GCC Press Review 11 Apr 2019

Front Page Headlines

Politis

Dramatic admission by Akinci regarding the population

Another thorn in the rocky road towards a resumption of the talks. Turkey applies suffocating pressure on Akinci to mass “naturalise” settlers. A negative change to facts on the ground in case of a new round of negotiations.

  • Brussels: A thriller of a session on Brexit
  • Israel: Netanyahu headed for a new term
  • USA-Turkey: S-400 delivery possibly fast-tracked

Phileleftheros

Common front has broken up

The opposition has split and cannot even agree on a resolution on Cooperative Movement. AKEL, DIKO and EDEK in one “camp”, Greens and Citizens Alliance (Symmachia) in the other.

  • Netanyahu the winner heads for fifth term: But tied up in scandals
  • Leaders’ summit with Greece and Lebanon
  • Turkish provocations under the USA’s microscope
  • (Guterres) Keeps the initiative alive
  • The only accusation: Terrorist because he’s a member of PKK

Haravgi

Mirrors and… guns for the natives

They promote Cyprus’ entry into NATO’s (Partnership for Peace) programme. Militarisation of USA-Cyprus relations. They want to cut off Russia from the Eastern Mediterranean.

  • They move away from the terms of reference

Cyprus Mail

US bill submitted to end arms embargo

Parties hail bill to end US arms ban which will also pressure Turkey and Russia.

  • US-Turkey row heats up over Russian missiles

Alithia

With eyes turned to New York

Anxiousness over the report Antonio Guterres will be submitting to the SC on Monday

  • Cyprus-Greece-Lebanon: First leaders’ summit in Nicosia within the year
  • Turkey: Threatens to buy more S-400 as well as Russian planes
  • Draft law at the Senate: End of the arms embargo approaching
  • Israel: Our friend Benjamin made it after all

Main News

Conflicting reports on UNSG’s intentions

Alithia, Haravgi, Phileleftheros, Politis
Negotiation Process

OVERVIEW

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will not call an end to the mission he set Jane Holl Lute to assist the sides to come up with joint terms of reference for a future resumption of talks, reports Phileleftheros, citing information from Nicosia. The government, it is reported, does not seem to be concerned about the report that Guterres will submit to the Security Council on Monday, despite the fact that little progress has been made during Lute’s four visits.

According to Phileleftheros, the government’s reading of the situation is that this doesn’t mean the UNSG will continue his effort indefinitely if there doesn’t seem to be the prospect of progress. The moment when the effort ends has not yet arrived, the same sources tell the newspaper. The newspaper also adds that the conflict between the leaders and the Turkish side’s attempt to “destroy the Guterres Framework” has ended up highlighting arguments, such as the ones used by Kudret Ozersay, that there’s no common ground between the sides.

Alithia, however, writes that there is a lot of concern over the UNSG’s upcoming report, citing information that the UNSG intends to put an end to Lute’s mission and to his mission in Cyprus, putting himself at the disposal of the sides should they want to resume the effort. The only question, Alithia adds, is whether this will happen now or during the discussion for the renewal of UNFICYP’s mandate.


Akinci’s indirect warning on population

Politis, Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Phileleftheros
Negotiations Process, Migration & Citizenship, Governance & Power Sharing

OVERVIEW

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci issued a statement on Wednesday accusing Anastasiades of having a problematic mentality regarding political equality. While Phileleftheros focuses on Akinci’s statement on political equality, Politis focuses on Akinci’s reply to Anastasiades’ references to the issue of population. If Anastasiades wanted to push a solution forward, Akinci said, he would have done so bearing in mind the population data submitted by the TC side in 2016. “It is not an honest approach to, on the one hand, use up opportunities for a solution so that the status quo continues and, on the other hand, to complain of the results of this. Nothing is static, passing time changes physical and population structures,” he said.

Akinci also replied to Anastasiades’ rhetorical question on where political equality is enforced in the same way in the world, by pointing out that decisions in the EU are taken without taking population into account.

