant: Putin opposes calls for economic sanctions on Georgia

Russian President Vladimir Putin does not support the lower house’s initiative to slap economic sanctions on Georgia following the recent wave of anti-Russian incitement there. Although State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said that lawmakers’ stance on the issue had remained unchanged, the probability of anti-Georgian sanctions is now close to zero, Kommersant writes.

"The final decision on sanctions was to be made by the president. How can he sign a decree on sanctions, having already spoken out against them?" the paper’s interlocutor in the Russian government noted.

Meanwhile, Kommersant’s source in the Russian Foreign Ministry, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, commended officials in Tbilisi for their response to the provocation staged by the Rustavi-2 TV network.

"We all know who controls that TV channel. That was [ex-Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili’s provocation and the forces close to him. The Georgian authorities mustered up the strength and expressed their attitude to that incident, strongly denouncing it," the diplomat stressed.

That said, Moscow does not rule out the suspension on direct flights between Russia and Georgia could be revised. "If the situation in Georgia returns to normal, and Russophobia stops, if there are safety guarantees for our citizens, then we can talk about air communication," the source noted.

Russian-Georgian relations had been improving steadily prior to the latest events that included an uproar against President of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy Sergei Gavrilov. The fact that Moscow and Tbilisi had had no diplomatic relations since 2008 did not hinder growth in bilateral trade and Russian tourists inflow in Georgia.

A series of recent scandals could nullify the achievements in bilateral relations, according to Tornike Sharashenidze, a professor at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs.

"I was surprised at Moscow’s response following the incident involving MP Gavrilov. Russia’s image was affected because of the decision to discontinue flights," the expert told the paper. "If Russia reacted calmly, it would only benefit from demonstrating that it is above that. Putin’s current response seems to be based on common sense. There is a chance to remedy the situation," he stressed.

Izvestia: Trump, UK envoy to US trade barbs, marring bilateral relations

An uproar over British Ambassador to Washington Sir Kim Darroch who bashed the Trump administration as being "inept" and "dysfunctional" will not put the allies at odds with each other. It indicates, however, that London has been unable to pursue a policy independent of its senior partner, the experts interviewed by Izvestia said.

On July 6, the Daily Mail published the ambassador’s remarks containing a scathing assessment of the current US administration.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt commented later on he did not agree with the views expressed by Darroch. Shortly afterwards, US President Donald Trump wrote in a Twitter post that the British ambassador "is not liked or well thought of within the US," and that Washington "will no longer deal with him." Nevertheless, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman expressed "full faith" in the ambassador.

"At the beginning of her tenure as Prime Minister, Theresa May said that she would openly tell Donald Trump if she disagreed with him on some issues. Some British politicians, including her Cabinet members, openly criticized the White House. The support, which she expressed for the ambassador, suggests that May emphasizes the independence of Britain’s foreign policy, although she is trying to smooth over the differences. This incident indicates that Theresa May has failed to build trouble-free relations with Washington," said Kira Godovanyuk, senior researcher at the Center for British Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe.

According to Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine, London found itself in the crosshairs. Recalling its ambassador would be tantamount to caving into pressure while leaving him in the US would destine him to being blackballed and would paralyze diplomatic work.

The issue is likely to be tackled by the new prime minister whose name will be revealed later this month. Currently, there are two candidates for this position, namely, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

"Boris Johnson who is likely to lead the government, can appoint a new ambassador to the US after coming to power. In that case it will be possible to say that the move stems from a cabinet reshuffle rather than criticism of Trump," Lukyanov told the paper.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Moscow, Tokyo seek to expand trade, says ambassador

Russia and Japan see a trend towards expanding bilateral trade, Japanese Ambassador to Russia Toyohisa Kozuki told Rossiyskaya Gazeta. The paper noted that he was speaking flawless Russian.

"Our trade turnover grew 40% in 2018 compared to 2016 and about 14% compared to 2017. Nevertheless, as for the volume of trade, oil and LNG account for almost 50% of imports from Russia to Japan, and nearly 60% of exports from Japan to Russia revolve around cars and automotive industry items. Our trade volume depends on fluctuations in oil and gas prices and the price of cars and components. Therefore, diversification of bilateral trade is an important task for the future," the ambassador stressed.

