GCC Press Review 21 May 2020

Front Page Headlines

Politis

End to the quarantine, normality is still a long way ahead

We will be circulating without text messages and without restrictions for a ‘reasonable period of time’. The re-operation of the airports is expected by mid-June with special criteria on arrivals from each country. The labour minister is waiting for parliament’s green light for the extension of support schemes for the workers.

  • Willingness as regards crossings
  • Ferry to Greece: We are delayed by the coronavirus

Phileleftheros

Tourists as of June 20

Just a step before the president’s decision for speeding up all phases of lifting restrictions. A list of 20 countries in the hands of scientists for categorising measures on passenger arrivals.

  • Popularity games from the occupation regime
  • Outrageous video with the beating of commandos
  • Mini Schengen within the EU on the new era in tourism – A Europe of several tiers.

Haravgi

They got angry because they did not get their way!

The government spokesman lost his temper yesterday and lashed out at opposition as regards the bill (on government guarantees for loans to businesses) the government itself had withdrawn and did not allow to be voted by parliament. Mr Koushios revealed that “banks agreed to join the scheme after the interventions by President Anastasiades, saying they were not ready to accept amendments that affect them.”

  • Crossings: The TC side seeks a “joint” discussion of the issue
  • Soldiers at Stavrovouni punched other soldiers – The minister ordered a probe.

Cyprus Mail

Curfew ends, no more texts

Public prepares for freedom, reports that airports to open on June 9.

Alithia

Time for tourism

The final decisions tomorrow by cabinet. Airports are expected to open on June 9 and tourism will restart on June 15.

  • Opening of crossings: Akinci put Tatar in his place

Main News

Decisions on crossings expected after airports open

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Phileleftheros, Politis
CBMs, Human Rights, Internal Security

OVERVIEW

The dailies report on the next phases of relaxations of measures against the coronavirus and especially the opening of airports and the debate on crossings.

According to the papers, cabinet will decide on the opening of the airports and the arrival of passengers from some countries which present the same epidemiological picture as Cyprus, on Friday when announcements are also expected.

Cyprus Mail, citing reports by state broadcaster CyBC, reported that June 9 appears to be tentative date set for the reopening of Paphos and Larnaca airports and restrictions to and from the north could be revised by mid to early June.

Hotels are expected to reopen their doors to local tourists on June 1, the daily reports, adding that Anastasiades is due to speak with TC leader Mustafa Akinci on Thursday.

The dailies also report on statements by Akinci and ‘prime minister’ Ersin Tatar on the issue of the crossings.

According to the dailies, Tatar said that they were ready to work with the GC side to reopen the crossings while ‘health minister’ Ali Pilli suggested he meet with Cyprus’ minister for health Constantinos Ioannou.

Akinci, though welcoming the statements for readiness to discuss the matter, he said that meetings at this level between the two sides could only take place after a solution.

He explained that such contacts at the moment can only be taken through the Technical Committee on Health, and between the two leaders.

Politis reports that public statements on the opening of crossings seem to speed up developments without ruling out decisions within the first ten days of June though the possibility of strong disagreements between the two sides as regards procedures is visible and could lead to delays.

Both Akinci and Tatar’s statements give the impression that the TC side is ready for the next step and despite their different approach, the common point is that both want a joint decision to be taken with the Republic, the daily said. It adds that this is something that disturbs but also mobilises the Presidential Palace in possibly speeding up its moves because it does not want public opinion believe that the legal government, which is the only one that has the competency of taking such decisions is let to co-decide either with the pseudo-state or through any technical committee.

According to Politis one of the thoughts of the government is to reaffirm the reoperation of the 3 + 2 crossings (Republic of Cyprus and British Bases) in a specific way and specific controls that ensure protection from the coronavirus, while in the first phase, the suspension of the operation of the other four would continue.

When President Anastasiades makes his final decisions on the matter, he will inform Mustafa Akinci before proceeding with any procedures, the daily reported.

