GCC Press Review 29 Feb 2020

Front Page Headlines

Politis

The virus of stupidity closed crossing points

A political decision by the government without a legal basis. Effectiveness of suspension of operation of crossing points disputed. Thousands of Cypriots will be inconvenienced despite the fact it is impossible to locate all persons with symptoms.

  • Mourning for two in the occupied areas

Phileleftheros

The virus hit the crossing points

Difficult decisions in the battle for protection from the coronavirus – 5 ministers will be meeting daily. “High risk” Cypriots will be confined at home.

  • Provocative action by Turkey: Chaos in Evros, islands with hundreds of refugees
  • Because he doesn’t go to the occupied areas: Charles invited them but Akinci doesn’t want
  • Permits for six drillings to ENI-Total – It started work in Lebanon and Cyprus is next
  • The market filled with vegetables from the occupied areas
  • Turkish FM downplays EU sanctions

Haravgi

Presidential virus closes crossing points

They close 4 crossing points and go for… carnivals! No consultation by President with political leaders. Spotaneous reaction by citizens on Ledra street.

  • Nightmarish moments for T/C patients
  • Tension at Idlib escalates
  • Efforts to save the Agia Paraskevi monastery at Vasileia

Cyprus Mail

Four crossings being shuttered

Despite backlash, state defends the move to stop any spread of the coronavirus.

  • Two die in north hospital fire

Alithia

Coronavirus: Fear closed crossing points

Ministry of Health: The issue is not whether there will be an occurrence in Cyprus, but when there will be one, what is needed is alertness, vigilance and no panic. Complaint: Due to fear of coronavirus, personal doctors and pathologists refuse to accept in their practices people that say they have flu symptoms. Reactions and complaints from M. Akinci, “government” and others in the occupied areas.

  • Turkish FM: EU sanctions have no value and they will not affect us
  • Tension at Idlib escalates: Area in state of war – Russia sends two warships with Cruise missiles to the coasts of Syria. USA and NATO on Ankara’s side
  • Occupied Nicosia hospital burned: Almost a tragedy with many dead – Two patients dead, 300 moved out. Communication between President Anastasiades and Akinci and offer of any help

Main News

RoC suspends crossings in four checkpoints due to coronavirus

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Phileleftheros, Politis
CBMs, Internal Security, Human Rights, Negotiations Process, EU Matters

OVERVIEW

The dailies report on the decision by the government of the Republic of Cyprus to temporarily suspend crossings at four checkpoints on the buffer zone, citing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

Philleleftheros reports that the government decided to temporarily closed the checkpoints at Ledras, Astromeritis, Lefka and Dherynia. The newspaper notes that this is the first time checkpoints are closed since 2003. The checkpoints in Ayios Dometios, Strovilia, Limnitis and Ledra Palace will remain open. The government will be staffing these with nurses according to the official announcements.

Cyprus Mail also reports that the Health Ministry said that it intensified airport controls to cover people who travelled to certain countries with a high number of incidents. These controls concern Italy, and specifically the affected regions in the north of the country, South Korea, Iran, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The dailies report that the decisions were taken after a three hour meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers. During the meeting it was also decided to house anyone detected to carry the virus but not display any symptoms. The ministers of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Defence, Health and the assistant minister for Tourism will be meeting daily to coordinate efforts. A National Crisis Management Center will be following the situation.

Cyprus News Agency reports that in a statement, UNFICYP spokesperson Aleem Siddique noted that the UN had been informed of the decision and called the two sides to continue cooperating closesly to face a possible public health emergency. He noted that the two leaders met on February 3rd to discuss how to coordinate their efforts.

Politis cites a statement by Minister for Health Constantinos Ioannou, who pointed out that it’s a matter of time for a coronavirus case to be found in Cyprus. He also said that the effectiveness of the measures that can be taken at points of entry to the country they can only be effective 25% of the time.

Politis also points out that during Friday’s meeting the ministers had suggested the cancellation of the carnival celebrations in Limassol, as it tends to attract locals from both sides as well as from abroad and even countries with coronavirus infections. Anastasiades is reported to have rejected the measure. He is also reported to have had initially expressed concerns about accepting a closure of crossing points.

Phileleftheros also reports that earlier on Friday, President Anastasiades had met with the leaders of Solidarity, Eleni Theocharous and of ELAM, Christos Christou. These meetings were the last in a series of discussions with the political parties on the Cyprus Problem and the coronavirus. After the meeting, Christou said that he had suggested the closure of the checkpoints in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The dailies also widely report on the reaction by T/C leader Mustafa Akinci. Akinci’s spokesperson, Baris Burcu, said in a statement that Anastasiades contacted the T/C leader to inform him of the temporary closure of the four checkpoints for seven days. Akinci was also informed by Anastasiades that the rest of the checkpoints will remain open, but with increased security measures.

Burcu criticised the decision pointing out that unilateral measures such as this cause panic, adding that Akinci reminded Anastasiades that the bicommunal Technical Committee for Heatlh had informed them on February 3rd that measures were necessary not at the the checkpoints but in entry points to the country such as ports and airports.

