Press review: Palestinian state gaining momentum and British PM sets new election

MOSCOW:  Three more European countries have recognized Palestine; the British prime minister has announced a general election for July 4; an...


MOSCOW:  Three more European countries have recognized Palestine; the British prime minister has announced a general election for July 4; and Japan could intervene in a potential armed conflict over Taiwan.These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.

Izvestia: What's next now that Norway, Spain, Ireland have recognized Palestine

Israel will not give in to pressure from Norway, Spain and Ireland following their move to recognize the Palestinian state and will continue its campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Dmitry Gendelman, an advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Izvestia. The move by Oslo, Madrid and Dublin enhances the status of the Palestinian national movement but it’s not clear how the decision should be implemented, experts said.

Norway, Spain and Ireland aren’t the first European countries to recognize Palestine as a state. Iceland did so in 2011, followed by Sweden in 2014. And the Eastern European countries that used to be part of the Socialist bloc made the move back in 1988. These include Serbia, Albania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. As the successor of the Soviet Union, Russia also recognizes Palestine as a sovereign state.

The three countries’ decision to recognize Palestine is not simply about implementing the UN resolution on the creation of two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian. This is rather a tribute to the leftist liberal ideals that currently permeate the public consciousness in the West, Sergey Demidenko, associate professor at the Institute for Social Sciences of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, pointed out. "The logic is the same as in the BLM movement, with the same intellectual environment influencing the ruling class, which has to go with the flow. Following this logic, the Palestinians are an oppressed minority that needs protection," the expert explained.

Meanwhile, it’s absolutely unclear what practical meaning the decision will have, Demidenko went on to say. No one knows how to resolve the issue of the Palestinian state’s borders, what agencies will ensure its security or who will run the state.

However, as far as international law goes, the recognition gives a big boost to Palestinian national organizations, primarily the Palestinian National Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, Boris Dolgov, a leading researcher with the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, noted.

Demidenko believes that other European countries may also follow suit in recognizing Palestine. But these decisions will not be made abruptly, keeping with the United States’ Middle East policy. Experts agree that Washington can hardly be expected to make policy shifts. US President Joe Biden confirmed on May 22 that he objects to other unilaterally recognizing Palestine. Besides, Israel may show quite a tough reaction. However, experts don’t expect the Jewish state to start severing their diplomatic relations with countries.

Vedomosti: British PM announces general election for July 4

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that the country will hold its next general election for the House of Commons (the lower chamber of parliament) on July 4. In this regard, he requested that King Charles dissolve parliament, which will happen on May 30, Vedomosti writes.

According to a recent Ipsos poll conducted in April, the approval rating of the ruling Conservatives has fallen to 19%, its lowest level since 1978, while the popularity of their main opponents, the Laborists, rose to 44%. Prime Minister Sunak’s personal approval rating reached a low point in the spring of 2024, says Ipsos.

The main reason behind the early election announcement is because Sunak is facing the threat of a no confidence vote from the opposition Tories in the House of Commons following local elections where the Conservatives lost half of their seats, Sergey Shein, a researcher with the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics, pointed out. According to him, British political society has already discussed the need for the Conservative Party to change its leader in order to turn things around. It looks like the early election option has been chosen.

"Sunak’s economic policy is unlikely to yield significant results and the migration deal with Rwanda is unlikely to have an effect before the end of the year. So there’s no sense in waiting around, an election needs to be held now," the analyst said. After the election, the conservative faction may be reduced by three and a half times, Shein said. "It will take a miracle for the Conservatives to win: something like a scandal among the Laborists, particularly related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, on which the party is divided," Shein concluded.

The Conservatives are expected to lose the majority in parliament, Yelena Kharitonova, senior researcher with the Center for European Studies at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, noted. "People have grown tired of the prolonged Tory rule and are dissatisfied with the government, so the party is headed downhill and good economic data is unlikely to give the Tories any kind of boost," the expert emphasized.

Izvestia: Could Japan intervene in potential armed conflict around Taiwan?

Tokyo plans to start building an as yet undetermined number of shelters on the Sakishima Islands, an official at the Japanese embassy in Russia told Izvestia. The islands are located close to Taiwan and the Japanese authorities are worried about the fate of local residents in case of an armed conflict around the island that could potentially escalate into a confrontation between China and the US.