The issue was not discussed at length during Wednesday’s meeting with the epidemiological team at the Presidential Palace, since, when it was raised by epidemiologists Anastasiades seems to have told them that at this stage it is a matter of political handling which he would look into with Akinci, but did not rule out the involvement of scientists in later stages to determine specific measures and controls on crossings, the daily reports.

Haravgi, too, reports, citing sources, that Anastasiades told the experts at the meeting that the crossings would be discussed “in due time”. Citing information, the daily reports that the issue will be discussed after decisions are taken on the opening of the airports.

Politis, citing information, also reports there is no development in relation to the statements by virologist Leontios Kostrikis who pointed out that the only way to know the epidemiological data in the occupied territories is to address specific scientific questions to the TC side through the bi-technical Technical Committee on Health.

The paper reported that for the time being, this will not be happening, in anticipation of the government’s expected political decisions. After all, the Presidential Palace believes it is very difficult to receive reliable information that gives a clear picture on the epidemiological situation in the occupied territories and Turkey, the paper reported.

Phileleftheros reports that the occupation regime has engaged yet again in popularity games as regards the opening of the crossings suggesting a discussion on the matter at “health ministers” level. The proposal was made by Tatar and was backed by Akinci who said that when the Cyprus problem is solved the two health ministers will be able to cooperate. This move by the Turkish side aims at downgrading the Republic of Cyprus, the daily said.

Alithia reports that Tatar’s move for the recognition of the pseudo-state faltered.

Cyprus Mail reports that Akinci poured cold water on Tatar’s idea.

KEY ACTORS
Tatar
>>
Wants the two sides to jointly discuss the reopening of crossings at ministerial level.

Akinci
>>
Recalls that prior to the Cyprob solution, joint decisions can only be taken by the two leaders or through the technical committees.


Syria voices opposition to Turkish-Libyan memorandum

Phileleftheros
Regional/International Relations

OVERVIEW

The daily reports on a letter sent by Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, to the UN Secretary-General last April on Syria’s opposition to the agreement between Turkey and Libya on the delineation of their exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

The paper also analyses the importance of Syria’s position for Cyprus.

The daily, that said it reveals the contents of the letter sent to the UNSG on April 29, reports that Jaafari said the memorandum between Turkey and Libya violated the principles of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) on maritime borders as there is no overlap of maritime common borders between Turkey and Libya.

Therefore, there is no legal basis for signing such a “memorandum of understanding” between the two parties. Rather, political facts and legal authorities show that the signature of this memorandum is just a provocative political act that will turn the Mediterranean region into one of conflict and tension and can cause conflict.

Jaafari, according to the daily, said that the memorandum was a blatant attack on the sovereign economic rights of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt and has a negative effect on the EEZs between these states.

The Syrian diplomat also stressed his country’s strong opposition to the illegal memorandum, which, he said, is void and has no effect on its sovereign rights.

He added that such a memorandum would certainly create legal, political and practical problems in the future and in a possible agreement between Syria and Turkey on their maritime borders.

It is clear, he said, that the Turkish side seeks, through this memorandum, to legitimise and consolidate the status quo of its illegal occupation of land in other countries, in addition to trying to erase the rights of others to an EEZ.

Damascus, through its intervention to the UN, is asking that the registration of any documents relevant with the memorandum sent by Turkey is avoided for the sake of securing the sovereign rights of all countries of the region.

The daily reports that Syria’s position on the matter is very important for Cyprus since Damascus rejects the Turkish position on islands and island states not having EEZ rights but also recognised the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereign rights also in an area which Ankara is trying to impose the position that it belongs to the so-called ‘Turkish republic of northern Cyprus’.

The daily recalls that Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides had discussed Turkey’s actions in the region with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem.

