GCC Press Review 17 Apr 2019

Front Page Headlines

Politis

Municipalities set obstacles to (local government) reform

They have approved a proposal for local referendums. DISY split in half, while several mayors, along with AKEL senior members, vote in favour of the referendums. The Union of Municipalities is in essence in favour of the reform but is also submitting many suggestions.

  • UNFICYP: Mandate in the spotlight

Phileleftheros

Everyone has arrived for (energy) planning

The stakeholders of (natural gas) reserves Total-Eni, Noble, ExxonMobil clarify their next steps. Heading toward agreement on the exploitation and revenue-sharing of Aphrodite reserve.

  • UNFICYP at the centre of (Robert) Menendez’s contacts – The government has asked for the Senator’s help.
  • Ending the (arms) embargo has angered Ozersay – Dangers loom, says the occupation regime.
  • Connecting mobile telephony with the occupied areas got stuck
  • We had to take 100 megawatts from the occupied areas
  • A one-off ‘dowry’ to those who are refugees through their mother
  • He shocked people when he spoke of blood-soaked Kurdistan

Haravgi

TC land given under the table to DISY senior member 

The Guardian (of TC Properties), ignoring reactions and without a transparent procedure, gave TC property that is prime real estate to the son of DISY’s Larnaca district secretary. The TC plot was given in secrecy since the same property was sought by other refugees who were turned down by the interior ministry. The property had been requested in the past also by the Larnaca Municipality.

Cyprus Mail

Police to return to mine at first light

Missing six-year old daughter of woman found in mine may be in the same area.

  • Visiting senator: new era in US Cyprus relations

Alithia

UNFICYP must not go

A dramatic message from President Anastasiades to the US through Senator Menendez. Senator Menendez speaks of a new era in US-Cyprus relations after the bill on lifting the (arms) embargo, while the ‘foreign ministry’ in the occupied areas sees it as aggression and a threat to peace and stability on the island.

  • The extradition procedure for Cerkez Korkmaz continued with the testimony of the wanted man: If you send me to Germany I know I will end up in Turkey, he declared

Main News

Guterres: Low expectations on ToR but efforts will continue

Cyprus Mail online
Negotiations Process

OVERVIEW

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his report on his Good Officers mission, an unofficial copy of which was handed over on Tuesday evening to the UN Security Council members, that there are low expectations for real progress or agreement on the terms of reference, Cyprus Mail online reported on Wednesday.

Guterres said in his report that he will request his envoy Jane Holl Lute to continue discussions on his behalf, adding that the way ahead must be well prepared, with a sense of urgency and focus.

He expressed hope that the ongoing consultations will lead to a return to negotiations and that he could devote the full weight of his Good Offices, with the aim of reaching a lasting resolution of the Cyprus issue. “In that respect, I call on the two leaders, their communities, the guarantor powers, and other interested parties to engage in these efforts constructively, creatively and with the necessary sense of urgency,” he stressed.

The UNSG said that the scepticism on both sides regarding the prospects for a resumption of the talks continued to prevail in the aftermath of the leaders’ meetings of October 2018 and February 2019. “While some progress was registered on confidence-building measures, there are low expectations for real progress or agreement on the terms of reference,” he noted.

While recent efforts to help establish the terms of reference have not yet borne fruit, he said he still holds out hope that the parties will use this opportunity to overcome the differences that persist.

“We have seen the bright glimmer of hope before, including in the Joint Declaration of February 11, 2014 and in the parties’ willingness to come to Crans Montana in 2017. Equally, however, we have seen our hopes dashed. All Cypriots deserve our commitment to make every effort to support the parties to deliver on the vision of an island united in peace and security,” he said.

Guterres also underscored that the means for a durable solution to the Cyprus problem remains, foremost, in the parties’ hands. “As I have noted previously, a settlement will demand that each side accept less than the fullest measure of satisfaction on every issue. I also note that a comprehensive settlement will open up opportunities for growth, prosperity, and confidence otherwise forsaken,” he added.

During the consultations, all parties reiterated their commitment to finding a way forward and to prior convergences and their desire to preserve the advances that led to Crans Montana, he said, adding however that efforts to forge these into terms of reference that would serve as a basis for resumed conclusive negotiations have not yet succeeded.

