Media: BRICS summit agenda dominated by global trade challenges
The first day of the Johannesburg-hosted tenth BRICS summit has demonstrated that the integration of the world’ biggest emerging economies can tackle the most challenging threats to global peace and stability. Given that this year’s conference is taking place amid an unprecedented surge in US protectionism, BRICS leaders have found that further deepening trade ties among themselves and other developing states is the best way to respond to this challenge, Izvestia daily writes on Friday. Director of the Asian Strategy Center at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences Georgy Toloraya believes that “the key thing about (Thursday’s) session is the very fact that the meeting occurred between the leaders of that group of countries that accounts for 40% of GDP in terms of purchasing power. Moreover, they expressed their firm willingness to play fair and protect both the trade and the global security system from encroachment,” he told the publication.
All BRICS leaders believe that the initiative to launch payments in national currencies can become a way to respond to the global economic challenge spearheaded by Washington, Izvestia says. Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of creating a mutual fund of bonds in BRICS member currencies that is expected to be up and running in 2019. He also noted the very fact of establishing a pool of conditional currency reserves by BRICS members. “The United States has global economic power due to the dollar being used as an international currency, which makes global countermeasures extremely important now in order to partially move beyond the dollar and create a non-dollar economy,” Director of the Center for East Asian and Shanghai Cooperation Organization Studies at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University) Alexander Lukin told the paper.
Last year, China sent out invitations to partners beyond BRICS and influential players from other countries to the group’s annual summits. This initiative has been nicknamed ‘BRICS plus’, with the leaders of Turkey, Jamaica, Indonesia, Argentina and Egypt also attending this year’s summit . Moscow and Ankara used this chance to discuss the current situation in Syria on the sidelines of the meeting. Lieutenant-General Yuri Netkachev, a military expert, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, “when discussing the Syrian crisis with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, (Turkish President Tayyip) Erdogan was pursuing a key goal for himself – to hold on to seized territories and form alternative power structures there.” He added that the Turkish leader seems to “have a wish to expand those territories.” “Russia’s take on this is unclear, though at the beginning of 2018, Moscow withdrew its observation points from the Afrin canton and and quietly gave a nod to its occupation by Turkish troops and their Syrian allies opposing the Assad regime to accommodate Ankara’s wishes,” the expert noted.
Izvestia: Slovak delegation to visit Crimea in early August
Slovakia’s Foreign Ministry has shrugged off statements made by the Ukrainian embassy against a trip to Crimea by Slovak lawmakers on August 1-4, and will not oppose their plans, a ministry source told Izvestia. The fact that a delegation of Slovakian MPs and businesspeople plan to pay a visit to Crimea next week has sparked indignation and opposition at the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Bratislava. Ambassador Yuri Mushka even accused the Slovaks of violating Ukrainian law, which would compel Kiev to slap an entry ban to Ukraine on them.
“This is a private trip, and we have no idea how we could even be subject to such prohibition,” a source in the Slovak Foreign Ministry said. Speaker of the country’s National Council Andrej Danko told the newspaper that Slovakian legislators can travel anywhere at any time, and no ambassador has the right to ban their trips. “The Ukrainian ambassador has violated diplomatic protocol. If he has any claims, he can submit them to the Foreign Ministry of our country. The ambassador has no right to intimidate Slovak lawmakers with his country’s laws. This is not the first time we have been outraged at the behavior of Mr. Mushka, who often fails to observe any diplomatic code of conduct,” the politician said.
According to Danko, the upcoming visit by Slovakia’s parliamentarians to Crimea has nothing out of bounds. “If Slovakian legislators could go to Kosovo amid its non-recognition by Bratislava, I do not understand why they should hold back from visiting Crimea. I am against Russophobia. Moreover, it has to be clear that trips to regions with disputable statuses are part of a politicians’ job. This means they have to be able to assess the situation in the regions seeing it with their own eyes, and then present the information to citizens of the country,” he told Izvestia.
Kommersant: Israel sees Iran as greater threat than Islamic State, ex-defense chief says
The Iranian threat, both direct and indirect, is one of the most crucial issues for Israel now, the country’s former defense minister Moshe Yaalon said in an interview with Kommersant. “Currently, the Iranian regime is not only supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, but is also looking to deploy its satellites in Syria to threaten Israel in the Golan Heights. Since 2015, we have witnessed at least ten attacks supported by Iran’s allies against Israel. We were forced to withstand them until those pro-Iranian forces were eliminated,” he explained.
