GCC Press Review 22 May 2019

Front Page Headlines

Politis

Urgent intervention by the president on the EAC (electricity authority)

Extraordinary cabinet meeting today for decisions. The unions insist on restoration of slashed salaries. They also want 5.9 per cent from EAC for the health fund and the GESY (National Health Scheme) contribution.

  • Government-DISY and AKEL: Lowering the tone
  • Syrians: 45 more people crossed from Ledra
  • Demetris Christofias: A long difficult battle

Phileleftheros

Confrontation reaching climax

The political thermometer hits red with everyone against everyone just before going to the ballot box. AKEL carries on with what had been said on the ‘zeros’ and accuses Anastasiades of intervening in its internal matters while the Presidential Palace responds by referring to government achievements.

  • British tune on the EEZ
  • Six new drillings and two more appraisal drillings The energy programme has been finalised.
  • End of an era for the (immoveable property) ‘commission’ – A decision by the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) is coming.
  • They sent us the state-of-the-art F-35B to Akrotiri

Haravgi

Steep increase in electricity (prices)

Households and businesses in Cyprus are paying the steepest bills in the EU, according to figures announced yesterday by the European Statistical Service. As noted in a report by the service, Cyprus records the highest price increases among EU member states.

  • Difficult hours for Demetris Christofias
  • (Andros Kyprianou:) It is their (government’s) policies that disturb (the people)
  • F-35 fighter jets landed at the British Bases in Akrotiri
  • Increasing tensions block the solution of the Cyprus problem, suggests Russian ambassador
  • The first drilling has not been utilized, they see eight more The minister did not name the targets.

Cyprus Mail

Eight drills set for the next two years

Minister outlines hydrocarbons plans for coming 24 months.

Alithia

Will the Turkish Cypriots overturn predictions?

They are mobilising in the occupied areas and will go to the ballot box en masse. The unknown factor in the European elections is the TCs whose voting intentions have not been counted by polls. It is estimated that somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 TCs will come, the overwhelming majority of which will vote for AKEL candidate Niyazi Kizilyurek.

  • New confrontation between government and AKEL on… the zeros
  • Mutual accusations among small parties: The spat is over the sixth seat
  • Energy minister: Eight drillings in 24 months
  • Demetris Christofias: Critical but stable
  • Occupied areas: They reached a deal on (power) sharing
  • Article by Prodromos Prodromou on the Euro-elections

Main News

Nicosia not happy with UK insistence on disputed EEZ comments

Haravgi, Phileleftheros
Regional/International Relations, Energy

OVERVIEW

Britain’s insistence on disputed sea areas does not please Nicosia that wants to know how come the UK gets to decide which areas are disputed or not, the dailies reported. Meanwhile, the Cypriot diaspora in the UK continue to seek condemnation of the Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan’s statements on the matter.

According to Phileleftheros, Nicosia is not happy with London’s insistence on a disputed area within the Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This time, the repetition of the UK’s position on the matter came in response to a question put forth by a written question submitted by the pro-Cypriot north London Conservative MP Theresa Villiers MP. Villiers asked the Foreign Secretary last Wednesday “if he will make representations to his Turkish counterpart on the incursion into the Cyprus EEZ in the Eastern Mediterranean of drilling ships from Turkey.”

She also requested to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether the government of the Republic of Cyprus has rights to authorise drilling operations in the Eastern Mediterranean EEZ and on whether the British government recognises the Cyprus EEZ.

The response came this time by the Minister of State for Africa Harriett Baldwin who said: “Our position remains unchanged: we continue to recognise the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit the oil and gas in its internationally agreed EEZ.”

“With reference to Turkey’s planned drilling, the position of the UK is that, in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), exploratory drilling should not proceed in any area where sovereignty is under dispute.”

She added that the UK called on Turkey not to drill in this area. “Sir Alan Duncan had made this clear to the Turkish Ambassador in London and the British Ambassador to Ankara has engaged with the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to urge de-escalation. We continue to believe Cyprus’ oil and gas should be developed for the benefit of all Cypriots.”

Nicosia, the daily said, disagrees with London’s approach as it considers that Britain’s position is not based either on international law or on the 1982 UNCLOS.