Politis reports that Akinci made a “dramatic admission” regarding the issue of population and that his statement regarding the population of the north is connected to the increase in population since Crans-Montana. The newspaper reminds that during the negotiations it was agreed that the TC side’s population would be 220,000, and that Akinci’s intention was to give “citizenship” to TCs living abroad to reach that number. At the same time, however, the TC side was pressured to grant “citizenship” to Turkish citizens instead. Alithia reports on Akinci’s statements with the title “We have historical responsibility to end the pain”.

In a related note, Alithia reports on the statement by TC interior “minister” Aysegul Baybars that the north is working towards the establishment of an electronic citizenship system in order to better keep track of the population and handle relevant issues. The system will be ready by the end of 2019, Baybars said.

Cyprus Mail reports that “Akinci lashes out at ‘aggressive’ president”, adding in a caption that “Anastasiades is trying to maintain the status quo and then complain about it”.

Alithia also reports on statements by DISY leaders Averof Neophytou, who said on Wednesday that there is no other alternative to the bizonal bicommunal federation. “We have no other path than the resumption of the dialogue,” he said. The newspaper pairs the statement with AKEL’s statement of “anguish”, in which the party accuses the president of destroying the Guterres Framework.

Cyprus Mail also reports that AKEL spokesman Stephanos Stephanou stated on Wednesday that Anastasiades is undermining the credibility of the GC side with ‘new ideas’ that are outside the Guterres Framework. Stephanou added that no one asked Anastasiades to accept the TC perspective on political equality, but that this does not mean that he can table new ideas that “negate existing convergences”.

Phileleftheros also reports that officials from the Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministries will meet on Friday in Athens, according to Turkish state agency Anadolu. The agenda of the meeting will include “bilateral relations, regional and international issues”, although no explicit reference to Cyprus is made in an announcement by the Turkish MFA.

KEY ACTORS
Akinci
>>Anastasiades cannot take action to maintain status quo and complain about it.

AKEL
>> Anastasiades is destroying the Guterres framework with his “new ideas”.


Draft law before US Senate seeks end to arms embargo

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

OVERVIEW

Democratic senator Robert Menendez of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Republican senator Marco Rubio have jointly submitted a draft law regarding “The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019”, according to a CNA report cited by the press.

Cyprus Mail writes that the two senators said in an announcement that the bill would “lift the prohibition on arms sales to the Republic of Cyprus” and “authorise the establishment of a United States – Eastern Mediterranean Energy Centre to facilitate energy cooperation between the US, Israel, Greece and Cyprus”. The bill points out that its aim is to update US strategy in the region especially after the discovery of significant amounts of hydrocarbons. The bill also seeks to impede the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey as long as Ankara proceeds with plans to purchase the S-400 air defence system from Russia, a purchase that would be sanctionable under US law, Cyprus Mail reports.

According to the CNA report, the two senators add in their joint statement that the act “would allow the US to fully support the trilateral partnership of Israel, Greece and Cyprus through energy and defence cooperation initiatives – including by lifting the embargo on arms transfers to the Republic of Cyprus”. According to Cyprus Mail, the bill notes that the direct sale of US arms to the RoC would help reduce the dependence of the government on other countries “including countries that pose challenges to United States interests around the world”. The bill also includes reference to the interest of the US in supporting the UN-facilitated efforts towards a comprehensive solution and for the RoC to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme.

Also the bill provides that the secretary of state will submit a report to the appropriate committee on Russia’s “malign influence in Cyprus, Greece and Israel since January 1, 2017”. The secretary of state will also submit reports listing incidents of violations of the Cypriot EEZ or the sovereign territory of Greece in the Aegean.

Phileleftheros focuses its coverage on the request placed by the Senate to the secretary of state to submit reports on Turkey’s violation of Cypriot and Greek sovereignty, providing details on these requests, but does not mention the call for the report on Russia’s influence. Politis points out that this is an “indication of the intentions of the US to increase relations with Cyprus, Greece and Israel”

Haravgi is highly critical of the development, playing with a historical reference in its front-page headline relating to the mirrors and beads that the conquering Spanish traded with Native Americans in return for their land. The paper writes that Cyprus is being tied to US interests while in return, getting a few ‘reports’. The newspaper adds that the bill includes references regarding money laundering and requests that the secretary of state hand in a report on Russian activities in the area.

