Russia’s proposal to create an inter-parliamentary group in a joint effort to protect the economic and political interests, influence politics at the global arena and as an important strategic tool for promoting development among BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) member states has sparked discussions while others are watching bloc’s new directions with interest.
Comprehensive plans have been outlined for the BRICS emerging market nations as Russia has started its presidency of the group from April till February 2016. Among the plans is creation of inter-parliamentary group and the priority to achieve strategic solutions to a full range of issues.
Valeria Gorbacheva, an Expert at the BRICS National Research Committee of the Rusian Federation, for instance, believes strongly that there is no doubt that inter-parliamentary cooperation among BRICS countries will be a significant part of the consolidation process. According to present knowledge, there is no parliamentary dimension in the pentalateral cooperation among BRICS countries, while bilateral inter-parliamentary relations are still underdeveloped.
In this regard, Indo-Russian inter-parliamentary initiative will become an important stimulus for this process. Russian side pay much attention to parliamentary dimension of BRICS and has already invited heads of two chambers of the Indian parliament to participate in the first BRICS parliamentary forum which is planned for June 8 in Moscow. Indian party promised to consider this invitation.
Russia is an active supporter of this process and Russian legislators hope that all BRICS countries will join the efforts on the development of inter-parliamentary cooperation. That is why within its presidency in BRICS, Russia will promote the creation of BRICS parliamentary assembly. This will definitely help BRICS to gain more and more strategic and long-term cooperation, according to objective views of Gorbacheva.
In the context of unilateral sanctions against Russia, this format of parliamentary cooperation can become a serious alternative to parliamentary platforms like those in PACE and OSCE. This is the reason why it is favorable to BRICS members to develop their coordination at the parliamentary level. Thus, BRICS parliamentary forum can become a new platform that will connect countries from three different continents, and countries which accumulate 42% of world’s population and 27% of world GDP.
Without doubts, Russia wants to help promote inter-parliamentary cooperation in every way possible and also intends to encourage cooperation between trade unions, civil society organizations, and youth movements. As stated by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, the long-term aim is to transform BRICS from a “dialogue forum and tool of coordinating positions on a limited range of issues into a full-fledged mechanism of cooperation in the key issues of global economy and politics.”
If all sides agree to participate in the proposed inter-parliamentary summit, Russia will organize a meeting in Moscow on preparations for such an event. The first parliamentary summit of BRICS may take place in June in Russia, Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev told journalists in March.
“There are plans to hold a BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) parliamentary summit in Moscow in June this year,” Kosachev stressed. For now, only Chinese parliamentarians have given preliminary agreement to participate in the summit, he noted. “I have an order from the Federation Council chairperson to establish direct contacts with national delegations of India, Brazil and South Africa, in order to get an understanding about the colleagues’ plans,” Kosachev noted.
This could be one mechanism to strengthen the political cooperation of the BRICS grouping. But, as the inter-parliamentary group does not yet exist, judging its effectiveness is difficult says Hannah Edinger, a Director at Frontier Advisory (a research, strategy and investment advisory firm that assists clients to improve their competitiveness in emerging market economies) headquartered in South Africa.
The BRICS countries have a number of overlapping goals concerning global development, and cooperate across various platforms. More recently, they have sought to strengthen this by institutionalizing their cooperation through the New Development Bank.
“An inter-parliamentary group will add another dimension to the cooperation between the five states. The group will create a framework for discussions to take place regarding the resolution of conflicts and the reformation of existing international institutions, as part of the BRICS countries’ attempt to balance the current international economic system towards greater incorporation of the views of the emerging world. The first forum will be held in Russia in July this year at the seventh BRICS Summit,” Edinger wrote to Buziness Africa.
She argues that there may be initial challenges. “The creation of the BRICS inter-parliamentary group, which appears to be driven by Russia at the moment, will allow the BRICS countries to counter other parliamentary groups such as the EU. It therefore seems as though Russia is hoping that the BRICS parliamentary group will lend it legitimacy in light of its involvement in the Ukraine, by addressing questions of sovereignty and independence of states that differs from what it refers to as Euro-Atlantic doctrine,” says Edinger.
Professor Ramesh Thakur from the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University shares similar optimistic views about BRICS future development and its important role on the global arena. “BRICS is potentially of great significance as an alternative site of, and an actor in, global governance. It is both symptomatic of and will further consolidate an alternative grouping to the dominant Western-controlled institutions of global governance,” he told Buziness Africa media in April.
“The early initiatives are in international economic governance. But there is considerable political and strategic potential also. To that end, any further institutionalization of dialogue and interaction, such as a BRICS inter-parliamentary union, could help to solidify the group’s identity,” Professor Thakur stressed in his discussions with this researcher and writer.