Apart from the underground shelters, Japanese military bases are also being set up on the Sakishima Islands. "The Japanese have launched a program to develop missile technology. They are developing their own missiles with a range of over 1,000 kilometers and are also purchasing Tomahawk missiles from the US for the near future. Undoubtedly, all this is directed against China. For them, China and North Korea are the main threats. So if the missiles are technically capable of reaching China and hitting some of its strategic military facilities, I don’t think that Japan will stop," Dmitry Streltsov, head of the Asian Studies Department at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations Professor, explained.

Experts widely believe that Beijing will soon take action to reunite Taiwan with mainland China, attacking US troops in the process. The Sakishima Islands are part of the Okinawa Prefecture, which hosts 32 US military sites, including the Kadena Air Base, the largest one the Americans have in the Asia-Pacific region. The situation is complicated by the fact that in 2015, Japan passed a law providing for the overseas deployment of troops under certain conditions. The condition that was on everyone’s lips concerned an attack on Japan’s close ally. In this way, the US could drag Tokyo into its armed conflicts, which seems very likely in the current situation.

"Tokyo’s official interpretation of collective self-defense suggests that the interests of Japan or its citizens must be affected; it’s not just defense based on allied obligations," Streltsov emphasized.

The expert points out that the Japanese government will look at things on a case-by-case basis and take its own interests into account when making decisions.

Media: Russian businesses expanding presence in Middle East

Russian companies are flocking overseas, including to Bahrain, which is emerging as a key destination in the Middle East, with the king of Bahrain’s visit to Russia underscoring this trend, Izvestia notes.

Russian companies are opening their offices in Bahrain amid favorable conditions in the country, where the corporate income tax rate is zero, Georgy Kapanadze, a member of Business Russia General Council and Geo Organics director general, said. Besides, the country is part of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) along with about two dozen other nations. Kapanadze believes that Bahrain is the gateway to the macro-region’s market.

The volume of Russia-Bahrain trade is not that high at the moment but the two countries are working to create conditions and mechanisms to boost economic ties, Askhab Indarbayev from the Center for Strategic Research stressed. According to him, "the prospects for cooperation look particularly promising in the fields of tourism, real estate and pharmaceuticals, as well as in shipments of food, construction materials, medical equipment and steel products."

Besides, the offshore banking sector is well-developed in Bahrain, which can ease export and import payments for Russia in a situation where many banks from friendly countries are wary of secondary sanctions, Natalya Milchakova, lead analyst at Freedom Finance Global, said.

"Bahrain can be our partner in the energy, agricultural, digital, financial and space industries. The country is interested in participating in BRICS projects. Bahrain can also join transport corridors such as the North-South one," Ibragim Ibragimov, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told Vedomosti.

After Moscow, the king of Bahrain will travel to Beijing for the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum. He is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the event. The monarch’s visits to Moscow and Beijing highlight the country’s multi-sided foreign policy, Russian International Affairs Council expert Kirill Semenov pointed out. "Russia and China have common positions, particularly on creating new regional security architecture without the US. Beijing and Moscow could also facilitate the Gulf nations’ dialogue with Iran," the expert added.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: EU remains cautious about Russian gas bans

France, Belgium and Germany have asked the European Commission to assess the possible consequences of a ban on the transshipment of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) at EU ports and its re-export to other countries. The ban is part of the European Union’s 14th package of sanctions on Moscow, which is currently under discussion, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes, citing Western media outlets.

The European Commission will weigh whether the ban will hit the Russian economy harder than the European one, or if it will be the other way around.

Maria Belova, research director at the Implementa company, points out that the re-export ban will increase the cost of shipping LNG, while reducing the load of Russia’s Arctic plants. However, there is a solution to the problem, which includes the board-to-board transshipment of Russian LNG near the city of Murmansk and year-round eastward deliveries of LNG along the Northern Sea Route.

According to Belova, this measure will, on the one hand, somewhat complicate the operation of Russian plants, but on the other, it will drive companies to search for alternative solutions.

As for Europe, the transshipment ban will have consequences affecting not only energy security but also trade. Alexey Grivach, deputy head of the National Energy Security Fund, notes that the countries involved in the Russian LNG trade are unwilling to undermine their own business and energy security. Even though it’s May and Europe’s gas storage sites are full, gas prices in hubs are almost twice as high compared to the average level of the past decade.

Besides, the transshipment ban will increase the actual volumes of physical swap, with more Russian LNG supplied to European terminals and the European market, while other suppliers will send LNG to Asia. Those who initiate sanctions should find this strange, the expert explained.


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Local Glob: Press review: Palestinian state gaining momentum and British PM sets new election
Press review: Palestinian state gaining momentum and British PM sets new election
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