Russian, Iranian and Syrian Foreign ministers discusse the upcoming Geneva 2 international conference on Syria; Foreign Minister Lavrov calls for Iran to be a part of any plan aimed at settling the Syrian crisis; Russia calls for Saudi Arabia to be invite
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  • JANUARY 13- 19

    According to reports, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts in Moscow on January 17 wherein they discussed the upcoming Geneva 2 international conference on Syria. A number of issues ranging from participation of opposition groups and Iran’s participation in the conference are being worked out. 1

    According to reports, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Iran should be a part of the comprehensive effort aimed at settlement of the Syrian crisis including its participation in the Geneva 2 international conference. 2

    According to reports, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Saudi Arabia should participate in the Geneva 2 conference which is aimed at settling the Syrian crisis. 3

    According to reports, President Putin has called for full implementation of the action plan on Iran’s nuclear program adopted in Geneva in November 2013. He said that the implementation will create conditions for finding a comprehensive solution to the above-mentioned problem and will secure Iran’s right to develop peaceful atom under control of the International Atomic Energy Agency. 4

    According to reports, the Chair of Iranian parliament’s defence committee Ismail Kosari has said that Iran is planning to send military experts to Russia to choose an alternative to S-300 air defence systems for its army. In 2007, Moscow and Tehran had signed a US$ 800 million contract for the supply of S-300 systems to Iran. However, its implementation was constantly delayed and Russia eventually terminated the contract, returning the advance payment of US$ 167 million to Iran. 5

    Reports noted that China’s direct investment into the Russian economy has exceed US$ 4 billion in 2013, partly due to the implementation of some large-scale strategic projects including those in the oil and gas sector. 6

    Reports noted that Russia’s state oil company Rosneft has received an advanced payment from China for oil deliveries that began this month. Advanced payments will total US$ 70 billion, with the first batch standing at US$ 20 billion. In line with a deal signed in June 2013, Rosneft plans to supply 360 million metric tons of crude oil to China for a period of 25 years. The oil will be transported via the ESPO pipeline and by transit via Kazakhstan. 7

    Reports noted that A US court has ordered a subsidiary of Rosneft (Samaraneftefgaz) to turn over assets to he United States in order to pay US$ 186 million to a company linked to bankrupt oil giant Yukos. Yukos Capital, registered in Luxembourg and reportedly controlled by former Yukos shareholders, is one of a number of Yukos-affiliated companies domiciled outside Russia that have been pursuing a campaign to re-coup losses on former Yukos assets now controlled by Rosneft. Rosneft had acquired the bulk of Yukos’ assets after the company’s breakup in a process that many allege was masterminded by the Kremlin. 8

    Reports noted that President Putin has stressed on the need for agreeing to a visa-free regime with the European Union. 9

    Reports noted that in its annual report on human rights in the European Union released on January 15, the Russian Foreign Ministry said many members of the 28-nation union regularly violate human rights and the existing EU legislation lacks effective mechanisms to prevent abuses. The ministry citied the problem of non-citizens in Estonia and Latvia, discrimination of Russian-speaking minorities in Finland and the rise of nationalist sentiments in Poland among examples of blatant human rights violations in the EU. 10

    According to reports, Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law Konstantin Dolgo has said that Russia ‘continues to insist on the soonest possible closure of the American Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. 11

    According to reports, Russia will open a human rights center in Kosovo as part of a public action to help the Serbian population in the region which unilaterally proclaimed its independence from Serbia in February 2008. This was announced by Vitaly Milonov, a deputy of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly who claimed that this is an exclusively public initiative which is supported by many Russians but has got nothing to do with government bodies. 12

    According to reports, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met with the ambassadors of CIS countries wherein they discussed prospects for developing integration processes. 13

    According to reports, President Putin has said that the calls to boycott the Sochi Olympic Games are an ‘attempt of restraint and a remnant of the old way of thinking’. 14

    Russia’s envoy to the SCO Kirill Barsky has said that Shanghai Cooperation Organization has no plans to replace NATO as a guarantor of security in Afghanistan following the planned withdrawal of security forces in 2014. He further stated that SCO’s key task remains in developing effective cooperation between its member countries as well as the fight against terrorism and drug-trafficking in Central Asia. 15

    Azerbaijan, which was supplying 3 million cubic meters of gas per day to Russia, has cut off gas supplies on January 13 due to technical reasons. Azerbaijan provided Russia with about 1.37 billion cubic meters of gas in 2013, down by 31.5 percent on the year before. The two countries had signed a 5 year deal in 2010. 16

    According to reports, the US government has said that a possible deal between Russia and Iran securing an oil-for-goods swap could generate US sanctions against parties involved in such an agreement since it will be inconsistent with the terms of the P5+1 agreement with Iran. It was reported that Russia and Iran were negotiating a swap that could see Russia buy up to 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil daily in exchange for Russian equipment and goods. 17