Cyprus Mail notes that in 1987 restrictions were placed on the transfer of arms to Cyprus in order to avoid an arms race. However, Turkey circumvented the embargo by placing Turkish troops in the north, which led the RoC to seek weapons from other nations, such as Russia, the newspaper points out.

While the more hardline parties, as Cyprus Mail puts it, hailed the move, DISY leader Averof Neophytou had a more measured response calling the bill a potential “political tool” for a solution to the Cyprus Problem. Neophytou reiterated his position that Cyprus is orientated to the West but added that “it’s not weapons we need”. “With the embargo lifted, will we solve the Cyprus Problem with weapons? These are political tools for the solution of the Cyprus problem and I consider America and Congress as the most important tool tin the direction of a solution”.

DIKO stated that this move would contribute to the “upgrading of the geostrategic importance of Cyprus” in the region, adding that it shows that the RoC “has a comparative advantage”. The government had not commented on the issue on Wednesday, the Cyprus Mail notes.


Critical day in Lebanon for bilateral energy negotiations

Politis
Energy

OVERVIEW

Politis reports that the important discussions regarding energy cooperation were expected to take part on Thursday in Beirut, during the second day of the trilateral meeting between the Foreign Minister and Energy Minister, Nikos Christodoulides and George Lakkotrypis, with their Lebanese and Greek counterparts.

The focus according to the report is on two issues: the ratification by the Lebanese parliament of the EEZ delineation agreement reached between Cyprus and Lebanon in 2007, and the start of negotiations for an agreement on the joint exploitation of any hydrocarbon reserves.

According to the newspaper, it is considered more likely that there will be progress regarding the latter unitization agreement. Christodoulides will also have a meeting with the president of the Lebanese parliament, Politis notes.

Meanwhile, Alithia reports that the three countries will hold their first trilateral leaders’ summit in Nicosia before the end of the year.


Turkey speeds up delivery of S-400 purchase from Russia

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

OVERVIEW

Tayyip Erdogan has stated that the transfer of the S-400 defense system which has been purchased by Russia can be sped up and completed before July, reports Phileleftheros. Erdogan was speaking to journalists on his way back to Turkey from Russia. According to the newspaper, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also reportedly told broadcaster NTV that it is possible the country will purchase a second batch of missiles, or even fighter jets from Russia. Cyprus Mail reports that Cavusoglu pointed out in his statements that if the US is ready to sell, Turkey is ready to buy. “However if the United States doesn’t want to sell, we may buy more S-400s or other systems” he added.

Cyprus Mail also reports on statements by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who told reporters that Russia is looking for opportunities to broaden its military cooperation with Turkey and that this is “an absolutely normal process”.

At the same time, Phileleftheros reports that US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has publicly stated the US will no longer provide F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. Pompeo was responding to questions in Congress from a senator regarding his private conversations with Turkish officials.


EU office set up to handle funds for bicommunal technical committees

Alithia, Cyprus Mail
EU Matters, CBMs

OVERVIEW

GC and TC co-heads of the bicommunal technical committees met on Wednesday with UN special representative Elizabeth Spehar, a representative of the UN in Cyprus dealing with the technical committees, a representative of the European Commission and the head of the office of the UNDP in Cyprus, Tiziana Zennaro, Cyprus Mail reports.

During the meeting in the UN protected area of the Nicosia airport, the heads of the technical committees were informed of the application procedure they will follow to receive funding. One quarter of the sum earmarked by the European Commission (about 1 million euros over two years) will go towards creating an office at the old Nicosia airport that will be responsible for informing and assisting the committees on the online application procedure.

The applications will be examined by a committee which will be composed of a representative of the European Commission, the UNDP, the UN office in Cyprus and the coordinators of the technical committees, Cyprus Mail adds.

Alithia reports that the reasoning behind the new system is to avoid delays and bureaucratic obstacles to the work of the technical committees. The newspaper adds that the projects of the bicommunal committees can still be funded by other sources.


Petrides: Only those breaking law on TC properties need worry

Phileleftheros
Property

OVERVIEW

There is nothing to worry about for anyone that uses TC properties legally, whether it’s displaced persons or the Paphos Municipality, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides told Phileleftheros. Petrides was commenting on the dispute involving the Paphos Mayor Phaidonas Phaidonos and Paphos MPs.