According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Christodoulides, the Republic of Cyprus is taking its decisions on the basis of international treaties and it is based on these agreements that the international community have condemned Turkish actions. All this is included in President Nicos Anastasiades’ letter to the British Prime Minister, the daily reported him saying.

At the same time, he wondered about London’s competence to determine which area is a disputed one and which is not, according to Phileleftheros.

Meanwhile, reactions of the Cypriot diaspora continue in the UK.

Haravgi and Phileleftheros report that the Lobby for Cyprus group sent a letter to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt arguing that “Turkey has no moral or legal right to appropriate for itself hydrocarbons lawfully belonging to the Republic of Cyprus.”
The group said it was most disappointing that the UK has not taken a principled stance on the latest violation by Turkey such as the EU had done. On the contrary, the answer by the Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan on disputed maritime areas effectively constitutes a hostile act with the ability to destabilise an already volatile region.  
Sir Alan’s answer, the letter said, has damaged British interests by undermining Anglo-Cypriot relations and fuelling calls for the Republic of Cyprus to take robust action over the remnants of the Crown Colony of Cyprus known as ‘the Sovereign Base Areas’.

“If the UK fails to act, it risks aligning itself ever more closely with a rogue state. Its reputation as a guardian of international law will also be tarnished, if not destroyed,” the group said.

KEY ACTORS
Baldwin (UK Minister of State)
>>
  Reiterated British position that it continues to recognise the sovereign right of the RoC to exploit the oil and gas in its internationally agreed EEZ.
>> Reiterated that Britain’s reaction to Turkish drilling in the area is that, as per UNCLOS, exploratory drilling should not proceed in any area where sovereignty is under dispute. The UK has already called on Turkey not to drill in this area.Sir Alan and the British Ambassador to Ankara have made this clear to Turkish authorities and urged for de-escalation. 
>> UK continues to believe Cyprus’ oil and gas should be developed for the benefit of all Cypriots.

Christodoulides
>> Anastasiades told May in his letter that the RoC is taking its decisions based on international treaties, upon which the international community has condemned Turkish actions.
>> Wants to know how London gets to determine which area is disputed or not.


Osadchiy: Too many troops on such a small island

Cyprus Mail online, Haravgi
Negotiations Process, Regional/International Relations, External Security

OVERVIEW

The Russian Ambassador to Nicosia, Stanislav Osadchiy, said that there are already too many troops on the island, the paper reports.

In response to a question on a bill by the US Congress to lift the arms embargo on Cyprus, the ambassador said that there are already too many troops on the island. He recalled that Cyprus was a member of the Non-Aligned Movement when the Republic of Cyprus was established.

“Now, Cyprus is a member of the EU and there are many troops on this island, British bases are here and I think it suffices for this little island,” he said.

He also said that escalation of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean is not a solution but rather blocks a solution to the Cyprus problem.

“That is why we believe that each side should avoid those steps that burden the situation in the Mediterranean,” Osadchiy said, expressing Russia’s opposition to any step that undermines the situation required for the resumption of talks.

He said Russia is in favour of the resumption of talks from where they left off in Crans Montana, adding that every step needs to be carefully planned before any actions.

As regards the S-400 missile system Russia sold Turkey, he said that it is a defensive weapon that does not threaten anyone.

“It is just for Turkey and its own (defence) purposes and we are not going to provide Turkey with weapons to threaten anyone,” he said, according to Haravgi.

Meanwhile, Cyprus Mail online reported on Wednesday morning that US President Donald Trump has sent identical letters to the Chairpersons of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate, informing Congress on progress towards a negotiated solution of the Cyprus question for the periods August-September and October-November in 2018.

The US President is bound by law to submit reports on Cyprus every two months. The letters give a rundown on meetings and contacts related to Cyprus for the months cited, the news portal reported.

KEY ACTORS
Osadchiy (Russia)
>>
With regard to a US draft bill to lift the arms embargo on Cyprus, there are already too many troops in Cyprus. In addition to the British bases, it is enough for such a small island.
>>
Escalation of tension in the East Med is not a solution but rather blocks solution to the Cyprob so each side should avoid actions that deteriorate situation in the region.
>> Russia is against any steps undermining the resumption of talks and in favour of resuming talks from where they left off in Crans Montana.
>> Every step needs to be carefully planned before any actions.
>> The S-400 missile system is a defensive weapon that does not threaten anyone. Russia would not sell Turkey any weapons to threaten anyone.