In an email comment to Buziness Africa, Francis Kornegay, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Global Dialogue, said that he was quite skeptical about a BRICS inter-parliamentary group. “I doubt that it will be taken seriously and could likely generate derisive feedback from any number of quarters given the democratic deficits of China and Russia. Neither country is a parliamentary democracy. Certainly not Beijing’s. Russia’s is a Potemkin parliament with little credibility under the clear personal rule of Putin,” he wrote further in his email.
“It is quite possible that the idea of such a group is simply one more attempt by China & Russia to make IBSA redundant as India, Brazil and South Africa are authentic parliamentary democracies and have an IBSA parliamentary forum. Also, the core business of BRICS is global economic governance reform, anything else suggesting a manifestly political programme is really a distraction. Global economic governance reform is the political as well as the economic agenda of BRICS. Not sure BRICS needs a parliamentary group for this,” Kornegay explained assertively.
The Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD) is an independent South African-based foreign policy think tank dedicated to the analysis of, and dialogue on the evolving international political and economic environment and the role of Africa and South Africa. It advances a balanced, relevant and policy-oriented analysis, debate and documentation of South Africa’s role in international relations and diplomacy.
Brazil’s sous-sherpa at BRICS, Director of Regional Mechanisms of the Foreign Ministry of Brazil, Flavio Damico, told TASS news agency at the end of March that the place and role of BRICS in the modern system of international relations “has been a significant factor in world affairs right from the moment of its establishment as countries in the group have big influence in decision-making on the international arena.”
“After they began coordinating their actions, their influence has grown even more,” the diplomat said. “Wide coordination between the BRICS countries became the new factor in the international life,” he added. The countries in the organization are “very large and complex,” and it is only logical that “there are spheres where coordination and cooperation are moving forward very fast and some spheres where more effort is needed to see tangible progress,” Damico said.
As a further step to consolidate the group’s footprint, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered to sign a memorandum on cooperation with BRICS countries in the sphere of science, technologies and innovations, the official website of the Russian government reported in March. The memorandum aims at “forming a strategic system for cooperation in the sphere of science, technologies and innovations between countries-members of BRICS.” The memorandum will be signed by Russia’s Ministry of Education and Science on behalf of the Russian government.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation official website, Russia has assumed the role as president in the BRICS bloc from April 1, 2015, to February 16, 2016. As the BRICS president, Russia in tandem with its partners, intends to take new and major steps towards transforming BRICS into a mechanism for coordinating strategic and routine actions on a broad spectrum of economic and international political issues.
Russia’s main priorities as the BRICS president are helping to consolidate strategic stability and regional conflict settlement, strengthening weapons of mass destruction non-proliferation regimes, fighting international terrorism and drug trafficking, and strengthening international information security.
The BRICS countries collectively represent about 26% of the world’s geographic area and are home to 42% of the world’s population. In 2013, the share of the BRICS countries reached 16.1% in global trade, 10.8% in military spending and 40/2% in production of non-renewable energy resources. The BRICS consumer market is the largest in the world and is growing by $500 billion a year. The next BRICS summit will take place in Ufa, the capital of Russia’s Volga republic Bashkiria, on July 8-10, 2015
Russia’s role in the revival of the Iran Nuclear deal
Iran in recent weeks has stated on more than one occasion, that is willing to return to the negotiation table for talks pertaining to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)/Iran Nuclear deal (the Vienna negotiations which began in April 2021 have been on hold since June 2021). The US has on more than one occasion expressed the view, that Iran needs to show greater urgency with regard to getting back to talks on the Iran Nuclear deal . The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken while addressing the press, on October 13, 2021, before his meeting with Foreign Ministers of UAE and Israel:
‘We continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to do that, but it takes two to engage in diplomacy, and we have not – we have not seen from Iran a willingness to do that at this point.’
In August 2021, US President Biden in a meeting with the Israeli PM, Naftali Bennett had said that Washington was willing to explore other options, if diplomacy with Iran did not work (this was in stark contrast to his stance vis-à-vis Iran in his initial days in office).
It would be important to point out, that Russia has been playing a key role in getting Iran back to the negotiating table, while also urging the US to remove some of the sanctions it has imposed on Iran. During the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian to Moscow earlier this month, a number of issues pertaining to the Iran-Russia relationship were discussed during the meeting between Abdollahian and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the Iran Nuclear deal however was high on the agenda. Here it would be pertinent to point out, that Iran is seeking to sign a strategic agreement with Russia along the lines of what it had signed with China, and Russia would thus have significant leverage vis-à-vis Tehran. While commenting on the same, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Saeed Khatibzadeh said:
‘The initial arrangements of this document, entitled the Global Agreement for Cooperation between Iran and Russia, have been concluded,’
Iran and Russia have also been working jointly in Syria to keep Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in power.
