GCC Press Review 12 Apr 2019

Front Page Headlines

Politis

(Lebanon) Does not ratify delineation but respects it

Government is satisfied with Lebanon’s official position. Lebanon honors in practice the EEZ delineation agreement (with Cyprus). Unitization agreement and pipeline (framework) agreement are the priorities.

  •  A breath of fresh air for Brexit: Business people see a positive development
  • Treat or trick?: Brexit moves to… Halloween
  • National Guard: 270 promotions on the way
  • Anastasiades: Their party (AKEL) above all else

Phileleftheros

Deadlock avoided

Optimistic messages coming from New York regarding the UN Secretary-General’s report. President: Some are more interested in their party than the country.

  • Energy agreement: Cyprus and Lebanon get into the thick of it
  • ExxonMobil also turns attention to Israel and ‘Leviathan’

Haravgi

Housing cost increasing

Wealth redistributed to the benefit of the few. Middle class left on the rocks, says OECD. Salaries in Cyprus 46.7% lower.

  • They are neutralising the Guterres Framework
  • Instead of Brexit… the British will vote in Euro-elections

Cyprus Mail

Cyprus-Lebanon talks for gas deal

Cyprus entering ‘tangled situation’ with Israel and Lebanon seen as first attempt to ‘test the waters’.

Alithia

Fierce battles in… Parliament ‘heights’ today

New clash: The discussion on the findings regarding the collapse of the Cooperative Movement and the resolution tabled by AKEL to condemn the US over the Golan Heights raise the political thermometer. Opposition fractures: Greens and (Citizen’s) Alliance table a draft resolution on the Cooperative Movement that apportions blame to the parties as well for the pre-2013 situation, while AKEL, DIKO and EDEK aim to avoid the stigma by tabling a joint resolution that shifts all the blame to Minister of Finance Harris Georgiades.

  • Fiery answer to AKEL: President replies to his detractors on the Cyprus Problem– In order to attract some borrowed votes, some promote the unjustifiable (demands) of the TC leadership rather than adopt the positions of the GC side.
  • Brexit moves from one extension to the next, moves to October – May: If we approve the deal at the beginning of May then we won’t take part in the European elections

Main News

Anastasiades accuses AKEL of promoting TC positions to attract “borrowed votes”

Alithia, Haravgi, Phileleftheros, Politis
Negotiation Process, EU Matters

OVERVIEW

President Anastasiades accused AKEL of fishing for votes and promoting the positions of the TC leader rather than the GC side’s positions, as the main opposition party intensifies its criticisms and accusations that Anastasiades is essentially undermining the Guterres Framework. The reaction by Anastasiades was prominent in Alithia‘s front page though not so much in other newspapers.

Anastasiades’ statements on Thursday were made in response to Mustafa Akinci’s statement on Wednesday, in which the TC leader referred to the issue of the population of the north, and to AKEL’s criticism of his recent proposals and whether they comply with the Guterres Framework.

Phileleftheros reports that Anastasiades said he wants internal unity “but that unfortunately some seem to care more about their party than about the country”, adding that he feels strongly about “those who, in order to attract some borrowed votes in the Εuropean elections, instead of adopting the positions of the GC side try to promote in any way possible the inexcusable (positions) of the TC leadership”.

Anastasiades added that he would like to hear what the opposition has to say about the changes in the population in the north and the insistence of Turkey on the equivalent treatment of Greeks and Turks post-solution.

The Cyprus Mail reports that Akel leader Andros Kyprianou responded on Twitter, telling Anstasiades to take his lessons elsewhere. “Since when have parliamentary democracy and decentralised (federation) become the positions of the Greek Cypriot side?” Kyprianou was referring to proposals tabled by Anastasiades since the collapse of talks in Switzerland in 2017. Such positions were never supported by the Greek Cypriot side, which had always sought a strong, centralised, federal form of a solution.

Alithia, Haravgi and Philelefteros report on statements on Thursday by AKEL spokesperson Stephanos Stephanou in response to government spokesperson Prodromos Prodromou. Stephanou commented on Prodromou’s statement on Wednesday that AKEL goes against GC positions, by counterpointing that in fact it’s the president that “in his attempt to wipe out the Guterres Framework wipes out also the UNSG, the EU and even Britain’s clear positions on ending the Treaty of Guarantees”.