Petrides clarified that there’s nothing to fear as long the TC property is used on the basis of the current law and as long as the terms of the agreement signed with the Guardian of TC properties are respected. He added that any decision to grant usage of TC property is taken according to legal processes, with input of advisory committees in each district where local authorites, parties etc. also participate. Usually the decisions are unanimous, he added.

According to Petrides, the accusations put forward by Phaidonos regarding fake contracts that date to a few days before the invasion have been handed over to the police for further investigation.

In statements on the issue, Phaidonos refers to people that ask for the assistance of parties and politicians, presenting themselves as hunted by the municipality or the Interior Ministry. He says he has been attacked personally with the accusation that “we allegedly kick out […] unprotected refugees so that Paphos Municipality can take those properties for its own purposes or to hand over” to friends.

Paphos DIKO MP Charalambos Pittokopitis stated that shops in the Mouttalos area of the city were rented to GCs since 1964, and that the GCs signed contracts with the then RoC authorities in 1974 to continue renting the properties. After the tenants passed away their children kept using the shops and this happens to this day, he said. He added that he does not know whether some of the contracts were fake.


Papadopoulos on renegotiating presence of British Bases

Phileleftheros
External Security, Regional/International Relations

OVERVIEW

DIKO leader Nicholas Papadopoulos has raised the issue of a renegotiation of the existence of the UK’s Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus, during an event organised by the party on the status of the Bases after the non-binding decision of the International Court of Justice regarding the situation in Mauritius. The opening statement of the event was made by prominent lawyer Polys Polyviou.

Papadopoulos pointed out that the decision of the ICJ as well as Brexit open up opportunities for renegotiation. The “dangerous and mostly suspicious” argument that we should wait for the Cyprus Problem to be solved is a bad precedent that allows Turkey to exert influence over energy matters, he added.

Meanwhile, AKEL has issued a statement against the plans for the transfer of British F-35B fighter jets to the SBAs, Alithia reports. In a statement AKEL asks whether this is part of plans by the UK and its allies to turn Cyprus into a base for raids into the Middle East. AKEL also asks whether the government is aware of the move, pointing out that Turkey is still a part of the F-35 program


Germany asks Cyprus to extradite Kurd with connections to PKK

Phileleftheros
Internal Security, EU matters, Regional/International Relations

OVERVIEW

Germany has asked for the extradition of 64-year-old Cerkez Korkmaz citing his connection with PKK, which is considered a terrorist group in Germany, reports Phileleftheros. Korkmaz appeared in Larnaka District Court on Wednesday where the request of judicial authorities of Hamburg, Germany was examined. Phileleftheros presents the story with the title “Terrorist because he’s a PKK member”, with the journalist adding that Korkmaz is being sought by German authorities due to “his participation in the Kurdish people’s organisation and in the struggle of his compatriots”.

Korkmaz was arrested in Larnaka airport on March 21 as he was about to travel to Athens, and has been held ever since as his friends could not pay bail. After questions from the defence, the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in court pointed out that the reason the arrest was requested by Germany was Korkmaz’s participation in the PKK. German authorities have not notified Cyprus on whether Korkmaz is accused of further criminal activity.

Korkmaz’s defense pointed out that the 64-year-old is a known promoter of peace and that he lives in Cyprus with the status of a recognised political refugee since 2011. The man had been arrested twice in Turkey where he spent ten years in prison, first between 1993 and 1999 and later between 2000 and 2004 reports the newspaper citing friends of Korkmaz. It is very likely that if he is extradited to Germany he will end up in Turkey, they added.


Cypriot MEP quizzes Commission on use of Turkish names of occupied areas

Phileleftheros
EU matters

OVERVIEW

Cypriot MEP Costas Mavrides (DIKO-S&P) has submitted a question to the European Commission regarding documents published by the Dutch embassy in Nicosia, where Turkish language names of areas in the north are used, Phileleftheros reports.

Mavrides says that the usage is illegal and calls on the EU to make sure that member states comply with European and international law, citing as an example the usage of the word “Girne” [Kyrenia]. He also points out that the wording of the documents allow for the possibility for organisations connected to the occupation to apply for the projects advertised.