Israeli PM’s visit to Russia
During Israeli PM Naftali Bennett’s recent visit to Moscow, on October 22, 2021 while a number of bilateral issues were discussed during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Iran issue was also discussed. While Putin is supposed to have put forward the Russian stance which favours a diplomatic solution for dealing with the issue of nuclear enrichment by Iran, while Israel expressed its concerns with regard to Iran’s nuclear program.
While Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC countries), such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, which were opposed to revival of the Iran Nuclear deal have toned down their opposition to the deal, since they themselves are working to improve ties with Iran, Israel has been fervent in its opposition to the revival of the deal, and the Biden Administration of late has also begun to adopt a more aggressive stance (not very different from that of the Trump Administration) and seems to be unwilling to make any significant concessions in order to revive JCPOA .
It remains to be seen, if Russia’s relationship with Israel can play any role in softening the latter’s opposition to the Iran Nuclear deal. Apart from this, Moscow whose ties with Iran have strengthened will also play an important role in getting Tehran back to the negotiating table on the Iran nuclear deal, and could also convince Iran to avoid a maximalist approach towards the Iran nuclear deal. In recent months, Moscow’s strategic importance has risen not on account of its proximity to Beijing, but because it’s stance on the situation in Afghanistan and Iran has been pragmatic, and Moscow has not kowtowed to Beijing in spite of the fact that its ties with Washington ties are far from cordial. Moscow is also one of the few countries which has been able to maintain good ties with both Israel and Iran.
It remains to be seen, if Russia’s intervention on key global issues especially the Iran Nuclear deal can achieve any tangible results. A lot will also depend upon whether the Biden Administration, which has drawn flak for its handling of Afghanistan, is willing to think out of the box and exhibit risk appetite. It is also important that Washington-Moscow ties remain manageable if not perfect, and that both countries realize the importance of working closely on important global issues.
Russia, Turkey and the new geopolitical reality
The recent Russia – Turkey summit in Sochi, even though yielding no tangible outcomes (as became clear well before it, the summit would not result in the signing of any agreements), has evoked a lot of speculation – ranging from assumptions of the “failure” of talks to fairly optimistic forecasts for the future of bilateral relations.
What can be seen as a clear result of the meeting is that the two sides acknowledged readiness for further dialogue. A dialogue is vital also in view of the fact that western countries have been curtailing their military and political presence in the region, which has thus led to the formation of a terrorist state in Afghanistan.
According to Sergei Lavrov, terrorist threat persists and has even been intensifying in Idlib: «Terrorist groups operating from beyond the Idlib de-escalation zone continue to attack the positions of the Syrian army, what’s more, they have been trying to act against the Russian contingent», – the Russian foreign minister told a news conference following talks with his Egyptian counterpart, after the summit in Sochi. A solution to the problem lies, he said, in “complete implementation of the agreements signed by Presidents Putin and Erdogan to the effect that terrorists, first of all, from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, should be isolated regardless of whatever new slogans they might come up with and for the purpose of quelling all these terrorist groups”.
As a final agreement on de-escalation in Idlib is expected to be reached, sources report a build-up of Syrian army forces along the Syrian side of the demarcation line, on the one hand, and a concentration of Turkish military groups, on the other (whereas after talks in Sochi the Turkish military started to retreat to the north – A.I.) Opposition representatives have been making aggressive statements again, even though in Sochi, Dmitry Peskov said, the two sides reiterated their “commitment to earlier agreements, underscored the need to implement these agreements by clearing Idlib of terrorist groups which were still there and which could pose a threat and launch a fierce attack against the Syrian army”.
Turkey keeps accusing Russia of breaching a ceasefire agreement for the northwest of Syria of March 5, 2020, while Russia maintains that Turkey is not acting on its commitments and that it is unable (or unwilling? – A.I.) to separate terrorists from armed opposition. For these mutual accusations the two presidents use politically correct statements, while their discontent over the situation is articulated by foreign ministers, press secretaries and MPs.
In brief, Moscow’s position is as follows: Bashar Assad is a legally elected head of the Syrian Arab Republic, the territorial integrity of which is beyond doubt. A compromise with Damascus calls for similar steps from the opponents, whereas confrontation in Idlib and in other hot spots across Syria should be the responsibility of countries whose troops are deployed there without the approval of the UN or without invitation from official Damascus. These countries are known – the United States and Turkey.