Energy programme continues with eight offshore drillings in next two years

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

OVERVIEW

Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis announced that Cyprus plans to carry out eight offshore drillings for hydrocarbons over the next 24 months, the papers report.

During a presentation of his ministry’s work over the past year, Lakkotrypis said that activities within the EEZ are ongoing and for the next 24 months, eight drills have been planned (six exploratory and two appraisal drills).

He did not disclose however where the drills would be taking place, but said the targets have been identified. The intention is for the drilling programme to commence by the end of this year or early 2020.

On block 7, which is currently unlicensed, Lakkotrypis said that talks are advancing to grant the concession to a joint venture of France’s Total and Italy’s ENI.

As regards the Aphrodite reservoir in block 12, discovered in 2011, he said the government is close to a deal with the concession holders – Noble Energy, Shell and Delek. “There remain certain legal points relating to the agreement between us, and on the optimal way of exploitation which concerns running a subsea pipeline to the LNG terminal in Idku [Egypt], liquefaction there and then transporting the LNG to world markets,” Lakkotrypis said.

The option of a land-based LNG facility in Cyprus was still on the table, Lakkotrypis added. To that end, land has been secured in the area of Vasilikos for the prospective construction of a five-train LNG plant. However the facility would require massive amounts of natural gas to make it financially worthwhile. During the previous week, government officials met successively with all the energy companies active in the EEZ to discuss common planning for such an undertaking.

As regards the EastMed pipeline – an EU Project of Common Interest with €34.5m in co-financing pledged by the European Commission – Lakkotrypis said that a tender is underway for a detailed technical study. He said Nicosia has yet to receive an official briefing from the Italians on Italy’s stance on the EastMed following recent reports that Rome was getting cold feet.

Asked about the Turkish provocations in Cyprus’ EEZ, he said Nicosia is deploying both diplomatic and legal measures, whether these pertain to Turkey itself or the companies assisting. “We are using all the tools at our disposal.”

KEY ACTORS
Lakkotrypis
>>
Activities within the EEZ are ongoing, 8 drillings planned in next 24 months.
>>
Nicosia is using all the tools at its disposal as regards Turkish provocations, deploying both diplomatic and legal measures concerning Turkey and the companies offering assistance.


Speculation over impact of TC votes on Euro-election results

Alithia, Haravgi, Phileleftheros, Politis
EU Matters

OVERVIEW

The papers report that political parties carry on their heated arguments against each other ahead of the Euro-elections, while TCs are mobilising to cast their vote, the majority to AKEL MEP candidate Niyazi Kizilyurek.

Alithia reports in its main story that over 8,000 TCs are expected to vote in the Euro-elections, mostly for Kizilyurek.

It remains to be seen if this mass mobilisation by the TCs would overturn poll predictions since the latter did not include the voting intensions of TCs, the paper said.

A member of the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) party who is also Kizilyurek’s second cousin told Alithia that even though, officially, the party does not encourage the participation of TCs at the Euro-elections, behind the scenes, some of its senior members support the TC academician’s candidacy.

A GC analyst told the paper that no party is expected to get 40 per cent of the votes required for a third MEP, as something like that would be very difficult under the current situation. He said some estimate around 8,000 TCs will vote, while he doesn’t expect more than 10,000 TCs to participate in the elections.

To get a better picture, the paper spoke with three TCs, two of whom said they would definitely vote as well as many of the people they know, while the third person was abroad and did not know much of the situation but said that he would try to find out more.

One of them, Hande, said she made sure her name and those of her family were registered on the electoral rolls by contacting AKEL. AKEL, she said, was the only party that provided assistance on election matters.

The daily reported that there are several groups supporting Kizilyurek in the occupied areas while the AKEL candidate has been given TV air space to analyse his positions. At the same time, criticism even by UBP to TCs who would vote at the elections was not as intense as in 2014, the paper reports.

There are around 81,000 TCs registered in the electoral rolls and 800 TCs living in the free areas who will vote in the areas they reside.