He added that recent public rhetoric on the island – in tone and substance – has emphasised the differences that continue to divide the communities, rather than the common future that can unite them and the benefits to be had from a peaceful resolution once and for all to the Cyprus problem.

Guterres said he was grateful for the receptivity and forthrightness with which all interlocutors have engaged Lute adding that in all of these encounters, parties expressed their clear agreement that the time of endless negotiation is behind us and that the status quo is not sustainable. “They also reiterated their commitment to finding a way forward toward a lasting solution under the auspices of the United Nations and expressed the view that I continue to engage, through Ms. Lute’s efforts, to find a way to permit the resumption of negotiations that would lead to an agreement within a foreseeable horizon,” he noted.

The UNSG went on to say that the Council has been consistent over the decades in its support for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation that reflects the political equality of the two communities on Cyprus. “To aid the parties in advancing toward this vision, on 30 June 2017, I offered a framework of six points to help clarify the differences on key issues. I urge the parties to constructively consider these points,” he pointed out.

Guterres noted that he recognises that widespread support for a horizon of endless process without result lies behind us, not before us. “There is consensus that an unchanging status quo — i.e., the lack of a resolution to the Cyprus issue — is not sustainable. Therefore, I will request Ms. Lute to continue discussions on my behalf. The way ahead must be well prepared, with a sense of urgency and focus. I urge the leaders and the Guarantor Powers to continue their constructive engagement with Ms. Lute and with each other, as necessary, to establish the basis for negotiations to be resumed. This engagement will need to be infused with a sense of purpose and determination to reach a successful end within a foreseeable horizon,” he stressed.

The UNSG also said that the agreement by Anastasiades and Akıncı to move forward with a number of confidence-building measures (CBMs) is a welcome development, adding that the almost four-year delay in the implementation of their earlier commitment to such measures had been a source of friction. These steps represent some positive movement in the peace process since the closure of the Conference on Cyprus on July 7, 2017, he said.

While the agreement reached by the leaders on CBMs should be commended, Guterres said, “it will be crucial that both sides continue to seek solutions and creative ways to ensure the implementation of the measures, particularly the interoperability of the mobile phones which is long overdue, also in light of the expectations that have been raised among the public on both sides.”

The already implemented CBMs such as the opening of the two new crossings in November 2018, as well as the interconnectivity of the electricity grids contribute to building some momentum towards peace and reconciliation on the island. However, he added, only meaningful indications of a return to the negotiation table, including through an agreement on the terms of reference, will provide convincing reassurances about the real prospects of the peace process to the two communities, other interested parties and the international community at large.

The UNSG said the he remains convinced that for a solution to be sustainable, the two communities will have to be well-informed about the contours of a settlement as well as the consequences of not achieving it.

“This requires an open and constructive discourse that transcends polarizing rhetoric and that focuses on the benefits for all Cypriots. More efforts in this regard are essential and I encourage the sides, in particular the two leaders, to consider ways in which positive messaging and greater information about the process and the overall context can be further strengthened. This will also require greater involvement and engagement of civic actors, youth, and women to build confidence in the steps necessary to agree to and implement a settlement agreement,” he said.

He also noted that more efforts should be directed at increasing opportunities for bi-communal cooperation which could contribute to trust-building between the two communities. The recent public perception surveys have demonstrated that there is interest for such cooperation in both communities.

Guterres also refers in his report to “the enduring tensions surrounding hydrocarbons exploration”, reiterating that “the natural resources found in and around Cyprus should benefit both communities and can constitute a strong incentive to find a durable solution to the Cyprus problem.”