While Moscow and Ankara are often at odds over the Sunni opposition, their attitudes to Kurdish nationalists are less of a clash. Moscow sees them as “mere” separatists who “have not been lost” for Damascus, while Ankara describes them as terrorists that should be eliminated or neutralized by a buffer zone which Turkey has been building and strengthening for several years.
Some experts and politicians believe that this will last forever. In 1920, the already not quite Ottoman but not yet Turkish Parliament adopted the so-called National Vow, which specified that New Turkey would include Syrian and Iraqi territories, which currently border Turkey. Even though the move failed, the National Vow is still, if only unofficially, seen as a founding ideological document of the Turkish Republic, the implementation of which cements the authority of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Moreover, areas occupied by the Turkish army (which make up more than 10% of the Syrian territory) are used for accommodating Syrian refugees, of which there are over three and a half million in Turkey proper. Turks’ growing discontent over the presence of such “guests” is adding to social instability. A new influx could trigger a public outcry in the run-up to parliamentary elections scheduled for 2023.
In all likelihood, Ankara believes that any serious concessions in Idlib will entail the collapse of the entire “buffer zone” project and will invalidate three military operations and the multimillion investments. In addition, it will bring back “the Kurdish issue”, destroy the image of Turkey as a trustworthy ally, and will inflict irreparable damage on the reputation of the incumbent authorities.
Nevertheless, Cumhuriyet observer Mehmet Ali Guller argues that Erdogan suggested readiness to make concessions when he said: «We agree that the time has come to secure a final and lasting solution to the Syrian issue. We announced that we are open for any realistic and fair steps in this direction».
From our point of view, there is nothing about “concessions” in what Erdogan says but what is clear is that he is, if only unwillingly, beginning to accept The Syrian reality. After years of demanding the removal of Bashar Assad, the Turkish leadership no longer issues statements to this effect, though it refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the incumbent regime (contacts at intelligence agency level do not count), promising to withdraw troops only after the establishment of “democratic rule” in Syria. But democracy as seen through the Middle East realities is something vague and unclear.
Furthermore, Erdogan is forced to “re-evaluate values” by a growing tension in relations with western allies. The Turkish president, after years of speaking strongly in favor of American presence in Syria, is now calling for the withdrawal of the American contingent from the country.
A consolidated position of Ankara’s western partners on Russia-Turkey relations was formulated by Die Zeit: during talks with the Russian leader in Sochi Erdogan played the role of a “requestor”, since he “missed a decisive factor – the West”, which he needs as “a critically important partner, which makes it possible for Ankara not to bow to Russia”. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu did not agree to that: «We are a NATO member, on the one hand, but on the other hand, our relations with Russia are progressing…..Why should we make a choice [between them]?».
«It’s no secret that Ankara’s and Moscow’s interests in the region do not coincide…..[but] The positive responses of the two countries’ leaders on the results of talks in Sochi suggest that Moscow and Ankara are prepared to remove all misunderstandings by dialogue», – Ilyas Kemaloglu, political analyst with Marmara University, says. Haberturk Media Holding observer Cetiner Cetin argues that American troops’ “flight” from Afghanistan and their gradual departure from other regions is creating a new geopolitical reality, which means that “Turkey might continue to distance itself from NATO in order to find itself among top players within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”.
While economic ties between Russia and Turkey are mostly problem-free, the political relations are often an issue. However, every time they meet, Putin and Erdogan manage not only to “quell” conflict, but to make a way for cooperation. The reason is that the two countries, despite their tactical differences, share the strategic goals: diktat of the West is unacceptable, the leading role in the East should belong to regional powers. As long as we share these goals, a Russia-Turkey alliance will be beneficial for both parties.
From our partner International Affairs
The 30th Anniversary of the Renewal of Diplomatic Relations Between Russia and Israel
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey V. Lavrov’s article for the Israeli Newspaper “Yedioth Ahronoth” dedicated to the 30th Anniversary of the Renewal of Diplomatic Relations Between Russia and Israel, October 15, 2021.
On October 18, Russia and Israel celebrate the 30th anniversary of the renewal of full-fledged diplomatic relations – the beginning of a new era of common history.
Turning to the pages of the past, let me recall that the USSR was the first country to recognize de jure the State of Israel back in May 1948. Of course, there were ups and downs in the chronicle of our relationship. Today, it could be assessed with confidence that Russian-Israeli mutually beneficial cooperation has stood the test of time and continues to actively develop in all directions.