AKEL criticised the government for taking a serious decision that could have political repercussions without consulting with the political parties, and for not coordinating with the T/C side in order to avoid problems, Phileleftheros reports.

The party also points out that in the past few days, both the Foreign Minister and the leader of DISY had said that there would be no closure of checkpoints. AKEL points out that it is reasonable to take measures where necessary, but also notes that the government is behaving in an inconsistent way that raises questions.

Government spokesperson Kyriakos Koushios responded to criticisms by AKEL and the T/C side in a statement to the Cyprus News Agency. He said that the government does not intend to limit free movement from and to the occupied areas and that the measure is preventive. He added that there has been no restiction imposed in crossing in the other five active checkpoints.

In a statement, ELAM says that the decision was taken as a result of its pressure on the government and is in the right direction, and insists on the closure of all checkpoints.

Citizen movement UniteCyprusNow in an announcement states that the decision to close four of the checkpoints is offensive to the intelligence of Cypriot citizens.

KEY ACTORS
AKEL
>> The government took a serious decision that could political repercussions without consulting political parties or coordinating with T/C side
>> Government response shows lack of coordination since in the past few days the Foreign Minister and the leader of DISY had said there would be no closures

Burcu (T/C leader spokesp.)
>> Unilateral measures such as this cause panic
>> The two leaders and the bicommunal committee on health had decided to focus on entry points to the country and not on checkpoints
>> Anastasiades called Akinci to inform him of the decision

Koushios (gov. spokesp.)
>> The government does not intend to limit free movement to and from the occupied areas
>> There are no restritions imposed in the open checkpoints

Ioannou (Health Minister)
>> It is a matter of time for a coronavirus case to be found in Cyprus

Christou (ELAM)
>> The decision was taken after ELAM’s pressure, but all checkpoints need to close

UniteCyprusNow
>> The decision is offensive to the intelligence of Cypriots


ENI-Total to restart drilling in Cypriot EEZ after April

Alithia, Phileleftheros
Energy, Economy, Regional/ International Relations, External Security, EU Matters

OVERVIEW

Phileleftheros reports that TOTAL and ENI are getting ready to begin work on up to six drillings in the Cypriot EEZ and that work will start in April. The newspaper cites information that the permits have been issued after the completion of the necessary environmental impact studies.

According to the newspaper, the timeframe of the new drillings has started crystallising, since the consortium resumed its scheduled drillings on Thursday in plot 4 of the Lebanese EEZ. Phileleftheros notes that the consortium’s drillship “Tungsen Explorer” had finished its drilling in the Egyptian EEZ at the end of 2019 with a six week delay. The drilling in the Lebanese EEZ is the next in that schedule and had been delayed for several years and is conducted on behalf of both TOTAL-ENI and Russian company Novatek which hold the rights to that plot.

Phileleftheros notes that based on the current schedule, “Tungsen Explorer” is expected to finish its work in the Lebanese EEZ at the beginning of April and then to move into the Cypriot EEZ for the first of four successive drillings. It is then scheduled to return to the Lebanese EEZ before returning again to the Cypriot EEZ for two further drillings.

The breaks are included into the schedule in order to give time to the companies to process the geological data collected from each exploratory drilling.

The newspaper also notes that the ExxomMobil – Qatar Petroleum consortium is also scheduling drillings in the Cypriot EEZ. Those are expected to include a confirmatory drilling in “Glafkos” field as well as a new area.

Phileleftheros also reports that the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the sanctions announced by the EU against two officers of Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) are indicative of a bias by the EU against Turkey, and that Ankara considers them worthless. The Turkish MFA adds in its written announcement that the EU’s approach opposes the rights of the country and the T/Cs in the region, and that the EU should not act as if it is an international court since the maritime areas claimed by the G/Cs have not been accepted as final.

KEY ACTORS
Turkish MFA
>> The sanctions issued by the EU against two TPAO officials indicate a bias by the EU against Turkey
>> The EU should not acto as it it’s an international court regarding competing maritime areas claims


G/C side offers to assist T/Cs after deadly hospital fire

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Phileleftheros, Politis
Human Rights, CBMs

OVERVIEW

The dailies report extensively on a fire in north Nicosia’s central hospital, which resulted in the death of two people. President Anastasiades expressed his condolences to the T/C side in a tweet, and added that he had called Akinci to inform him that the G/C side is ready to help in any way possible.

Alithia reports that according to T/C media, Anastasiades offered to host patients from the north in the government controlled area. Akinci replied that the members of the bicommunal committee on health are in constant communication and that the T/C side will reach out if there is need.

The G/C head of the bicommunal committee for health, Leonidas Phylactou, told the Cyprus News Agency that Minister for Health Constantinos Ioannou contacted him and specifically offered to help the T/C side if necessary.

KEY ACTORS
Phylactou (Health technical committee)
>> The Minister for Health personally contacted him expressing his preparedness to help the T/C side

Anastasiades
>> Condolences to the T/C side
>> G/C side ready to provide help