KEY ACTORS
Jaafari (Syria’s perm rep to the UN)
>>
The Turkey-Libya memorandum is void, in violation of Unclos & unnecessary since there is no overlap of maritime common borders between the two countries.
>>
Everything points out to that the memorandum is just a provocative political act that will turn the Mediterranean region into one of conflict and tension.
>> The memorandum is a blatant attack on the sovereign economic rights of Greece, Cyprus & Egypt and has a negative effect on the EEZs between these states.
>> The memorandum will create legal, political & practical problems in the future also in a possible agreement between Syria and Turkey on their maritime borders.
>> Through this move, Turkey seeks to legitimise & consolidate the status quo of its illegal occupation of land in other countries, in addition to trying to erase the rights of others to an EEZ.


Defence minister orders probe into videos of soldier beating

Alithia, Haravgi, Phileleftheros
Internal Security

OVERVIEW

The dailies report that Defence Minister Savvas Angelides ordered a probe into the release of three videos on social media showing physical abuse amongst soldiers at the Stavrovouni military camp where commandos are being trained.

According to the dailies’ reports, it is unclear if the videos were a joke among soldiers or if it was indeed abuse.

The minister went on Wednesday at Stavrovouni and said that initial investigations indicate that soldiers from the same unit were participating voluntarily in the videos. He said that the incident took place in April and was between soldiers of the same unit while no higher rank officers were present and is not part of any training routine for the soldiers.

Angelides said he was furious and that the incident that violates the basic rules of discipline and dignity of everyone and is reprehensible. He added there is zero-tolerance for any kind of lawlessness in the military. “We want and have an army of professional and conscientious citizens,” Angelides said.

“We have a responsibility towards our country and towards every parent who entrusts us with their child.”

One of the videos shows one soldier punching another in the stomach and in another, a soldier has his head held down under a water tap. The videos also show punching and kicking with some of the soldiers under attack wearing hoods.

The defence ministry said it does not appear to have been part of any planned intimidation or bullying amongst the soldiers.

The three videos were first published on Phileleftheros’ website. The daily said it has released parts of the videos, cutting scenes believed to be very violent. It reports that one of the people present is heard calling on others to stop the beating. Some people who tried to watch the entire video said they could not watch until the end because there was too much violence.

The daily said that in the third video, the situation appears to be played up as a joke amongst the soldiers, but some have cast doubts on this due to the apparent severity of some of the violence.

Alithia reports that the videos show ‘voluntary’ sadistic scenes. Citing information, the daily reports no complaint was filed by any soldier in that unit. It adds that the third video is presented as a ‘film production’ and it mentions the nicknames of those who participated.

The daily also reports that DIKO said they were angry and appalled by the videos’ content and called for the exemplary punishment of those involved. It also said it would raise the issue with the House defence committee.


Officers denying ambulance use of crossing, under investigation

Phileleftheros
CBMS, Internal Security

OVERVIEW

The daily reports that the independent authority investigating complaints against the police would discuss on Thursday a complaint against officers who did not let an ambulance carrying a 49-year-old GC man from Kato Pyrgos to Nicosia through the Astromeritis-Zodia crossing last March.

The ambulance was forced to cross to the free areas through another crossing point, the daily reported. The incident took place early on March 21.

Police had appointed an investigating officer into the incident for possible administrative offences while the independent authority will also look into the case, the daily reports.


Fire service-UN, put out fire near Nicosia airport

Phileleftheros
External Security, Internal Security

OVERVIEW

The daily reports that the fire service, escorted and assisted by UNFICYP, put out a fire that erupted on Wednesday afternoon near the Nicosia airport.

The fire, that started in an area east of the Nicosia airport spread into the area of occupied Yerolakkos village. It burned around one square kilometre of wild vegetation and crops.

The fire service went on site immediately but since the fire spread into the buffer zone, the firemen had to escorted there by UN personnel, the daily reported.

Four engines of the fire service, two of the forestry department, and mobile units of the UN, the game and fauna service and the district administration and 18 tractors put out the blaze which threatened farms and a dog shelter which were protected by the firefighting crews, the paper reports.