Its foundation is formed by an intensive political dialogue, foremost – at the highest level. Inter-parliamentary contacts are progressing, bolstered by Friendship Groups established in the legislative bodies of our countries. Inter-ministerial communications are carried out on a regular basis.
Over the past decades, a solid experience of diversified cooperation has been accumulated in such spheres as economics, science and technology, healthcare and education. More than twenty acting intergovernmental agreements reflect the richness of the bilateral agenda.
Our mutual practical cooperation has significant potential. A number of joint projects are being successfully implemented. Many initiatives have received the support of the President of the Russian Federation and the Prime Minister of the State of Israel. The interest of Israeli business circles in entering the Russian market continues to grow. Despite the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, by the end of 2020 trade between Russia and Israel decreased by only 3.9%, and in January-July this year it increased by 51.8% over the previous year’s period. The key coordinating mission in these common efforts is fulfilled by the Joint Russian-Israeli Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation, founded in 1994. We are interested in the early resumption of its work in full.
A special role in strengthening the unifying baselines of our relations as well as ensuring their stability and continuity belongs to humanitarian contacts. We appreciate the high level of mutual understanding between the peoples of Russia and Israel, connected by a common historical memory and convergence of cultures. It is encouraging that this thread, which has no geographic boundaries, is only getting stronger in course of time.
There are millions of Russian-speaking compatriots living in Israel, including descendants both from the former Republics of the USSR and from the Russian Federation. Veterans of the Great Patriotic War, survivors of the siege, former prisoners of concentration camps are among them. The fate of these people is of major interest to us.
Most vigorous rejection of the attempts of historical revisionism, combatting the distortion of the genesis, course and generally recognized international legal outcomes of the World War II have always united Russia and Israel. We will continue to coordinate our efforts, and specifically at the UN, to counter this shameful phenomenon.
While in some countries of Central and Eastern Europe Nazi henchmen are being brought to the level of national heroes and neo-Nazi tendencies are being revived, the memory of the decisive contribution of the heroic soldiers of the Red Army to the Victory over Nazism, the saving of Jews and other peoples from extermination, the liberation of the world from the horrors of the Holocaust is sacred in Israel. We see how Israeli colleagues – at the state and public levels – encourage the activities of the veterans and compatriots movements, conduct active work to educate the younger generation.
It is difficult to overestimate the significance of the law on Celebrating the Victory Day over Nazi Germany on May 9, approved by the Israeli parliament in 2017. It is particularly telling that on the 76th anniversary of the Great Victory, celebrated this year, festive events and commemorative parades along with the Immortal Regiment march were held in more than 45 Israeli cities. Thousands of Israelis of all ages as well as officials participated. This scale speaks for itself.
Cooperation in the field of education and science – whether through student and academic exchanges or joint scientific research continues to move forward. Every year, students from Israel get an opportunity to receive higher education in Russian universities. All of them are sincerely welcome there.
We hope that it will be possible to restore mutual tourist flows as soon as the sanitary and epidemiological situation improves. Russia is traditionally one of the top three countries in terms of the number of visitors to Israel.
The Russian-Israeli dialogue is vigorously advancing through the foreign ministries. It is obvious that without constructive interaction of diplomats it is impossible to solve a number of international and regional problems that are of paramount importance both for ensuring the prosperous future of the peoples of Russia and Israel just as for strengthening international and regional security and stability. From this perspective, diversified contacts between the Security Councils and the defense ministries of our countries have also proven themselves well. On a regular basis it allows us to compare approaches and take into account each other’s legitimate interests.
Russia is pursuing an independent multi-vector foreign policy, contemplating pragmatism, the search for compromises and the observance of balances of interests. Creation of the most favorable external conditions for our internal socio-economic development remains its backbone. We have no ideological likes and dislikes, or any taboos in relations with our foreign partners, therefore we can play an active role in the international arena and specifically through mediation in the settlement of conflicts.
We are interested in continuing consultations with our Israeli partners on security and stability issues in the Middle East. We always draw attention to the fact that comprehensive solutions to the problems of the region must necessarily take into account the security interests of Israel. This is a matter of principle.
At the same time, we are convinced that there is no alternative to the two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a generally recognized international legal basis. We strongly support direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. A comprehensive solution to all issues of the final status is possible only through it. We are ready to work with Israeli colleagues, including multilateral formats, primarily in the context of the renewal of work of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators in close cooperation with representatives of the Arab League.
I am convinced: it is in the common interest to maintain the momentum. Ahead of us are new milestones and additional opportunities not only to continue, but also to enrich the positive experience of multifaceted cooperation for the benefit of our states and peoples, in the interests of peace and stability.
Source: Minister of Foreign Affairs
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