Press review: Astana’s 11th round coming in late November and EAEU faces bumps in the road

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Izvestia: Senior Russian diplomat confirms next Astana talks in late November

A new round of negotiations to resolve the situation in Syria through the Astana process will be held in late November, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin told Izvestia. According to him, Russia is actively cooperating with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths on settling the conflict in the war-torn Arab republic, and on the upcoming conference on Libya and its future elections in Palermo.

“The talks in Astana are a high-level meeting with the participation of Russia, Iran and Turkey. Ten such meetings have been held. According to our estimates, they are helping significantly, firstly, to reduce the level of violence in Syria and, secondly, to open the way for launching political process. The next meeting will be the 11th and will be held at a high level. It is scheduled for the end of next month. The specific date is now being discussed,” he told the newspaper.

According to Izvestia, the situation in Yemen is not widely being covered, but it is just as grave. “The conflict in Yemen is very serious. It significantly destabilizes the situation in the region. You know that an armed confrontation has been raging there. Over the past few years, we have not stood idly by on the contrary, we had active contacts with everyone – with the Yemeni government, and with representatives who are in Sana’a today. The main task now is to come to a solution through dialogue leading to the cessation of violence and ensuring peace and stability in the country,” Vershinin said.

He also noted the active interaction with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, who, “relying on the authority of the UN, is trying to take on mediation and bring an end to the violence and suffering of civilians.”


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: EAEU facing internal ‘bumps in the road’

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his Kazakh counterpart Bakytzhan Sagintayev plan to discuss the state of bilateral relations on November 1 and set the stage for top-level talks. On November 9, a meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Nursultan Nazarbayev will be held in Petropavlovsk, Russia. However, despite active dialogue between the two countries, experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe there are now more problems between Kazakhstan and Russia.

According to Dosym Satpayev, a political guru from Kazakhstan, sanctions against Russia have already led to the devaluation of Kazakhstan’s national currency. “The problem is that investors tend to view Kazakhstan as Russia’s partner in the EAEU. Many investors fear that … if something happens to the Russian economy, it will immediately affect the Kazakh economy,” the expert added.

The expert believes there are also problems within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), namely a ban Russia had planned on imports of livestock products from Kazakhstan, but the parties managed to put it off. Astana does not rule out that that such a ban can be used as a pressure tool within the EAEU framework for possible economic sanctions against third countries. According to experts, this initiative opens up the possibility of retaliatory measures from all EAEU states if the economic interests of one of the members are infringed.

According to Satpayev, supporting this move would pose problems for Astana. “The number one trading partner for Kazakhstan is not Russia or even China, but the European Union. EU countries buy the main volumes of Kazakhstan’s oil, that is, Italy, Switzerland, and others. It is unprofitable for Astana to join the initiative, which will simply push it into a corner,” the expert told the newspaper. At the same time, Satpayev believes that there will be no excessive pressure on Kazakhstan from Russia.


Kommersant: Post Soviet security bloc to create single list of terror organizations

On October 30, a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (PA CSTO) was held in Moscow. The main issue was unifying the legislation of member countries on classifying terrorist organizations. According to Kommersant, in the near future, the CSTO should hammer out a single list of such organizations and ensure that all allies would automatically recognize new entries to the list. Meanwhile, critics of the idea claim that this will allow certain countries to add political opponents to the list of terrorists, and other member states would be forced to support such politicized decisions.

“There are different legal mechanisms in different countries to classify organizations as terrorist. For example, Armenia has no such thing as a list of terrorist organizations,” Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Security and Anti-Corruption Committee Anatoly Vyborny told Kommersant. Upon harmonizing the legislation, once an organization is classified as a terrorist group by one of the CSTO countries, the other members will do the same. At the same time, Vyborny made it clear that there would be no procedure for challenging the decisions. The allies would simply “trust each other”.

Chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashnikov said that the list would be compiled based on certain criteria formulated by the PA CSTO Standing Committee on Defense and Security. It is possible that the final decision on the list will be made at the next meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the CSTO, which will be held on November 8 in Astana.

Political analyst Kubat Rakhimov told Kommersant, “Having a unified list is something good rather than evil,” however the principle that a decision by one country becomes mandatory for everyone else is unfair. According to the newspaper, one of the arguments that critics of the initiative have is that countries will be able to add organizations to the list for political reasons and extend this decision to all CSTO countries.


Izvestia: Russia’s envoy to China highlights strengths and weaknesses in bilateral trade

A surge in trade between Russia and China in the coming years should not be expected, but both countries can make it more stable, Russian Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said in an interview with Izvestia. According to the diplomat, the bilateral relations face objective and subjective difficulties, such as restrictions on imports of certain types of goods or the level of trust.

“We are accustomed to saying that the material basis of our relations is lagging behind the level of our political ties. This is true, but it is not because of some ill will, it is largely an objective reality,” Denisov explained. According to him, it is possible to rectify the situation. However, the prospects are not very extensive. “We simply do not have those goods for imports to China that we could dramatically increase. Some spheres are limited by our partners – for example possible supplies of livestock products or certain types of crops,” he added.

According to Denisov, cooperation in agriculture is developing quite well, however it might be necessary to shift gradually from trading goods to investment cooperation. He noted that the regulatory framework, and the terms of cooperation are already well advanced, but the “general climate leaves much to be desired”. “I cannot say that our Chinese partners have the level of confidence in us that we would like to see,” he pointed out.

“We should not expect any surges, but we can make our trade more stable and less vulnerable to all sorts of fluctuations across the global market,” the diplomat added.


Kommersant: Yandex to safeguard company against takeovers

Yandex, following Group, is considering securing control over the company by the management. According to Kommersant, the company is debating over a plan, according to which 60% of voting rights in Yandex would be transferred to a fund controlled by company founder and CEO Arkady Volozh and a group of Russian top managers. The deal would require coordination with the holder of the “golden share” – Sberbank, which is considered a potential buyer of Yandex’s stake.

“The structure under discussion infers that 60% of the votes in the company will be controlled by a fund managed by its founder Arkady Volozh and 10-12 top managers with Russian citizenship,” the newspaper wrote.

To restructure management, the company plans to issue a new class of shares. Yandex already has A and B classes of shares, which provide voting rights and economic benefits, but in different proportions, Kommersant wrote. The fund plans to issue B-1 class shares, which furnish just the right to vote.

An official told the newspaper that the proposed restructuring mechanism would “correspond to the position of the government”, which last summer began to “closely watch” the company. The mechanism might remove some of the risks, a source in one of the American investment funds owning a stake in Yandex told Kommersant. Currently, Yandex Co-founder and its first employees have a combined 57% stake. According to the proposed mechanism, if Volozh retires, his shares will go to the fund. The entrepreneur will not have the right to transfer his ownership over them.


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