KEY ACTORS
Guterres (UN)
>>
Has low expectations for real progress or agreement on ToR despite some progress in CBMs. Lute will continue efforts in hope parties use opportunity to overcome differences & return to talks. Way ahead must be well prepared, with a sense of urgency and focus.
>> Calls on two leaders and all stakeholders including the two communities to engage in Lute’s efforts constructively, creatively and with a sense of urgency.
>> Pledged UN commitment to support parties to deliver vision of island united in peace and security but the means for a durable solution to the Cyprob remains in the parties’ hands.
>> Settlement demands each side accept less than fullest measure of satisfaction on every issue. Will also open up opportunities for growth, prosperity, and confidence.
>> All parties have stated their commitment to finding a way forward and to prior convergences and their desires to preserve advances that led to Crans Montana.
>> Recent public rhetoric on the island focused on differences between the communities rather than their common future and the benefits of a peaceful resolution.
>> Urged the parties to constructively consider the six points of his Framework of 30 June 2017.
>> Urged leaders and guarantor powers to continue their constructive engagement with Lute and with each other to establish basis for negotiations to be resumed within a foreseeable horizon. It cannot be an endless process without results.
>> Welcomes the CBMs agreed by Anastasiades and Akinci but stresses that the almost four-year delay in implementation of measures agreed earlier had been a source of friction. More work is needed to ensure the implementation of CBMs, particularly the interoperability of the mobile phones which is long overdue.
>> Despite already implemented CBMs contribute to building some momentum towards peace and reconciliation only meaningful indications of a return to the negotiation table, including an agreement on the ToR will convince about the real prospects of the peace process to GCs and TCs and the international community.
>> For asolution to be sustainable, the two communities will have to be well-informed about the contours of a settlement as well as the consequences of not achieving it.
>> Encourages the two leaders to find ways to send out positive messages and provide more  information about the process and how the overall context can be further strengthened.
>> Calls for greater involvement and engagement of civic actors, youth, and women to build confidence in the steps necessary to agree to and implement a settlement agreement.
>> Bicommunal cooperation should be further encouraged. There is interest for such cooperation in both communities.
>> The natural resources found in and around Cyprus should benefit both communities and can be a strong incentive to find a durable solution to the Cyprob.


Anastasiades-Menendez discuss UNFICYP mandate, regional cooperation

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

OVERVIEW

President Nicos Anastasiades took the opportunity on Tuesday to ask for US intervention so that no changes are made to the UNFICYP mandate during his meeting with Senator Robert Menendez who was in Nicosia on a private visit, most papers reported.

Following the meeting at the Presidential Palace, Menendez said that the Cyprus-US relations have entered a new era and that he himself has had a long relationship with Cyprus.

The Senator said he discussed with Anastasiades many important subjects such as the Eastern Mediterranean’s security strategy, energy strategy, Cyprus’ continuous engagement with the US, US foreign policy in the region, economic questions, and the changing dynamics of Cyprus in its banking zone.

We had a very extensive, very positive discussion and I look forward to continue deepening the relation between the US and Cyprus, he said, adding there is a great moment for Cyprus to find a whole new day in its relationship not only with the US but with the West.

According to the Cyprus Mail, the meeting came a week after the announcement that a bipartisan bill seeking to lift the US arms embargo on Cyprus, which has been in place since 1987, had been tabled in Washington by Democrat Menendez of New Jersey, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

The two Senators said what has been termed the ‘Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019’ would, among other things, “lift the prohibition on arms sales to the Republic of Cyprus, authorise the establishment of a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Centre to facilitate energy cooperation between the US, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus, the paper reports.
Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said the issue was not related with any plans to buy American military hardware but that the arms embargo created a dissonance in strategic relations between Nicosia and Washington.

It was also important, he added, that the bill was tabled by both major political parties in the US, something that “improves the possibilities and shows that this is a national issue for Cyprus and the US”.

Anastasiades and Menendez, he said, reviewed the strategic relationship and partnerships developed by Cyprus, as a state that guarantees stability and security in the region with neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and especially Israel and its role as an extension of the EU to the Eastern Mediterranean.

All this also serves the geostrategic interest of the US, especially since it is now being strengthened with the specific energy interests of US companies operating in Cyprus, he said.

Anastasiades also raised the issue of UNFICYP and pointed that any changes to the force’s mandate posed a risk to stability on the island.

As regards the Cyprus issue, Anastasiades had asked Menendez for help in putting pressure on Turkey to change its attitude and cooperate in the attempt to resume negotiations, Prodromou said.