When asked to comment on the relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Kozuki noted that they had held a total of 26 meetings. "Both leaders understand the strategic importance of cultivating ties between Japan and Russia. I believe that was why they were able to build such close relations with each other," he pointed out.

Speaking about Japan’s participation in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the ambassador noted that Tokyo considered it an important platform that brings together representatives of many governments and private companies.

"To date, taking part in the event from Japan were high-ranking officials, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2018. Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yoshihiro Seki visited St. Petersburg this year. He was accompanied by representatives of many major Japanese companies that are interested in business contacts with Russia," he recalled.

"In addition, the Russia-Japan Business Dialogue took place on June 8. The parties discussed a wide range of issues related to bilateral cooperation. As for concrete results, for example, they inked a memorandum on expanding the purchases of Japanese coal mining equipment. <…> I look forward to the further development of mutually beneficial cooperation," the ambassador added.

Izvestia: Turkey admits it stopped purchasing Iranian oil

All Turkish refineries have stopped importing raw materials from Iran, the Turkish Embassy in Tehran informed Izvestia. This is the first formal statement by Ankara that it had stopped buying Iranian oil. Deliveries were reduced to zero back in May, the diplomatic mission stressed.

"The Tupras network (the country’s biggest oil refiner) fully abandoned Iranian oil in May," the diplomatic mission commented without specifying whether that was due to US sanctions.

Since the Iran nuke deal was hammered out in 2015, Turkey was gradually increasing imports of Iranian fuel. However, in November 2018, after the second package of US sanctions took effect, Ankara minimized oil imports from Iran.

Top Turkish diplomat Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier excoriated Washington’s anti-Iranian sanctions as being illegitimate, and went on to say that Ankara had no intention of complying with them. However, in late May, Reuters reported, citing its sources in the Turkish government, that Ankara had completely ceased buying oil from Iran.

However, the paper’s sources in the Turkish presidential administration said that reports on stopping Iranian oil imports were not quite true.

"There is no talk about fully halting fuel imports from Iran so far," one source assured, adding that Ankara continues to fulfill contractual obligations with Tehran.

Another source pointed to Washington’s unprecedented pressure exerted on Ankara but noted that Turkey continued to cooperate with Iran in hydrocarbon supplies.

Even if Turkey stopped purchasing Iranian oil, that would not affect the constructive relationship between Ankara and Tehran, Yuri Mavashev, director of the Center for Modern Turkey Studies, told Izvestia.

"It is not improbable that Turkey helps re-export Iranian oil, and Washington is aware of that, judging by analytical data. However, the US is in no hurry to impose sanctions over this cooperation, because it fears losing Ankara as a military and strategic partner. That’s why Washington is likely to crank up pressure on Turkey, but it won’t do that in a harsh manner," the expert said.

Vedomosti: Rosneft seeks tax cuts to boost Arctic projects

Russia’s Rosneft oil company could transport 100 mln tonnes of oil per year via the Northern Sea Route by 2030. However, to deliver oil to Europe and Asia through the Arctic Ocean, Rosneft and the Neftegazholding (Oil and Gas Holding) involved in the project need major tax benefits, Vedomosti writes citing its own sources.

Both producers are ready to create a single Arctic cluster of four fields containing a total of 1.9 bln tonnes of oil. Plans are to connect them to a pipeline and build a port to ship oil via the Northern Sea Route, the paper’s interlocutors said.

According to one of them, Rosneft and Neftegazholding asked for a reduction in the mineral extraction tax for all their fields, while another source said the government was considering a bill on cutting the mineral extraction tax by 85% for new fields.

To stimulate the development of Arctic projects, state support is required, specifically, tax incentives and construction of the infrastructure, the paper quotes Fitch analyst Dmitry Marinchenko as saying.

"Taxation of the oil industry does not take into account the bottom line. Now that Russia is bound by the OPEC+ deal, the need to develop the Arctic project might not be so obvious. However, looking ahead, not only Russia, but also the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Kuwait are eyeing an increase in production," he explained. There are no resources to achieve an upsurge in production in Russia, except for the Arctic region and hard-to-recover reserves, the expert added.

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