Russia: Lavrov to Hold Talks with John Kerry Near Black Sea

US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Moscow to engage in talks with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The two statesmen are expected to broach not only the subject of Ukraine, but also those of Western sanctions, regional cooperation and extremism. The visit has predictably drawn a healthy amount of attention in both countries’ media, though American and Russia foreign ministries appear to be downplaying issues of controversies in US-Russian relations.

The US State Department has already gone as far as to intimate that the visit has been undertaken in order to maintain “open lines of communication” between Russia and the US and to ensure that US policy positions are being presented clearly to Moscow. The two sides are also expected to discuss elements of the Iranian nuclear deal, namely Russia’s role as potential facilitator, as well as the ongoing conflict in Syria. Although suggested as a potential agenda item, neither side has acknowledged whether or not the potential provision of lethal aid to Ukrainian rebels will be discussed during the meetings.

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News Briefs:

  • Turkmenistan’s energy ministry announced a planned increase in natural gas production in 2015. Of the expected 83.8 billion cubic meters to be delivered in 2015, 48 billion of those are expected to be sent abroad via pipelines to Turkmenistan’s principal energy partners: China, Russia and Iran. The expected boost will be made possible by the completion of Line D, the fourth pipeline destined for Chinese markets. The construction of the Trans-Caspian, though still fraught with problems and potential complications, is a possible contributor to increased production as well.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping is rounding out a trip of the former Soviet Union with a visit to Minsk, Belarus. The purpose of the visit parallels those of Xi’s visits to Russia and Kazakhstan and will consist of high-level visits between Xi and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, among other officials. Already, a report by Stratfor indicates that China will allocate $7 billion in credit to the Belarusian business sector.
  • Officials from Russia’s Gazprom and China’s CNPC convened earlier this week to sign agreements that govern the former’s supply of natural gas to Chinese markets. The deal, while already tentatively agreed upon by the two countries’ respective presidents, had yet to be finalized and technical details remained unresolved. The new natural gas pipeline will see the delivery of Russian gas from Western Siberia to northeastern China.
  • A new piece in The Diplomat takes a look at the disparity present in reports of the total number of Central Asians fighting in Middle Eastern conflict zones. Numbers published by The Guardian, for instance, differ widely from those furnished by The International Crisis Group in reports published around the same time. According to the author of the article, the large disparity is owed to the unreliable nature of primary sources in Syria and Iraq, and that by the time an estimate arrives to a source such as The Guardian, it has been communicated through and likely embellished by a number of other messengers. The consensus message is that Central Asians are fighting in these areas of the world, largely in support of extremist groups, although the final number is unknown.
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