Through senator Menendez, who is a very good friend of Cyprus, he said, “and we expect that he will continue, not only at the level of the US government, but also in the parliamentary bodies, especially in the Senate, the good work done for Cyprus-US relations.”

Phileleftheros, Politis and Alithia, focused more on the discussion on the UNFICYP mandate.

Politis reports that Anastasiades and Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides who also met the Senator, brought to the fore the issue of the renewal of UNFICYP’s mandate which will be discussed by the UN in July in a bid to avert possible negative developments.

Citing sources, the daily said a similar meeting took place recently also with the US Ambassador to Cyprus. The US states its understanding of Nicosia’s positions but cannot commit to anything specific at the moment, Politis reported.

The main arguments by Nicosia, according to the paper, is the presence of Turkish troops on the island and their unpredictability that could cause insecurity and tension, and that discussion on changes to the UNFICYP mandate discourages Turkey from engaging in dialogue, since she does not eye negatively such a change. Another argument concerns the intension of Cyprus and the US to strengthen their strategic relations based on the stability role the island can play in the region. The government argues that for that to happen, there cannot be internal insecurity caused by the absence of a peacekeeping force since this would create conditions of instability, Politis reports.

Alithia said in its headline that Anastasiades sent a dramatic message to the US that UNFICYP must not go. Anastasiades, the daily said, took the opportunity to send to the US the message that the UNFICYP mandate must not change, showing this way that we are especially concerned by this issue and it is in our immediate priorities.

Phileleftheros reports that Menendez is a well-known advocate of Cypriot rights in Washington and his presence in Nicosia for a private visit gave the opportunity for an exchange of views on key issues of concern to the Republic at a time when efforts are being made for mobility on the Cyprus issue and while a procedure is underway for the adoption of the bill he and Rubio tabled.

The search by Nicosia for understanding from actors that are friends of Cyprus, is part of the overall effort to prevent any change to the status of UNFICYP, following the decision of the US President to limit financial assistance to the UN peacekeeping forces, but to also diversify their services, the daily said.

According to Haravgi, the government and ruling DISY welcomed Menendez with excitement. The Senator, the daily reported, is behind a bill promoting American interests in the Eastern Mediterranean by displacing Russian ones. The daily also referred to cooperation serving the geostrategic interests of the US.

Meanwhile, Russia has expressed readiness to send up to five officers from its armed forces to serve in UNFICYP, Tass News Agency reported on Tuesday, according to Haravgi, Cyprus Mail and Phileleftheros. According to the report, Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed the foreign and defence ministries to inform the UN Secretariat that Russia is ready to send up to 30 servicemen to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and up to five members of the military to UNFICYP to serve as liaison officers, military observers and staff officers.

KEY ACTORS
Menendez (US)
>>
US-Cyprus relations have entered a new era. Looks forward to the deepening of these relations.
>> This is the moment for Cyprus to find a whole new day in its relationship not only with the US but with the West.

Prodromou
>> Lifting the arms embargo is not related with plans to buy American military hardware but rather the embargo creates a dissonance in strategic relations between Nicosia and Washington.
>> Cyprus’ strategic relationship and partnerships in the region also serve the geostrategic interest of the US, strengthened with the energy interests of US companies operating in Cyprus.
>> Any changes to UNFICYP’s mandate poses a risk to stability on the island.


Reactions in the north over possible lifting of arms embargo

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Phileleftheros, Politis
External Security, Negotiations Process

OVERVIEW

The ‘foreign ministry’ in the north expressed concerns over a possible lifting of the US arms embargo on Cyprus, the papers report.
Citing the TC press, the dailies reported that the ‘foreign ministry’ said that the lifting of the US arms embargo on Cyprus would trigger an armaments race in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In an announcement, the ‘ministry’ said the statements made by the US Senators who had prepared the bill and by the GC leadership were aggressive and threatened peace and stability on the island.

The climate of stability and peace in the area and in our island is very important for the TC side, it said, expressing readiness to promote any kind of steps for cooperation to be taken in this direction.

The ‘ministry’ expressed hope that the draft would be rejected in the relevant congressional committees as had happened with other similar drafts, and that the US Congress would instead call on the sides concerned to take steps that would promote regional cooperation.

