GCC Press Review 28 Mar 2019

Front Page Headlines

Politis

Parties are looking for new voters

Mass registrations of unspecified party affiliation. It seems awareness campaigns for participation in the Euro-elections are paying off. All camps gamble on new voters in hope of garnering their support.

  • TC properties of many tiers: (Interior Minister Constantinos) Petrides is asking for explanations
  • Turkey: A race for survival through municipal elections

Phileleftheros

Buses hanging by a thread

Uncertainty over Limassol, Nicosia, Larnaca (buses). They are suffocating, they say. Obligations have piled up, their unobstructed operation is on the line.

  • He is asking if it is 220,000 or 350,000: Akinci doesn’t know the population number of the occupied areas
  • Mass violations: They escalate tension ahead of elections
  • Discussion on Trump-Anastasiades meeting

Haravgi

Enough with the mockery by the government

Thousands of citizens, women and men, young and old, were present yesterday in the grand protest outside the Presidential Palace, expressing rage and indignation for the expedited dissolution of the Co-op bank, demanding the exemplary punishment of those guilty. They also expressed the intention to revive the Cooperative movement.

  • Akinci is asking for a census and a new ‘law’ on ‘citizenship’ matters
  •  Restoration works in six cemeteries in the free and occupied areas

Cyprus Mail

16 years jail for child abductions

Abduction and drugging of school boys for ransom was a ‘heinous’ crime

  • From 220,000 to 800,000 – just how many live in north?

Alithia

Weird games on the population of the occupied areas

(Turkish Cypriot teachers’ union) KTÖS: “What is the population of the TRNC? The decision is yours!” The ‘interior minister’ speaks of 374,299 persons, Mustafa Akinci declares ignorance and says he was told it was 220,000 for the 2015-2016 period, which he had submitted at the talks, while recalling that the ‘finance ministry’ had spoken of 800,000. “I want to know which is true,” says the TC leader.

  • UNFICYP: 47 areas are dangerous due to mines or war explosives
  • The standstill remains, (GC negotiator Andreas) Mavroyiannis goes – The absence of visible developments on the Cyprob leaves us without a negotiator. He takes over as the Republic of Cyprus’ Permanent Representative at the UN.

Main News

Bewilderment over actual population number in north

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Phileleftheros
Migration & Citizenship, Negotiations Process

OVERVIEW

The debate in the north on the actual population number features in most papers.

Under the headline ‘Utter confusion over population in the north’, the Cyprus Mail said that TC leader Mustafa Akinci, who earlier this month called for a census in the north, was quoted on Wednesday saying it was time to find out how many people actually live there following new and apparently confusing statistics from the ‘interior minister’.

Akinci said that during previous rounds of Cyprus negotiations he had been given a figure of 220,000, which was recorded as being the official number for the purposes of a federal solution. Of that number, 190,000 were in the country and 30,000 abroad. Now, the TC leader said, ‘interior minister’ Aysegul Baybars announced, only some three years later, that the population of the north was in fact 350,000, a figure which Akinci questioned, the daily reported.

Akinci also said that earlier in the week the assembly heard there were 252,000 in the north, while now the number 350,000 was given as a total. If this number is correct, he said, there are around 100,000 ‘TRNC citizens’ who live abroad. The TC leader wondered if the number, which was 30,000 three-and-a-half years ago, really reached 100,000. If the number which was 220,000 became 350,000, how did this difference come about? he asked.

Akinci also asked which was the correct number, the 220,000 or the 350,000, adding that with the addition of the persons who are in the north with a permit, it is said that the number is 374,000. The ‘finance minister’, on the other hand, said the population was 800,000. That is a difference of more than 400,000, Akinci said, asking whether more than 400,000 persons live in the north without a permit.

According to the Cyprus Mail, Akinci referred to a murder two days ago, suggesting the perpetrators had been third country nationals. “Even when you go to any coffee shop, people from third countries, not from Turkey, serve there now. Do not perceive this as racism, but this community should know who, how and why many people live here,” the Cyprus Mail reported him saying.

Baybars said on Tuesday that according to ‘official’ data, the number of ‘TRNC citizens’ was 252,497 and that if the 121,802 having a ‘valid residence permit’ was added, the total population reached 374,299. She said there had been no policy regarding the population in the north for 44 years, that the census in 2011 was only a snapshot of the population on that day, and that from 2009 until now, “no one thought of registering the students”.  She said since the current ‘government’ introduced such a policy, almost 60,000 third country nationals had registered as foreign students.

Baybars also said past ‘governments and ‘interior ministers’ had not counted people older than 60. She did not explain why, Cyprus Mail said.