    According to reports, Russia will provide credit of up to US$ 13.7 billion to Hungary to fund the construction of two new blocks at a nuclear power plant (Paks, south of Budapest) in the country. The deal was announced during a state visit to Moscow by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on January 14. Russia is Hungary’s 3rd largest trading partner after Germany and Austria and bilateral trade stood at US$ 9.7 billion in 2012. Moreover, as much as 80 per cent of crude oil and 75 per cent of natural gas consumed by Hungary comes from Russia, and almost 40 per cent of electricity is generated by the Paks nuclear power plant which was built with the assistance of Russian experts. 18

    According to reports, Russia’s defence ministry has said that crews of its heavy nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky and China’s patrol ship Yan Cheng plan to hold tactical exercises in the Mediterranean Sea soon. The two ships have been convoying Denmark’s Ark Futura ship with the first batch of Syrian chemical weapons onboard. 19

    According to reports, Gazprom has said that natural gas supplies to Western Europe in 2013 increased by 20 per cent to 127.05 billion cubic meters. Overall gas exports to Europe increased by 16.3 per cent to 161.48 billion cubic meters. 20

    According to reports, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Energy Anatoly Yanovsky has said that Gazprom will invest up to US$ 909 million in Kyrgyzstan’s gas transportation system. Meanwhile, the State Duma has ratified the Russian-Kyrgyz intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in natural gas transportation, distribution and sales that stipulates the acquisition of the Kyrgyz national gas operator Kyrgyzgaz by Gazprom. 21

    According to reports, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for more intensive talks with Russia over a peace treaty. In 2013, the Japanese prime minister and the Russian president met four times, including the first official visit of the Japanese prime minister to Russia in the last ten years. Mr. Abe is also expected to visit Russia in February to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. 22

    Reports noted that Russian Kalashnikov Concern has signed an agreement with the United States and Canada on exports of up to 200,000 units of Kalashnikov rifles per year. The agreement envisages deliveries of sporting and hunting rifles of "Izhmash" and "Baikal" brands for five years. 23

    Reports noted that South Korea has created a task group to deal with projects on economic cooperation with Russia and North Korea, including a project linking the Trans-Korean Railway with Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway. The group will also study proposals to lay oil and gas pipelines from Russia to the south through North Korea and a project to supply Russian electric power to the Korean Peninsula. During the November 2013 Russia-South Korea Summit, the two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the participation of South Korean firms in a Russian-led rail and port development project linking North Korea’s north-eastern port of Rajin to Russia’s border town of Khasan on the Trans-Siberian Railway. In Rajin a special economic zone will be created. 24

    Reports noted that the Agreement on Co-operation in Science and Technology between the European Union and Russia, which expires in February 2014, will be extended up to 2019. 25

    According to reports, Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) has said that Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union (CU) and the Common Economic Space (CES) will increase its GDP by four per cent. 26

    According to reports, the first deputy chairwoman of Russia’s Central Bank Ksenia Yudayeva has said that Russia is suffering from stagflation, a combination of stagnant economic growth and a high rate of inflation. Russia’s gross domestic product grew by an estimated 1.4 per cent in 2013, its lowest level since the 2009 recession. Inflation is projected to be round 5 per cent in 2014. 27

    In other developments, Reports noted that the net outflow of capital in Russia in 2013 exceeded US$ 62 billion as compared to US$ 54.6 billion in 2012. The Central Bank expects US$ 20 billion to leave the country in 2014 and US$ 10 billion in 2015. It hopes for an influx of US$ 5 billion in 2016. 28

    According to reports, Energy Minister Alexander Novak has said that hydrocarbon production in Russia in 2014 will not be lower than that in 2013. 29

    According to reports, Minister of Labour and Social Protection Maksim Topilin has said that Russia recorded 1.74 million babies born between January and November 2013 - an increased birth rate noted in 31 regions from a total of 83. Birth rate growth was accompanied by a decline in mortality - 1.72 million people died in the recorded 11 months of 2013, 19,000 less than in the same period a year before. 30

    According to reports, the Defence Ministry has said that 16 new support ships will be delivered to Northern, Pacific, Baltic and Black Sea fleets in 2014. These include sea-going and harbor tugboats, port-servicing vessels, logistic support ships, armament support ships, communication motorboats and target ships. The ministry also reported that the Navy plans to purchase 96 ships by 2020. 31

    Russia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves (national reserve assets) stood at US$ 511.6 billion at the end of December 2013. Foreign exchange and gold reserves comprise of monetary gold, Special Drawing Rights, reserves with the International Monetary Fund, and foreign currency. 32

    President Putin has called on the need to create a single textbook on Russian history since there exists “ideological rubbish“ in previous textbooks. He also stated that a new concept of Russian history should not only acquaint people with historical assessments of events but also make them realize a measure of personal responsibility for a country in which they live. 33