Phileleftheros said that lifting of the arms embargo has angered TC ‘Foreign Minister’ Kudret Ozersay. Despite the fact that the occupation army uses American weapons, the paper said, the so-called ‘foreign ministry’ of the occupation regime was disturbed by discussion on the lifting of the US arms embargo on the Republic. The gap between reality and a possible development did not prevent the ‘foreign ministry’ from issuing a statement on the looming risks within Cyprus but also in the region, Phileleftheros said, adding that the announcement indicates that the Turkish side has already mobilised to prevent such a decision.

This approach on the part of the occupation regime is a continuation of a tactic followed by the Turkish side every time the Cypriot government makes any announcement concerning reinforcement of its defence capability, the daily said. Until recently, this behaviour of the occupation regime used to find a response by the US, which sided with Turkey and the TCs, putting pressure on the Cypriot government on issues that had to do with the defence sector.

It is also well known, Phileleftheros said, that so far, any representations made by the Cypriot side towards Washington in relation to use of US arms by the Turkish occupation troops went unnoticed by the Americans who were closely monitoring the National Guard to ensure they would not use US weapons.

Meanwhile, DISY leader Averof Neophytou said that the government was not under the illusion that the Cyprus problem would be solved through the purchase of arms. Despite the fact it is important to have a well prepared National Guard, he said, what was most important is the political message sent by Washington.

On reactions from the north, Neophytou said the Republic of Cyprus is not a threat but rather it is under threat due to the constant, unacceptable statements by Turkey and the violations of its exclusive economic zone, the presence of 40,000 Turkish soldiers on the island since 1974, and the ongoing occupation.

If all of us truly care for security in Cyprus, he said, this will come through the reunification of the country. Our compatriots need to understand that not all Cypriots feel safe with 40,000 Turkish soldiers, Neophytou said, adding that Turkish troops must withdraw from the island and foreign guarantees must be abolished. He called for cooperation for the reunification of the island.

KEY ACTORS
Ozersay

>> Lifting of the US arms embargo on Cyprus would trigger an armaments race in the East Med.
>> The statements made by the bill’s authors & GC leadership are aggressive and threaten peace and stability on the island.
>> The TC side is ready to promote any kind of steps for cooperation for a climate of stability and peace in the region and on the island.
>> Hopes the draft would be rejected and the US Congress would instead call on the sides concerned to take steps which would promote regional cooperation.

Neophytou (DISY)
>>
The government does not fool itself that the Cyprob will be solved through the purchase of arms.
>> It is important to have a well-equipped National Guard but the political message sent by Washington is much more important.
>> The Republic of Cyprus is not a threat to anyone but rather it is under threat due to Turkey’s threats and statements, EEZ violations, presence of  40,000 Turkish soldiers & ongoing occupation.
>> Security in Cyprus will come through the reunification of the country. TCs need to understand that not all Cypriots feel safe with 40,000 Turkish soldiers.
>> Calls for the withdrawal of Turkish troops, abolition of guarantees and cooperation towards the reunification of the island.


Increased mobility linked with Cyprus’ energy programme

Phileleftheros
Energy

OVERVIEW

The current week is important as regards developments in the field of energy as representatives of the energy companies Total-ENI, Noble, and ExxonMobil that are operating in Cyprus’ offshore blocks are on the island for separate consultations with the government.

The energy ministry has been engaging since Monday in a series of long negotiations with high-ranking officials by Total and ENI on the final terms of the contract for the assignment of exploration and exploitation rights to block 7.

Citing information, Phileleftheros reported that the French-Italian consortium proposes an ‘aggressive’ drilling programme for that block, which it has already incorporated in its programme for the end of 2019 and 2020. Four drillings have already been planned. The government, among other things, is pushing for an increase in the ‘bonus’ it will receive from the consortium with the signing of the contracts.

Negotiations that will lead to a government decision to allow the change in the rights of block 8 currently leased to ENI seem to be near completion, the daily reported, to allow Total to participate with a significant percentage.