Phileleftheros said that Akinci is paying the price since his refusal to accept a proper population census in the occupied areas led to him being exposed as he admitted publicly he did not know the population number and is asking to know whether the right number is 220,000 or 350,000.

The population composition in the north is an aspect concerning also the talks on the Cyprus problem which has been repeatedly discussed in the past, the daily said. It added that the GC side had put forth the census issue several times also as a confidence-building measure and to have a clear picture as to the population in the occupied areas. The GC side had proposed a census in the north under international supervision.

Nicos Anastasiades and Akinci had agreed that the population ratio would be 4:1, and within the framework the TC leader had reassured the GC side that the population in the north did not exceed 220,000 and that number ought to be taken into account, Phileleftheros reported. Despite that, Akinci used to say, in a bid to put pressure that these numbers could change and that he could not commit.

Today, Akinci, after hearing the population is 350,000 was forced to publicly ask for the actual number, the daily said.

Alithia said that weird games are going on the north as to the population number. The daily said that there a huge question marks around the actual number as contradicting data are being given by the ‘government’ and other officials, causing Akinci himself to express bewilderment.

The Turkish Cypriot teachers’ union KTOS also questioned the data given by Baybars, arguing that the ‘government’ decided to elevate numbers to those of the GCs by systematically granting citizenships, that way upsetting the demographic structure of the island, the daily reports.

The paper reported that KTOS head Sener Elcil spoke in June 2018 of a systematic population transfer from Turkey, maintaining that no official knew the actual population number.

KEY ACTORS
Akinci
>>
Stresses the need to know the exact population number in the north.


Christodoulides satisfied with US contacts

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Phileleftheros, Politis
Regional/International Relations, Negotiations Process, External Security

OVERVIEW

Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides concluded on Wednesday his three-day visit to Washington having discussed matters such as the arms embargo against Cyprus put in place by the US in 1987, security and energy, and the Cyprus issue in meetings with Senator Bob Menendez and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale.

Menendez, who serves as Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said after the meeting that the US is getting even closer to lifting the arms embargo. To the credit of the Cypriot government, Menendez said, “they have taken a series of actions that I think makes that move possible.”

He added that the US was “enthused about the role Cyprus is continuously taking in exercising leadership in the region.” He also expressed optimism about the hydrocarbon exploration and the ability of Cyprus to play a major role in terms of energy and energy security, not just for the region, but potentially for Europe.

Menendez said the Cypriot government had many roles to play in the regional cooperation and in Eastern Mediterranean strategy and expressed hope to memorialise some of that in legislation.

Cyprus Mail reported that a State Department press release said that Undersecretary Hale met with Christodoulides to discuss recent progress in the US-Cyprus security relationship. “They reaffirmed commitment to strengthen cooperation across a range of shared interests, including in combatting terrorism, countering malign influence, enhancing maritime and border security, and promoting peace, stability, security, and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean region,” the press release said.

Christodoulides said there was a clear intention in the immediate future to take specific actions, which would allow further enhancing of relations between the US and Cyprus but “also in general through the recognition of the role of the Republic in the Eastern Mediterranean,” the Cyprus Mail reported.

According to Phileleftheros, Christodoulides assessed positively his contacts at the US capital and said that three important issues arise.

The first is the recognition by the US that regional co-operation through tripartite partnerships between Cyprus and Greece with Israel, Jordan and Egypt strengthen stability and security in the region. The US, he said, backs the idea of a regional organisation for security and cooperation.

As part of US-Cyprus bilateral relations, the need has been discussed on a meeting between Trump and Anastasiades.

The third issue is the Cyprus problem, he said, and Turkey’s role in developments in the region at a time when Turkey-US relations are not at their best.

The minister said the US shares the same opinion as the government on the prompt resumption of talks where things left off in Crans-Montana, Phileleftheros reports.

In another article, Phileleftheros reports that AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou has asked to be briefed by Christodoulides on his trip to Washington and the possibility of turning Cyprus into a regional centre for peace and security.

Kyprianou, during a visit in Limassol, also asked whether Cyprus ought to celebrate the possibility of the lifting of the US arms embargo and wondered what it will have to give in exchange for that.

He said that these consultations were outside the EU framework and reiterated concerns of Cyprus, instead of being turned into a bridge for peace in the region, to become a frontline outpost for the US or NATO.

What ought to be promoted, he said, is a solution to the Cyprus problem so that the country could be turned into a factor of stability and peace in the region. Solving the Cyprus problem would allow the country to utilise its natural wealth in cooperation with neighbouring countries and the EU and promote the interests of the Republic, the daily reported.