Meanwhile, Phileleftheros reports that the government has received positive indications from diplomats in New York that UNSG Guterres will not announce the end of Jane Holl Lute’s effort in his upcoming report to the Security Council. Phileleftheros adds that this will happen “despite the constant efforts by Ankara and Mustafa Akinci to kill the UN’s initiative”.

The newspaper cites information from New York that indicates that the report will be very similar to the one the UNSG submitted in October, and that Guterres will insist that he will not be involved in the Cyprus Problem if there’s no agreement among the sides on the terms of reference of a new negotiation process.

However, Phileleftheros adds, there are open questions on what will be included regarding UNFICYP. The newspaper cites diplomatic sources that say the most Nicosia can expect is references to the need for the international force to maintain stability given recent tensions along the ceasefire line. The main issue for Nicosia, adds the newspaper, is that the Guterres Framework is safeguarded as a cohesive proposal, and that Anastasiades will insist on a joint meeting of the leaders and Lute in the summer.

KEY ACTORS
Anastasiades
>> Some support the other side’s inexcusable positions in order to attract ‘borrowed’ votes in the Euro-elections, putting their party above the country.

Kyprianou (AKEL)
>> Since when did parliamentary democracy & decentralized federation become GC positions in the talks?

Stephanou (AKEL)
>> In his attempt to get rid of the Guterres Framework, Anastasiades undermines the positions of the UNSG, the EU and UK on ending the Treaty of Guarantees and the right of unilateral intervention.


Lebanese assurances, but no EEZ ratification due to dispute with Israel

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

OVERVIEW

Cyprus and Lebanon have reached an understanding that Lebanon will be respecting the borders of the two countries EEZs as agreed, despite the fact that the deal is not set to be ratified in the Lebanese parliament soon, Politis reports. According to the newspaper the result of the contacts of Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides and Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis in the context of Wednesday’s trilateral ministerial summit in Beirut with Greece and Lebanon, are that the government has received assurances that Lebanon will respect the boundaries agreed and that the focus now should be in negotiating a unitization agreement.

According to information cited by Politis, the two countries aim to conclude the negotiations for the unitization agreement by September. Regarding the ratification of the EEZ delineation deal, Politis points out that the Lebanese official position as reiterated to the two ministers during their visit to Beirut, is that it cannot be ratified by the country’s parliament while the EEZ border dispute with Israel is ongoing.

In a statement reported by Politis, Lakkotrypis announced on Thursday that soon negotiations will begin between Cyprus and Lebanon for an international agreement on the creation of a gas pipeline between the two countries. Lakkotrypis pointed out that this deal is similar to the one made with Egypt and that was to be ratified Friday by the Cypriot House of Representatives.

Cyprus Mail quotes PRIO Cyprus Centre researcher Zenonas Tziarras on his assessment on Cypriot – Lebanese relations. Tziarras points out that “Lebanon has licensed two offshore blocks for gas exploration late in 2017 and launched its second offshore oil and gas exploration licensing round early in April 2019”.

One of the Lebanese blocks is licensed to a consortium of ENI, Total and Novatek, and borders the Israeli EEZ, Tziarras adds. Tziarras points out that this border is disputed between Lebanon and Israel, that the countries have no diplomatic relations and that Israel is not a party to the 1982 Convention of the Law of the Sea. The PRIO researcher also points out that when – in separate negotiations with Cyprus – Lebanon and Israel submitted the coordinates of their EEZs, the two countries submitted overlapping claims. “Given the tangled situation, the talks now underway between Nicosia and Beirut may perhaps be best seen as a first attempt to ‘test the waters’, so to speak” Tziarras tells the Cyprus Mail.

Meanwhile, Phileleftheros quotes a report by Bloomberg that ExxonMobil has shown interest in working with Noble Energy in Israel’s ‘Leviathan’ gas field, “especially after the discovery of the ‘Glafkos’ reservoir”, by creating a floating liquefied natural gas facility. According to the report cited by Phileleftheros, ExxonMobil is currently in negotiation with the companies working on the ‘Leviathan’ gas field. Bloomberg also points out that ExxonMobil recently made significant discoveries off the coast of Cyprus, the newspaper notes. An ExxonMobil representative refused to comment on the information when asked by Bloomberg. The newspaper also notes that the Israeli military has recently conducted an exercise in protective measures for offshore natural gas facilities.

