GCC Press Review 2 Sep 2020

Front Page Headlines

Politis

They mixed passport investigation with leaks investigation

Ultimatum by Odysseas to the Interior Ministry and “threats” against the Attorney General. OEB – KEBE (employers association and chamber of commerce): Veto on ending naturalisations. The Auditor General issued his opinion before that of the Attorney General and threatens to go to the Supreme Court if G. Savvides has an opinion that differs from his own. Parties see an attempt to target MPs and parliament, and are sceptical of executive’s intentions.

  • Symbolism and substance: Lifting of embargo, first act
  • University professor: Held impoverished Nepalese imprisoned

Phileleftheros

Lifting embargo a message from US

M. Pompeo officially informed N. Anastasiades of Washington’s decision. (Decision) Will be about non-lethal systems.

  • They move ahead in Yeroskipou: They “bury” ancient structures for the sake of Archbishopric’s hotel
  • Intervention by Guterres on Famagusta
  • Erdogan, Cavusoglu, provoke and threaten

Haravgi

Incursion on Parliament, muzzle on the Auditor

Institutional crisis over passport scandal. Instructions that no evidence be given to the Auditor General. Intermediaries and overpricing.

  • New ideas from Technical Committees
  • Partial lifting of the American arms embargo. It is about non-lethal weapons
  • Increased tension near Kastelorizo and efforts towards de-escalation and dialogue

Cyprus Mail

US partly lifts arms embargo

‘Positive step reinforces the bilateral security relationship’.

  • Business leaders oppose suspending investment programme

Alithia

Internal Ministry blocks Odysseas, who got angry and sends ultimatums!

Auditor General creates new internal crisis. Interior Ministry did not give evidence on naturalisations to Auditor General, as it waits for the opinion of the Attorney General over whether he has the authority to conduct an investigation. Auditor General has been asking these evidence until Friday and casts doubt on Attorney General’s opinion beforehand if it doesn’t satisfy him…

  • Two Cypriots: Held two foreigners locked up, hit them and let them starve
  • New ultimatum by EU to Turkey: Change your route or sanctions are coming
  • Erdogan: Sink a Greek ship
  • Coronavirus: One death (the 28th) and two new cases
  • Official announcement: USA: Partial lifting of the arms embargo on Cyprus
  • Letter by Guterres to Nicos Anastasiades: I am concerned over Varosha, I follow developments closely

Main News

US lifts arms embargo for Cyprus for non-lethal weapons

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Oikonomiki Kathimerini, Phileleftheros, Politis
External Security, Energy, Regional/ International Relations, EU Matters

OVERVIEW

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has informed President Anastasiades that the country has decided to lift the arms embargo that had been imposed on Cyprus since 1987, but only considering non-lethal parts and equipment.

Politis reports that this decision finalises an arrangement that had been in the offing for a while, and that it opens up new options for the Defence Ministry regarding the ordering of spare parts, systems and equipment, which does not include weapons systems. Phileleftheros reports that Pompeo’s call had been arranged to take place on Tuesday since last week.

Phileleftheros reports that the decision by the US government will be effective during the 2020 – 2021 fiscal year. Government sources that spoke to Phileleftheros underlined the symbolic value of the decision, which signal the strengthening of US – Cypriot relations during a period of regional tensions.

According to a government statement, Anastasiades briefed Pompeo on recent developments regarding the Cypriot EEZ, Varosha, as well as the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey’s actions in the region.

According to the same statement, Pompeo reiterated that the US recognise Cyprus’s and Greece’s sovereign rights in the region, and underlined the need for a dialogue based on international law towards overcoming regional differences.

Phileleftheros recalls that the decision was initially a part of the National Defence Authorisation Act 2021 of the US Congress which was approved this July.

The media also reports on new statements made by Turkish President Tayip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu regarding tensions between the country and Greece. According to state agency Anadolu, Erdogan said during an event for the beginning of the judicial year that it would be unfair to trap Turkey out of the sea due to the existence of an island 10 square kilometres in size, referring to Kastelorizo.

During a press conference along the Algerian Foreign Minister, Cavusoglu commented on the situation in Kastelorizo and Greece’s response that the footage that made the rounds in international media does not show an increase in military force but a change of guard. Cavusoglu said that if there’s no heavy weaponry, it is understandable for there to be forces on Kastelorizo, but pointed out that there limits.

Cavusoglu also said that the EU’s unconditional support to Greece leads to the country taking provocative steps that contravene international law. He said that these steps, taken at the encouragement of others, will end up harming Greece, and reiterated that Turkey is ready to enter a dialogue.