KEY ACTORS
Menendez (US)

>> The US is getting even closer to lifting the arms embargo, as the Cypriot government has taken a series of actions that makes this possible.
>> The Cypriot government has many roles to play in regional cooperation and in the East Med  strategy. Hopes Cyprus and US memorialise some of that in legislation.
>> Cyprus has the ability to play a major role in terms of energy and energy security in the region, potentially also for Europe.

Christodoulides
>> Expressed intention for specific actions in the immediate future to allow further enhancing of relations between the US and Cyprus.
>> There is need for a meeting between Trump and Anastasiades to discuss bilateral relations.
>> The government wants prompt resumption of talks where things left off in Crans-Montana.

Kyprianou (AKEL)
>> Concerned about a possible quid pro quo situation over the lifting of US arms embargo.
>>
Concerned about Cyprus ending up as a frontline outpost for US or NATO.
>> Solving the Cyprob would turn the island into a factor of peace and stability and peace in the region and allow utilisation of the island’s natural wealth.


Interior minister calls meeting on mess in TC properties

Politis
Property, Migration & Citizenship

OVERVIEW

Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides is to preside over a meeting on April 4 in which all district administrations and the service for the management of TC properties are to attend to discuss delays observed in the announcement of contracts on the use of TC properties for business purposes. This was part of a policy announced in September 2017 for transparency reasons but so far, very few such contracts have been made public.

There were thoughts for the same to apply for TC properties used as residences but it was deemed that it would constitute a breach of the law on personal data.

While the interior ministry has launched efforts to update the list on available TC properties and invited expression of interest by beneficiaries who are refugees, there is a different response time from each district administration, Politis reports.

According to the daily, the Limassol and Larnaca district administrations have each announced three available properties that can be used either as businesses, residences or for agricultural purposes, while Nicosia is still going through applications for properties announced last May.

Citing sources, the daily said the reason for that is understaffing at the Nicosia district administration’s department that deals with TC properties but this does not justify failure to set up a committee to go through these applications. This is often due to sick leaves, the daily reported, citing sources.

The interior ministry is mainly concerned about the even slower pace of the announcement of contracts for the use of TC property for business purposes, the daily reports.

The daily also reports on an “unprecedented case” concerning a TC couple and their four children who have been living in the free areas the past decade and who refuse to leave the house they live in, in Larnaca, despite the fact the government is giving them another one to live in. The wife is a refugee from Kotsiatis who fled the village in 1963.

According to Politis, the interior ministry has been trying since last November to get the six-member family to move out of that house, a TC property in which they settled on their own and used a generator to produce electricity, as it wants to house another family there.

The last attempt to evict them was two days ago, the daily said, but it was a failed one due to the strong resistance of the family. The daily said that they were given another house to move in but refuse, claiming it has only two bedrooms, while the interior ministry said it actually has three bedrooms.

The interior ministry, which came under fire on social media over the attempted eviction, said that it had repeatedly asked the family in question to move as the house would be given to another family with serious socio-economic problems that followed all legal procedures to acquire housing assistance.

The social welfare office also intervened but their suggestions for temporary housing in a hotel or another residence until a permanent solution was found, was turned down by the TC family, the daily reported.

Sources told Politis that the family is cautious of suggestions by the state services as the houses showed to them are either in a wretched condition or too small for six members.


GC side expects cooperation on demining CBM

Alithia, Phileleftheros
CBMs

OVERVIEW

Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said on Wednesday that consultations are under way regarding the demining of nine areas as per the confidence-building measure agreed between the two leaders on February 26.

The GC side, he said, expects the implementation of this CBM that concerns nine areas on both sides of the island that could be dangerous.

Prodromou told the Cyprus News Agency that consultations with regard to the implementation of this particular CBM are ongoing, and expressed hope that there will be cooperation.
  
He said the CBM was a positive development, adding however that as long as there are occupation troops in Cyprus, complete normalisation is not feasible.

Handling such issues is not easy as, even if there is good will on behalf of the other side, most often, the issue stumbles due to the presence of the Turkish army.

According to UNFICYP data, there are 47 suspected hazardous areas in Cyprus that may be contaminated with mines or explosive remnants of war, amounting to approximately 1.7 million square meters of land, both dailies report.

In a message on the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on all states to provide political and financial support for mine action.
  
Referring to April 4, Prodromou said that the International Day is particularly relevant for the Republic of Cyprus and its efforts to completely eradicate mines. Already in the GC side the anti-personnel mines –the worst form of mines – have been removed, he said.

KEY ACTORS
Prodromou

>> The GC side expects the implementation of the CBM on demining of nine areas although it could be tricky in the north due to the presence of the Turkish army.
>> As long as there are occupation troops in Cyprus there will not be complete normalisation.