KEY ACTORS
Lakkotrypis
>>Negotiations for the legal framework of connecting Lebanon and Cyprus by pipeline (similar to that with Egypt) to start soon.


EU launches projects for TCs, including extension of Pedieos park

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi
CBMs

OVERVIEW

The EU presented its renewed aid fund for the development of the TC community in an event in the north on Wednesday. Cyprus Mail reports that 17.7 million euros will go towards the economic and social development of the north in the next three years. As part of the programme, a coordinating committee and consultative body will support beneficiaries and submit recommendations of projects approved for funding.

The projects include a five kilometers extension of the Pedieos linear park to the north, a strategic plan for water resources, an enhancement of the sewerage treatment plants in Morphou and Famagusta, composting facilities in Nicosia, the sewerage network at Hamit Mandres and the first phase of the closure of the old waste water treatment plant in Nicosia.

Haravgi refers to a recent statement to the paper by GC head of the technical committee for the environment Michalis Loizides, regarding the project to extend the Pedieos linear park to the north. Loizides stated that the project will start from the area where the park ends near the Yiorkion building in central Nicosia, and continue in areas where humans haven’t been since 1974 and today hosts even turtles and other species.


GCs spend more in occupied areas as lira devaluation changes the balance

Politis
Economy

OVERVIEW

The increase of GCs spending and engaging in business in the occupied areas due to the devaluation of the Turkish lira has become a solid and long-lasting trend, Politis reports, citing data released periodically by credit card company JCC. Last summer was the first time that spending by the GCs in the occupied areas was larger than that of TCs in the government-controlled areas, points out Politis.

The trend held strong during March, with GC spending in the north increasing to 1.5 million euro from 732,000 euro during the same period last year, an increase of 107%. During the first quarter of 2019, spending increased to 4.1 million euro from 2.4 million euro during the same period last year, an increase of 70%.

The data also shows a decrease in spending by TCs in the south following a decrease of their purchasing power due to the devaluation. For March 2019, the spending reached 1.3 million euros compared to 1.7 million euros last year, and for the first quarter of 2019 the spending reached 4 million euro compared to 5.2 million euro last year, a decrease of 22%.


VR documentary on Green Line and political Cypriot comedy on screens

Cyprus Mail, Politis
CBMs

OVERVIEW

A virtual reality documentary on the buffer zone, titled “The Green Line”, premiered at A.G. Leventis Gallery in Nicosia, Cyprus Mail reports. The documentary, which was created after its producers were granted access to areas in the buffer zone by the UN, contains images of areas that were in some cases not seen since 1963. The film premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. “Our aim was to turn the Buffer Zone into a memorial of the catastrophic consequences of divisive politics,” the creators told the Cyprus Mail.

Meanwhile, Politis reports that the Cypriot comedy “Smuggling Hendrix” is one of the headliners of this year’s Cyprus Film Days festival that opens on Friday. “Smuggling Hendrix”, the story of a GC trying to smuggle his dog, Jimmy, back from the other side where it has accidentally crossed, and coming up against the irrational nature of the division.


Stories on bicommunal relations awarded by CNA

Haravgi, Politis
CBMs

OVERVIEW

The Cyprus News Agency has announced the recipients of its annual Pancyprian Journalism Competition and its internal competition, which will be awarded on June 5 in the Presidential Palace.

Several stories of bicommunal contact, history and the personal dimension of the Cyprus Problem were awarded. The third award in the Pancyprian competition was given to Sotiris Paroutis for his story in Politis regarding the sale of his ancestral home in Yialousa and his inability to buy it back due to regulations in the north. The first award in the internal competition was awarded jointly to Rally Papageorgiou’s interview with Suat Kafandar, the only survivor of the Tochni massacre and Emilia Christofi’s story on the personal stories hidden in the personal objects of missing persons exhumed by the CMP.


