Press review: Trump-Kim summit may ease sanctions and Syria to visit Crimea celebration

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Kommersant: Second Trump-Kim summit expectations

The second meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is exactly one week away. The key issue for Washington is North Korea’s disarmament, while Pyongyang seeks to ease the sanctions hampering the country’s development, Kommersant writes.

Just like during the first Trump-Kim summit held last year, China’s role at the talks is very important. Pyongyang is doing its utmost to make it clear that it coordinates its actions with its “elder brother.”

Two foreign diplomatic sources informed the paper that the North Korean leader will travel to Hanoi by train. After the summit, he is expected to head to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. The purpose of the trip is unknown so far, but there is every likelihood that Kim Jong-un will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping there to brief him on the results of the summit.

In the run-up to the negotiations, The New York Times suggested that the parties could sign a peace declaration that would formally end the state of war between them. That would pave the way for ironing out relations between the US and North Korea and make future contacts simpler.

If the summit turns out to be a success, Russia, China and South Korea, which have been trying to secure Washington’s consent to ease the sanctions against Pyongyang, will have a window of opportunity to achieve that same goal. Several Russian diplomatic sources told Kommersant that Moscow and Beijing backed by Seoul are expected to submit a proposal to ease the restrictions to the UN Security Council soon after the Hanoi meeting.

They will suggest loosening up the restrictive measures related to trade in food, textiles, the consumer goods industry and railway communication systems. The last point is particularly important for Russia and South Korea, which have plans to repair North Korea’s railways, integrate them into the Trans-Siberian Railway and transport South Korean goods to Europe through them.


Izvestia: Syrian delegation to attend Russia-Crimea reunification celebrations

A delegation from Damascus will arrive in Crimea to take part in events to mark the fifth anniversary of the peninsula’s reunification with Russia, Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, told Izvestia.

“Yes, Syrian representatives plan to visit Crimea in March. Russia is a friendly country and our key ally. Moscow and Damascus are bound by excellent bilateral relations,” she emphasized on the sidelines of the Valdai Discussion Club’s Middle East Conference held in the Russian capital on February 19-20. Assad personally is unlikely to visit the Black Sea peninsula next month, Shaaban added. However, she did not rule out that the Syrian president would take part in the Yalta International Economic Forum.

Meanwhile, Russian Presidential Envoy to Crimea Georgy Muradov informed the paper that the forum’s organizers would maintain contacts with Syrian representatives and hoped that Assad would be able to visit the peninsula. “We plan to dedicate one of the forum’s sessions to cooperation with Syria and hope that Bashar al-Assad will come here. We see no obstacles to that whatsoever,” he stressed.

A delegation of French politicians headed by Thierry Mariani is also expected to take part in the celebrations in Crimea. Mariani led a group of French lawmakers on a couple of tours to the peninsula in 2015 and 2016. “The French delegation will include eight or nine active parliamentarians. We plan to visit Simferopol and Sevastopol and hold meetings with Russian politicians who will arrive in Crimea to celebrate the birthday of the referendum,” the politician told the paper.


Kommersant: Russia does not divide Yemenis into ‘us’ or ‘them’, says envoy

Representatives of the Yemeni government and the Ansar Allah Houthi movement recently made progress on the issue of redeploying military forces in Hodeidah, Yemen’s fourth largest city. However, the parties have so far failed to implement the agreement reached at December’s UN-brokered talks in Stockholm. One of the reasons was the fact that the parties have continued to blame each other for derailing the Stockholm accords, Russian Ambassador to Yemen Vladimir Dedushkin told Kommersant.

“I took part in the negotiations in Stockholm, which included a group of ambassadors representing the UN Security Council permanent members. The deal on Hodeidah was the most important. An accord on disengaging the warring parties was reached for the first time during the four years of hostilities. Unfortunately, the deadlines outlined in Stockholm have not been met. However, we need to realize how difficult the negotiations were, and what tremendous mistrust exists between the parties to the conflict, each of them is ready to continue fighting. This cannot be allowed,” he emphasized.

The diplomat described the attempts to accuse Tehran of exporting weapons to Yemen in violation of UN Security Council resolutions as “a gross exaggeration.” “The Sanctions Committee set up by UN Security Council Resolution 2140 has presented several reports on the issue but revealed virtually no violations of the sanctions by Iran. The intercepted batches of weapons are insignificant and are unrelated to cutting-edge technology. They could not influence the course of hostilities in Yemen. There is no evidence to substantiate the Americans’ allegations that Ansar Allah uses missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles manufactured in Iran,” he elaborated.

Referring to Moscow’s role in the Yemeni conflict, Dedushkin pointed out that Russia had a substantial advantage there. “Since the beginning of the conflict, we have been able to maintain contacts with all political forces in the country without exception. We have good relations with both Ansar Allah and the General People’s Congress [political party]. We have maintained relations with Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi who is currently in Saudi Arabia. We do not divide anybody into ‘us’ and ‘them.’ We do not meddle in their affairs under any circumstances and do not impose our will on them. We believe that the Yemenis themselves should solve their problems, we are just trying to help them find common ground,” he explained.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moldova eyes changing negotiation formula with Transnistria

The Moldovan leadership has said it would change the current format of dialogue with Tiraspol to make sure that Transnistria’s political status is discussed during the talks. For his part, Transnistrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky has ruled out the discussion of both the unrecognized republic’s status and its unification with Moldova.

At the same time, Krasnoselsky assured Nezavisimaya Gazeta that a negotiation platform with Chisinau was needed. Transnistrian Foreign Minister Vitaly Ignatiev reaffirmed Tiraspol’s stance, stressing that it has never refused to discuss any issues, given that this is a substantive dialogue.

Of late, disagreements between the parties have been observed in the Transnistrian Security Zone, which is controlled by the trilateral peacekeeping mission made up of Moldova, Transnistria and Russia. It is noteworthy that additional Moldovan troops could be deployed to the area in the near future. According to Oleg Belyakov, co-chair of the Joint Control Commission (trilateral peacekeeping force) representing Transnistria, Chisinau argues that the proposed move stems from the need to enhance control in those inhabited communities where Moldova’s parliamentary elections will be held.

Meanwhile, Alexander Rahr, a prominent political scientist, noted that the situation in the region is heating up. According to the expert, Romanian troops could be deployed there in the event of provocations. However, Romania, which currently holds the EU’s presidency, is unlikely to intervene in the situation, he added.


Vedomosti: China curbs Australian coal imports

Australian companies have been facing difficulties with supplying coal to China, since clearing times through Chinese customs has radically increased, Vedomosti writes.

China is the world’s main coal consumer and the largest importer (about 19% of world imports), and Australia is its key supplier. At the same time, the demand for coal from Russia and Indonesia remains high. That said, coal mining in Mongolia (the second largest supplier to China) is controlled by Chinese companies, according to Maxim Khudalov, Director of the ACRA Corporate Ratings Group.

“Chinese regulators are trying to ensure that the coal supplied by domestic producers is more expensive,” the paper quotes Airat Khalikov, Director of the Center for Economic Forecasting at Gazprombank, as saying.

Russian companies can take advantage of the current tensions between the two countries. Today, their share in the Asia-Pacific region does not exceed 9.3%. However, there are prospects of it reaching 20% by 2025, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said earlier.

As long as Beijing retains import duties on coal from Russia, Russian companies won’t be able to increase their share in the Chinese market substantially, Vedomosti’s source in a coal company said.

On the other hand, old coal generation capacities in China are being replaced with new and more efficient ones, he recalled. “That means that high-quality Russian coal will be highly sought after in China, unlike Indonesian, for example,” the source said.


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