Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, October 17, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Turkey mulls clampdown on US following Trump’s sanctions
Ankara is exploring the possibility of reducing the presence of the US at the Incirlik Air Base located in southern Turkey, Turkish lawmaker Ozturk Yilmaz told Izvestia.
The Incirlik Air Base is under Turkey’s sovereignty, he stressed, adding that Ankara has the right to decide how many foreign troops should be there. He noted that the Turkish parliament would look into the possibility of limiting the presence of US personnel at the base and warned that other measures could follow soon as well.
On October 14, US President Donald Trump said that Washington would slap sanctions on several high-ranking Turkish officials, including National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Deputy Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party Suleyman Soylu. The White House occupant also raised the steel tariff on Turkey to 50% and said he was suspending negotiations on a $100 bln trade deal with Ankara.
Head of the Political Research at the Center for Modern Turkish Studies Yuri Mavashev explained to Izvestia that Ankara had imposed restrictions on the activities of foreign military bases in response to the unfriendly steps. In 2017, when Berlin did not allow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to campaign in Germany, Ankara reiterated by banning members of the German Bundestag (parliament) from visiting German military servicemen at Incirlik. Similar measures could be taken in respect to the Americans, the expert noted. "In addition to the air base, there are many other ways of responding to the sanctions, for example, to limit the passage of US vessels through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles," he said.
Mavashev stressed that Washington’s sanctions have so far rallied the public around Erdogan, because anti-American policies are quite popular in Turkish society. Thanks to such support, the president and all of Turkey can weather any crisis, he said.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US prioritizes trade with China over human rights
The White House is facing a dilemma: it has to choose between human rights — a sacred cow for America — and doing business with China, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. President Trump has almost clinched a truce in the trade war with Beijing, which is very important during the run-up to the 2020 election. However, the House of Representatives is threatening to ruin the game by passing bills in support of Hong Kong.
US legislators took a belligerent approach at a very delicate moment for Trump. After all, he is in talks with China trying to find a way out of the trade standoff, which affects both countries. Judging by US media reports, the Trump administration has no intention of risking the imminent deal with China in order to satisfy the ambitions of the Congress.
When asked to comment on the Hong Kong protests, Trump recently told reporters that "that’s between Hong Kong and that’s between China, because Hong Kong is a part of China," adding that they (the Chinese) "don’t need advice."
According to the US leader, the parties are close to reaching an interim agreement, Andrei Karneev, Head of the School of Oriental Studies at the Higher School of Economics, told the paper. "The actions by Congressional members give him an additional trump card. The US president can tell the Chinese, ‘If you do not ink the deal again, then look at what measures the legislators have hammered out," he noted.
Trump expects to use these bills as his weapon of choice, the expert went to say. "However, Congress can prevent him from reaching a deal with China and branding it as the White House’s greatest accomplishment. Therefore, it is not improbable that these legislative initiatives can be an obstacle to the deal between Washington and Beijing," he concluded.
Izvestia: Azerbaijan’s top diplomat reaffirms commitment to Nagorno-Karabakh talks
Baku and Yerevan are aiming to make some progress in negotiations to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told Izvestia. He noted, though, that he was disappointed with the latest round of talks with Yerevan.
"We are only waiting for results. If we want to make progress and really want to achieve a political solution to that dispute, then, of course, we need to start with what is called ‘substantive’ negotiations, so that there is some substance, on the basis of which the negotiations are conducted," he said.
The Minsk Group and its three co-chairs, specifically, Russia, the United States and France, are the key OSCE players in solving the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, Mammadyarov noted. "We raised this issue briefly [on the sidelines of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers]. We all understand that unresolved conflicts only create obstacles for any activities, including economic and humanitarian ones. All ten countries, including Azerbaijan and Armenia, agreed that it was essential to find a speedy solution to that crisis. We should recognize, however, that major work on the settlement is done within the OSCE Minsk Group, and not through the CIS," he pointed out.
Despite tensions persisting along the line of contact, the parties have been able to carry on serious negotiations to iron out the current issues, Mammadyarov stressed.
"First of all, [it is essential] to make sure that troops return to their barracks and those people who fled their homes could return. After that, we could tackle all remaining issues. We tell our co-chairs all the time that we have no choice other than to sit down and hold substantive negotiations with Yerevan on a document, which is on the table today," he concluded.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Erdogan’s incursion into Syria becomes driving force for Arab solidarity
The Middle East now has to cooperate with the Syrian government — that’s the key signal that Russia is trying to send amid Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier urged for practical cooperation between Ankara and the Syrian army, just like the Kurds did. For his part, Russian Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev chided Ankara’s military operation as unacceptable.
The issue is expected to be discussed during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s upcoming visit to Russia. Meanwhile, the Arab League said it would consider Syria’s reinstatement as its member, and Iraq promised to submit the relevant request.
On the other hand, it is crucial for Middle Eastern countries to ensure that a political settlement process starts in Syria.
Erdogan’s incursion into Syria’s north, which began on October 9, was aimed at stripping Kurdish units of the right to take part in the political process, Timur Akhmetov, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, explained to Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
"Syria is about to launch a political settlement dialogue, as the Kurds used to control large territory. That means that they could insist on being involved in jockeying for political influence on Syria’s future. Turkey’s operation is a preemptive step," he said.
The expert is certain, though, that Turkey’s reconciliation with the Syrian government will not result in any full-fledged dialogue in the foreseeable future. "Ankara will be looking for progress as far as political reforms are concerned," Akhmetov pointed out. "I believe that in matters related to security, Turkey will either be content with unilateral actions, and that’s what the ongoing military operation has shown, or coordinate all that with Russia. An important factor could be the restoration of Syria’s relations with the Arab world and attempts by some Arab countries to strengthen regional solidarity through anti-Turkish sentiment." In that case, Ankara will have more reasons to reconsider its stance on Syrian President Bashar Assad, the expert added.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Egypt vs. Saudi Arabia: Experts weigh in on tourist destinations favored by Russians
The proposed abolition of visas between Russia and Saudi Arabia will prompt a mutual increase in tourist flow. In the meantime, as Russian tourists see it, the east coast of the Red Sea cannot substitute for resorts on the Egyptian west coast. However, Saudi Arabia will be sought after as a new destination, said experts interviewed by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
The mutual development of tourism between Russia and Saudi Arabia has been discussed extensively recently. Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage signed a memorandum of understanding during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has so far been unable to offer Russians Red Sea resorts similar to those in Egypt, but potential tourists are already showing interest in it. Currently, pilgrims largely visit the country, while the majority of tourists would opt for a beach vacation. Saudi Arabia has access to the Red Sea, but the beaches there are elite and expensive, Alexander Aksenyonok, Vice President of the Russian International Affairs Council, told the paper. That’s why they can hardly be attractive to most Russians now, he said.
There is no well-developed resort infrastructure for mass tourism. However, the authorities said several major projects were being implemented. That makes Saudi Arabia a promising tourist destination, says Dmitry Gorin, vice president of the Russian Association of Tour Operators.
"For many, this is a new destination. The most important issue is air transportation. When Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure is ready, there will be an inflow of our tourists," the paper quotes him as saying. Steps to lift visa requirements will stimulate the tourism industry.
Russia is primarily interested in Saudi tourists coming with e-visas. "Agencies, which specialize in inbound tourism, will get new clients," the expert added.