The ministry’s negotiation with Noble-Shell-Delek that began on Tuesday are intense and difficult, the paper said. The aim is to agree to changes in the contract for the exploitation and share of revenue from the Aphrodite gas deposit to pave the way for its management and export to Egypt. According to information the positions of the two sides are not far apart in this respect, the daily said.

ExxonMobil’s Donald Bagley who recently replaced Tristen Asprey, is on the island since Monday, the paper reported, adding that the fact his visit to Cyprus is among the first since taking up this position shows the importance he attributes to ExxonMobil’s programme in relation with Cyprus. Bagley already met with the state leadership in the energy sector, as well as with representatives of services etc, Phileleftheros reported.


Mobile phone interconnectivity could cost users a fortune

Phileleftheros
CBMs

OVERVIEW

There is no progress on mobile phone interconnectivity between the two sides as despite pressure by President Nicos Anastasiades, diplomats, EU representatives and the involvement of a number of state agencies, problems keep popping that remain unsolved, the daily reported.

The two sides have reached an agreement so far only on the financial clearance of calls between the two sides of the divide which will be handled by an international company based in Switzerland.

There are however a number of legal and technical issues that are still pending.

The Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA), the Office of the Commissioner of Electronic Communications & Postal Regulations (OCECPR) and the Department of Electronic Communications have also pointed out that connection with the network of the occupied areas will mean connection through a third country, Turkey, and this comes with a huge financial burden.

Calls will be charged between €1.07 and €2.59 per minute, the daily reported, depending on the location of the caller and call receiver. Calls within the EU are €0.25 per minute, it said.

As for text messages, charges will be €0.75 instead of the €0.06 per message currently charged within Cyprus and the EU.

Mobile phone users in the south, can currently have coverage also by the network of telecommunications companies in the north when in areas that are close to the occupied areas. It is not uncommon, the daily said, for mobile phones in the south to automatically connect to those networks.

The paper said that the main problem that has not been overcome is that the law prohibits this sort of connection since the networks of the occupied areas are considered illegal. A legal way needs to be found to remove this restriction but in order to do this, the paper said, the political leadership must decide that the networks of the occupied areas are not illegal. This however, obviously leads to other areas, Phileleftheros said.


GCs took electricity from TCs during major malfunction

Phileleftheros
CBMs

OVERVIEW

The GC side urgently got 100 megawatts from the north on Tuesday during a major malfunction at the island’s main power station at Vassilikos that caused power cuts in various areas.

As soon as the problem occurred, an interconnection process was initiated with the occupied areas in order to get into the grid almost 100 megawatts, which covered needs for the first 45 minutes until the other power production units in the free areas started production.

This is the biggest electricity transfer through the north since 2011 when the same need had arisen on several occasions, the paper said.


DISY top brass receives ‘favourable treatment’ with TC property

Haravgi
Property

OVERVIEW

The interior ministry leased a TC property in Larnaca which is considered prime real estate to the son of the district head of ruling party DISY for the construction of a gym, the daily reported.

The paper said that the property in question that sits on Faneromeni Avenue, was given with great secrecy to Michalis Manoli, son of the DISY Larnaca district secretary and member of the Larnaca municipal council, Theologos Manoli. This comes a year after Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides had given reassurances that such a thing would not take place after the daily revealed the scandal, the article said.

Manoli had obviously received favourable treatment since other refugees had asked to be allowed to use the same property and were turned down, the daily said. Even worse, Haravgi said, the plot in question had been requested by the Larnaca municipality itself last year to turn it into a traffic park but the application had been also turned down by the Guardian of TC Properties (interior minister).

Construction work is already underway for the establishment of a gym. Manoli had initially requested 1,500 square metres and another 1,000 later for the creation of a parking area. Faneromeni Avenue is one of the most commercial streets of Larnaca, the daily said.

One of the persons whose application had been rejected, sent a letter last month to Petrides asking why Manoli’s application was approved while his was turned down. The man was to construct a petrol station and a car wash on the plot.

According to the paper, his application was rejected by the TC Guardian on grounds that the Larnaca Municipality had other plans for the area.

Citing information, the letter was also sent to Larnaca Municipality and was discussed at the latest meeting of the local authority’s Town Planning Committee in the presence of the municipal councillor in question.