This comes after Israeli authorities claimed they are reluctant to see Iranian troops in Syria even at a distance of 100 kilometers from the line of contact between Syrian and Israeli forces in the Golan Heights earlier this week. The Times of Israel said citing its sources that at Monday’s talks, Israel had reportedly turned down Russia’s initiative on a 100-kilometer zone free from Iranian forces. Asked if an agreement between Russia and Israel exists regarding the military operation in Syria’s south, Yaalon said he doubts it. “We have open communication lines between the Israeli and Russian governments, and between the Russian and Israeli armies. This started when I was Defense Minister. We agreed that not interfering in each other’s affair is in our common interests,” he emphasized.
“There has not been a single incident between Russian and Israeli militaries, which is why I consider that plan to be effective,” the ex-defense chief said. “And we are glad that there is a (communication) channel between Israeli Prime Minister (Netanyahu) and President Putin for discussing various issues. I am confident that this cooperation will proceed. I am not sure that our interests fully coincide and will fully coincide in the future, but first and foremost, we are not enemies with Russia, and it is not hostile to us,” Yaalon stressed, adding “each country should be allowed to pursue its own goals in this complex and sensitive region.”
Kommersant: US Congress to block Turkey from getting F-35s if it buys Russia’s S-400s
The US bill on national defense expenditures for 2019 enabling President Trump’s administration not to apply CAATSA sanctions against the top three buyers of Russian weapons and technologies – India, Vietnam and Indonesia – has approved excluding Turkey from the list. Ankara may not receive over a hundred F-35 warplanes worth $10 bln requested from the US earlier if Turkey purchases the S-400 air and missile defense system from Russia, Kommersant writes. Experts interviewed by the newspaper suggest that Ankara’s choice is still up in the air.
They also point out that Turkey may pay a hefty price if it chooses to go ahead with the S-400 deal given that Washington has powerful bargaining chips against Ankara, such as potentially rejecting other military deliveries and gradually scaling down military and technical collaboration, which can harm Turkey’s defense capability.
According to Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies of the Higher School of Economics Vasily Kashin, “Turkey’s pursuit of S-400 supplies has a security and geopolitical background.” “The system will ensure multi-targeted protection from long-range rockets for Ankara, and from aviation attack in the event of a conflict with any regional player,” he explained. Turkey’s ex-Foreign Minister Yashar Yakysh said that “alternative proposals by NATO allies have turned out to be unacceptable for Ankara as geographical restrictions on the deployment and transfer of sensitive technologies were imposed on Turkish authorities,” which prompted Ankara to choose Moscow’s offer. Meanwhile, Turkish experts interviewed by the newspaper do not expect the country to abandon the S-400 purchases, sticking to its multi-faceted policy, and taking advantage of its strategic position extremely important for NATO.
Vedomosti: Summa Group eyes selling terminal in Nakhodka
The Summa Group managing the assets of arrested Russian tycoon Ziyavudin Magomedov, is negotiating the sale of the Nakhodka port with Dmitry Bosov’s structures, Vedomosti business daily writes citing four people close to various sides of the negotiations. Another businessman, Roman Trotsenko, has taken interest in the asset estimated at 1.45 bln rubles, three of them added. However, no binding documents have been signed as of now, a source close to one of Bosov’s structures said. “Potentially, the port can be interesting, though whether it is reasonable to acquire it now is disputable,” he explained, adding “the port’s throughput is challenged by the capacity of railways.”
Moreover, the potential deal can be challenged by the fact that Magomedov has been under arrest since March. The Tverskoy Court arrested the businessman, his brother Magomed Magomedov and Artur Maksidov for two months on suspicion of embezzling over 2.5 billion rubles ($43.7 million). The investigation has asked to extend the detention until August 5. According to political analyst Alexei Makarkin, a transaction like that can only happen if the authorities approve it. No Russian company would even consider it without a preliminary discussion with the state, he added. Summa’s representative denied the information regarding preparations for the deal, the paper says.
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