Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan will hold talks in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday, just 17 days after their previous meeting. As opposed to recent Russian-Turkish summits, the two leaders won’t have to urgently sort out any conflict. However, the outcome of their talks will impact the developments both in Syria and in Nagorno-Karabakh where the situation is on the verge of a large-scale fighting. The presidents will also discuss the situation in Ukraine as well as the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is at the heart of a political scandal in Turkey.
Turkish political scientist Umit Nazmi Hazir is confident that for Ankara, the upcoming operation in Syria will be a priority issue at the summit noting that this is “a red line” for Turkey’s security. He points out that prior to the presidential election, Erdogan may try to resolve the issue of the YPG and refugees by reaching agreements with Damascus. Apart from that, the expert thinks that Erdogan may show his readiness to participate in potential Russia-Ukraine talks as well as discuss Turkey’s possible accession to BRICS.
Azerbaijani political scientist Ilgar Velizade believes that Turkey won’t play any major role in the recent deterioration in the Lachin corridor, which links Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. “Here, agreements between Moscow and Baku will be of crucial importance,” he told Kommersant. However, he did not rule out that the two leaders may hash over a rapprochement between Ankara and Yerevan who intend to unblock their land border and open other communication links in the region, including the so-called Zangezur corridor which involves a motor road and a railroad between Azerbaijan and Turkey via Armenia. The expert notes that the Turkish leader may raise the issue of a more active role of Turkish observers at the Agdam center.
Political analyst from Turkey and member of the Valdai International Discussion Club Hasan Selim Ozertem told the newspaper that the situation around the Akkuyu NPP may be the most important issue at the upcoming talks. Russia’s Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation which is building it recently changed a subcontractor, canceling an agreement with Turkey’s IC Ictas over delays. The Turkish opposition is dissatisfied with the fact that the new subcontractor, TSM Enerji, is a “consortium of three Russian companies.” The expert thinks that this points to Turkey’s dependence on Russia in the sphere of energy.
The European Union is holding a debate on the need to ban visas, above all, tourist ones, for Russians. This initiative was put forward by Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu during his visit to Kiev. Finland’s government has already admitted that it had been seeking ways to restrict issuing visas to Russians with 58% of the country’s residents supporting this move, according to a recent survey. It is expected that European top diplomats will discuss the issue of “visa de-liberalization” for Russians on August 31.
Program Director of the Russian International Affairs Council Ivan Timofeev told Kommersant it is not possible to rule out neither a full ban on EU visas for Russians, nor such decisions by a large number of individual states. “First of all, such calls continue. Secondly, the political situation and its context are not improving, there will be new sanctions packages. And this is one of the EU’s options to fill these packages. Another case is that there is a room for solutions. For example, it is possible to completely ban the issuance of visas or make some exemptions,” the expert explained. In his opinion, it is also necessary to keep in mind that until February 2022, the EU sought to maintain dialogue with Russia’s civil society and currently a lot will depend on whether this pattern has changed. “So, the possibility of the visa regime’s de-liberalization should be treated rather seriously,” the expert said, explaining that the procedure of issuing visas could be toughened.
There are no preconditions for a stable long-term compromise between Serbia and the unrecognized Kosovo and the potential of a serious conflict remains, Russian Ambassador to Belgrade Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko told Izvestia.
He maintained that tensions on the border may still flare up over something else if not over documents and license plates. The diplomat is confident that the community of Serbian municipalities could have provided “all the mechanisms of protecting human rights and resolving issues of mending ties between the Albanian-populated and the Serbian-populated parts of Kosovo, between Belgrade and Pristina.” “This was not done. And given the behavior of both Pristina and the West, this is reminiscent of the entire situation with the Minsk agreements. The same is happening here,” the envoy said.
“In order to reach long-term solutions, it is vital to review the foundations and principles of settlement. Effective and balanced mediation is necessary – at talks between Belgrade and Pristina, the European Union absolutely demonstrated that it is helpless and ineffective as a mediator. How can the West be an honest broker if it supports Kosovo’s independence in the person of key participants and mediators of the negotiations?” he pointed out.
In his opinion, such approaches to ironing out the conflict only increase tensions. “So it is very hard to expect any breakthroughs and long-term solutions in August and afterwards if this attitude persists. And concerns remain that an outbreak of tensions could spiral into another more serious conflict and the Balkans will burst into flames,” the ambassador stressed.
Azerbaijan demands an alternative route between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh instead of the Lachin corridor controlled by Russian peacekeepers which is currently the only option for supplies to the unrecognized republic. Baku is citing the November 9, 2020 trilateral agreement with Moscow and Yerevan which includes a provision on the necessity of creating a new route. In its turn, Armenia says that, in line with the agreement, the route should be coordinated first between all sides within three years. On August 4, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that there was no coordinated and approved plan for constructing the new corridor.
Baku firmly intends to regain full control over Karabakh and consistently acts in this direction, says Head of the Caucasus section of the Center for post-Soviet Studies at IMEMO Vadim Mukhanov. The first track in this direction is putting direct pressure and creating conditions to block communications between Karabakh and Armenia, the expert says
Baku’s second approach to influencing the situation is diplomatic pressure on Yerevan and Moscow as a mediator between the two sides. The expert thinks that Azerbaijan will continue to test the limits of potential pressure on both Armenia and Russia both by force and diplomacy, especially since Russia is currently more preoccupied in another direction.
Global oil prices have been plummeting – as of 20:00 Moscow time on August 4, Brent October futures dropped 3.2% to $93.6 per barrel, for the first time since July 14. WTI oil futures fell by 2.3% to $88.5 per barrel.
However, despite the substantial drop in Brent and WTI prices in early August, it is early to talk about a stable tendency in oil prices, according to Alfa Bank Senior Analyst Nikita Blokhin. In his opinion, amid the stabilizing market fundamental factors will become a key driver of influencing prices. Since the latest decision by OPEC+ shaped further plans on boosting production, during the next couple of weeks, all eyes of oil traders will be on data reflecting global demand dynamics, the expert thinks.
Head of BCS information and analytical content Vasily Karpunin also believes that oil prices may drop to $85-90 per barrel in the short term. “Still, the general environment now is in favor of a temporary ‘risk-off’ scenario,” he specified. Deputy Director General of the National Energy Institute Alexander Frolov links a drop in prices to the fact that “the global oil market is close to oversupply.” The prices of $85-90 per barrel are “more comfortable” for global oil producers than $100-120 per barrel, he notes.
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