Except from Kizilyurek, there are eight other TC candidates, six of the Jasmine Movement and two of the Socialist Party of Cyprus, the daily reported.
Meanwhile, according to Phileleftheros, just a few days before the opening of the ballots, tension continues to escalate.

AKEL accused Anastasiades of meddling in the party’s internal affairs through his distinction between the people of AKEL and the party leadership.

The government picked up the gauntlet with the government spokesman relaying that the response to AKEL is everything the country has achieved during the six years Anastasiades has been president. He also pointed out to AKEL that on Sunday it is the Euro-elections and not the presidential ones, recalling that just 14 months ago the people chose their president, giving him 56 per cent of the votes.

But the public spat also continued among parties claiming the sixth seat with the Greens-Citizens Alliance combination taking a swipe at EDEK and ELAM. They accused EDEK leader Marinos Sizopoulos of trying to undermine GESY with EDEK hitting back, accusing them of populism.

The duo then called on Sizopoulos to say if he was undermining GESY and not to be evasive like ELAM’s leader who avoids participating in television shows.

Politis reported that the tone was lowered in the government-AKEL squabble following the admittance of former president Demetris Christofias to intensive care with the government announcing it was putting an end to the spat.

In another article Politis reports that DIKO MEP candidate Marinos Mousiouttas said in an interview that every Cypriot citizen has the right to elect and be elected, including TCs, but they ought  to understand that in the European Parliament they will defend the interests of the Republic of Cyprus and not of one or another community. He expressed his personal opinion that the issue has not matured enough within DIKO however.

KEY ACTORS
Mousiouttas (DIKO)
>>
Every Cypriot citizen, GC or TC, has the right to elect and be elected but they must be willing to defend the interests of the RoC at the EP and not of the communities they come from.
>> DIKO is not quite ready yet for a TC candidate.


Christofias stable but still critical

Alithia, Haravgi, Cyprus Mail, Phileleftheros, Politis
Governance & Power sharing

OVERVIEW

Former president Demetris Christofias, who is in the Nicosia general hospital’s intensive care unit due to significant respiratory problems, has been put on a ventilator, some of the papers report.

According to Politis the move was not because his condition had deteriorated but to support his breathing so that he would be able to take solid food.

A specialist on infectious diseases arrived on Tuesday from Israel while the possibility of his transfer abroad for treatment has not been ruled out.

The health ministry said on Tuesday that his condition was stable but critical.


Concern over constant arrivals of migrants

Politis
Migration & Citizenship

OVERVIEW

Another 45 Syrian refugees arrived on Tuesday through the Ledra street crossing to the free areas with the government expressing concerns for the increasing numbers of arrivals citing inability to properly accommodate them and process their asylum requests.

According to the paper, two men, 10 women and 33 children, four of whom are unaccompanied, crossed to the free areas. They are refugees from Syria, who arrived through Turkey and asked for asylum.

Police sources told Politis there are concerns that lately, persons who come to seek asylum in the free areas cross through the legal crossings without being stopped by the TC authorities.

Lately, around 100 to 150 refugees seeking political asylum arrive per week. The matter was to be discussed at ministerial level yesterday, but for some reasons there has been a postponement and the meeting will be convened in the coming days. The aim is to have a plan to manage the situation that is becoming uncontrollable.

Of the refugees seeking asylum, few leave Cyprus, with the majority remaining on the island, the daily reported.


F-35 jets land in Akrotiri base for training

Alithia, Haravgi, Phileleftheros
External Security

OVERVIEW

UK F-35 jets landed on Tuesday afternoon in the British Bases in Akrotiri as part of training, the papers reported.

F-35 jets from the UK arrived at the bases on their first training deployment outside of Britain. They will remain in Cyprus for six weeks for the Lightning Dawn exercise.

Group Captain of RAF Marham from where the jets arrived, Ian Townsend, told media that the crews will be trained in an unknown for them environment.

The exercise will allow them to study all aspects of moving this type of aircraft to a new location, including logistics and maintenance of all equipment, he said, according to Phileleftheros.

Alithia reports that the British Bases posted on twitter that the F-35 are on their first overseas flight to conduct valuable development training and to exercise all aspects of moving to a forward deployed location, including logistics, maintenance and flying.