GC and TC parties call for resumption of talks

Alithia, Haravgi, Phileleftheros
Negotiations Process, CBMs

OVERVIEW

GC and TC parties called on the two leaders on Wednesday to resume negotiations in a result-oriented manner, and to work towards the implementation of mutually agreed CBMs.
Following their regular meeting at the Ledra Palace, under the auspices of the Slovak embassy in Cyprus, the leaders and the representatives of GC and TC parties said in a joint statement that they expressed opinions on the issue proposed by the hosting party, the New Cyprus Party/YKP which was “New Efforts for Cyprus question.”

The statement said that they agreed to call on the leaders “to resume the negotiation process with a result oriented manner and in parallel to work towards the implementation of mutually agreed confidence-building measures to help build trust and cooperation between the two sides and agree on new effective and creative ideas.


Kizilyurek: TC seats in European Parliament will stand after solution

Phileleftheros
EU Matters, Negotiations Process

OVERVIEW

Phileleftheros reported that it contacted AKEL’s MEP candidate Niyazi Kizilyurek seeking clarifications on positions stated in his meetings in the north and on his website and more specifically on the issue of the two TC seats in the European Parliament.

The TC academic told the daily that the matter is directly linked with the solution of the Cyprus problem.

Kizilyurek said that TCs are European citizens and have every right to participate in the Euro-elections, the daily reported.

As for the two TC seats, this matter is linked with the solution, as it not written anywhere that TCs will have two seats prior to the solution, he said, according to Phileleftheros.

He said he has often explained that after the solution it is not the TCs who will have two seats and the GCs four seats, but each constituent state respectively.

The Greek state and the Turkish state will each have their seats and every European citizen living in these states will have the right to claim one of them, Kizilyurek said. On the debate that Turkish ought to be included in the official EU languages, Kizilyurek said that since it is one of the two official languages of the Republic of Cyprus, it ought to find its place within the EU, Phileleftheros reports.


Cultural Heritage Technical Committee to restore cemeteries on both sides

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Politis
CBMs

OVERVIEW

The Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage announced on Wednesday that it would undertake as pilot projects the rehabilitation of six cemeteries across the island, as part of confidence-building measures (CBMs) between the TC and GC communities.

The move is a response to requests by both communities for the inclusion of cemeteries in the projects of the Committee. In view of the provision of €70,000 worth of funding from the EU, six cemeteries located in the villages of Lefkonoiko/ Gecitkale, Koflnou/Kofiinye, Gypsou/Akova, Kalo Chorio/ Vuda, Karavas/Alsancak, Mandria/Mandirga will be rehabilitated.

Works will include cleaning, fencing, and planting of trees, the Committee said, noting that there was a possibility that additional cemeteries would also be supported in the future.

Takis Hadjidemetriou, GC Representative of the Committee said that it is high time the issue of the cemeteries across the island was addressed. The Committee, he said, would do their best to ensure that this is done in a respectful and dignified manner.

Ali Tuncay, TC Representative of Committee, said that it was an honour to be entrusted with this important undertaking and thanked the European Union for their support.

Through the cemeteries project we will not only rehabilitate them but we will also deal with a humanitarian issue that will also help us to build the atmosphere of trust and cooperation between the TCs and GCs, he said.

The clean-up and rehabilitation of the six cemeteries will be conducted with the support of the United Nations Development Programme.


GC/TC pupils explore old Nicosia in new Education project

Alithia, Cyprus Mail
CBMs

OVERVIEW

In total 52 GC and TC pupils aged between 14 and 15 participated in a study visit in Nicosia on Wednesday that took place across the buffer zone of the walled city, an initiative of the Bicommunal Technical Committee on Education.

The committee’s new initiative concerns islandwide study visits with the first one – ‘Learning from Nicosia’ – taking place across the buffer zone in Nicosia walled city.

The pupils had the opportunity to explore elements of the multi-cultural character of the city. The pilot phase will continue until the end of the 2018-2019 school year and will include study visits to other cities.

The event was attended by the co-chairs of the Committee, Dr Meltem Onurkan Samani and Dr Michalinos Zembylas, along with 10 teachers and a representative of the UN good offices mission in Cyprus.

Zembylas told the Cyprus News Agency that the aim of the study visit was to give the opportunity to GC and TC pupils to get to know the multicultural character of the old town of Nicosia on both sides of the divide.

He said they are constantly looking into new ideas that will bring together pupils and teachers, or will create opportunities to promote peace, anti-racism and human rights through education, in consistency with their mandate.