Good Friday procession to take place again this year in Famagusta

Alithia, Politis
CBMs, Human Rights

OVERVIEW

The Epitaphios procession will be held this year as well in occupied Famagusta, Alithia and Politis report. According to the reports, the Bishopric of Constantia and Famagusta has announced that the occupation authorities have granted permission for the procession, to be held on Good Friday at the end of the month.

Archimandrite Avgoustinos Karras is quoted pointing out that the procession has a particular symbolic value for the people from Famagusta. He made particular reference to the decision that the black cloths covering the icons to signify the grieving for Christ, which usually are removed on Good Saturday to mark the resurrection, are instead removed on Good Friday to symbolise the wish that “the Lord’s Resurrection brings about the Resurrection of the City of Famagusta”. The regular ceremony contributes to the rapprochement of the two communities by displaying in action that the two communities can coexist peacefully, Karras added.


Politis columnist Theodorou: Implement Denktas approach on property

Politis
Property

OVERVIEW

Politis journalist Michalis Theodorou comments on the story regarding the handing over of a TC property to the daughter of a member of the Paphos municipal council, and argues for the need for a new cohesive policy on the administration of TC properties. He specifically argues that when a GC displaced person applies for the use of a TC property, the system should take into account the amount of property that person had in the occupied areas before the war.

Theodorou points out that the recent events in Paphos were in breach of both the Council of Ministers decision that the availability of a TC property should be made public before a decision was made, and of the law that provides for assessment of an application by a special committee. The journalist argues that this situation will continue “as long as the government does not put an end to its refugee policy experiments, and (if the government) does not apply the policy Rauf Denktas enacted on his own population that moved to the north after 1974”.

This policy, Theodorou points out, includes assigning property in line with the pre-war property of every displaced person. The registry of occupied territories and assistance provided has been completed and can be used by the government to enact a new policy on the issue, he continues. “However, the only Rauf Denktas policy that the government seems eager to emulate is that of partition,” he adds.

Theodorou argues that even without utilising this registry, the government could at least act according to the law while the current situation continues. For example, the state could ban TC property users from subletting said properties in all cases and not provide an exception for the Paphos municipality as was recently done according to information known to Politis “with the excuse of public interest”. Theodorou adds that public interest is not codified in law, except for a decision of the then Attorney General in 1996 pointing out that calling on the public interest must uphold the law.

All these issues will belong to the past when the displaced that were born in the occupied areas pass away, Theodorou adds. “Users (in North and South) will become heirs and the Cyprus Problem a parenthesis in the country’s history, during which the GC leadership fed 1/3 of its citizens a ‘comfortable impermanence’, while assuring the rest a monopoly on development,” he concludes.


Parties’ different approaches to US senate draft bill on weapons

Haravgi, Phileleftheros, Politis
External Security, Regional/International Relations

OVERVIEW

Politis reports on the ongoing tension between AKEL and DISY, including an assessment of overall political tensions in its story about Anastasiades’ statements on the Cyprus Problem. Politis points out that the DISY-AKEL conflict is apparent across the board ahead of the upcoming European elections, especially regarding the issues of NATO and the possibility of Cyprus’ entry into the Partnership for Peace programme, a subject that came back to the agenda because of the draft bill in the US senate. Politis cites an AKEL statement where the party poses the question whether the government knew about the transfer of RAF F-35B fighter jets to the British Bases, as well as the reply of DISY leader Averof Neophytou that it was former President Christofias who assured then British PM Gordon Brown that the SBAs will be an issue to be solved by the next generations.

Meanwhile Phileleftheros reports that US senator Robert Menendez will be in Cyprus next week and will meet with Anastasiades. Menendez, together with senator Marco Rubio, had submitted a draft bill in the US senate regarding the updating of the US strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean, which includes the proposal for ending the arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus. Menendez will be in Cyprus on April 15, and will see Anastasiades and Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides the next day. A diplomatic source tells Phileleftheros that the arms issue will be discussed.

Greek Minister of National Defence Evangelos Apostolakis commented that the US senate draft law marks the first time that Congress shows so much interest for Turkish violations near Cyprus and in the Aegean, Phileleftheros reports. In a speech in the Officers’ Club in Athens, Apostolakis added that Greece’s role is showcased in this bill. Commenting on the trilateral cooperation agreements started by Greece and Cyprus, Apostolakis pointed out that it creates relations of trust in the region.