Meanwhile, Turkey extended its NAVTEX regarding activities by research vessel Oruc Reis until September 12th, Phileleftheros reports citing a report by Turkish daily Milliyet. Greece responded by issuing its own NAVTEX. Greek government spokesperson Stelios Petsas said that Turkey needs to chose between de-escalation in practice or following the road that leads to EU sanctions.

Alithia cites a report by German newspaper Die Welt according to which Erdogan had asked his general staff to cause a military incident by sinking a Greek ship. The German newspaper cites information from military circles in Turkey. According to the report, Erdogan had pushed the idea for a controlled crisis that would not result in loss of human life, but military leadership disagreed.

The dailies also report that the EU has, for a second day in a row, publicly reminded Turkey that it has a deadline to de-escalate in practice by the European Council on September 24th, or else sanctions will become an option. Phileleftheros reports that European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano told the CNA on Tuesday that the EU foreign ministers were clear on what needs to be done and that there is a precise time-line regarding the path to de-escalation or sanctions.

Stano also indicated that not everything is taking place in the public domain and pointed out that there are a lot of other activities which might not be visible at this moment, implying that another effort to de-escalate the situation is under way behind closed doors.

Phileleftheros also reports that Christodoulides spoke with the EU’s HRVP Josep Borrell on Monday, citing a tweet by the Foreign Minister.


UNSG Guterres responds to Anastasiades that he is concerned over Varosha

Alithia, Haravgi, Phileleftheros
Negotiations Process, Territory

OVERVIEW

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres assured President Anastasiades that the UN is closely monitoring the situation regarding Varosha and remain committed to assist the sides to move forward with a sustainable and comprehensive negotiations process, the dailies report citing a written statement by assistant government spokesperson Panagiotis Sentonas.

Sentonas said that Guterres responded to President Anastasiades with a letter sent on August 27th, 2020, as response to a letter sent by Anastasiades on August 25th.

In his letter, Guterres says that the President’s concerns regarding Varosha are seriously taken account of, and assures the President that the UN follows the issues closely as seen also in recent UN reports published on July 10th and 13th.

Guterres also underlined that the Security Council issued a joint statement on October 9th, 2019, reiterating that the status of Varosha is guided by previous resolutions and pointing out that there can be no action that contravenes SC resolutions.

Phileleftheros reports that Guterres will also discuss the issue of Varosha with the Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Dendias in New York. According to the newspaper, Dendias has discussed the issue with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides ahead of travelling to New York in order to submit the EEZ delineation agreement between Greece and Egypt to the UN.


Technical Committees heads express frustration over obstacles to their work

Haravgi
CBMs, Negotiations Process

OVERVIEW

The G/C heads of the bicommunal Technical Committees met in order to assess the progress in their work since their previous meeting last year and to coordinate future projects, Haravgi reports.

During the meeting, Technical Committees coordinator for the G/C side and G/C negotiator Andreas Mavrogiannis, briefed the participants of the latest developments in the Cyprus Problem and sent the message that the work conducted on a bicommunal level is particularly important ahead of expected developments after October’s elections for T/C leader.

Haravgi reports that the heads of the Technical Committee expressed their frustration regarding the obstacles they face due to the pandemic and the fact that G/C and T/C members are not helped to maintain contact in order to discuss new ideas and plan ahead.

One of the decisions taken during the meeting was that interpreters will join teleconferences between G/C and T/C members to facilitate the discussions.

The heads of the committees found that there are no pending projects in the areas of education, public health and the environment, since all projects discussed so far have received funding and are in the process of being implemented.

The agreement was therefore that the Technical Committees will work towards developing new projects and will intensify their work, and submit them to the government for funding given there is an agreement with the T/C members. Some of the Technical Committees G/C heads presented their ideas for new projects and asked for the go-ahead to discuss them with their T/C counterparts.


Energy Minister: There will be no further postponement on drillings

Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Phileleftheros
Energy, Economy, Regional/ International Relations

OVERVIEW

Energy Minister Natasa Pelides told the media that the RoC’s programme in natural gas exploration will proceed and that there will be no further postponements, the dailies report. In a statement made after a meeting with DISY president Averof Neofytou, Pelides was asked to comment regarding possible delays in the government’s schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pelides responded that the government has granted a one-year extension to the obligations taken on by energy companies involved in exploration and drillings in the Cypriot EEZ, but added that there are no discussions for further delays.

The minister also said that during Monday’s teleconference between President Anastasiades, herself and the CEOs of Chevron and Noble Energy, the two companies assured the RoC that if the coronavirus situation remains manageable then work should restart in a year as agreed. She added that the government has also been in contact with other companies involved works in in the Cypriot EEZ, and said that the government hoped that no further postponements will be needed due to the pandemic.


Internal Ministry and Auditor General clash over passports investigation

Alithia, Haravgi, Cyprus Mail, Phileleftheros, Politis
Migration & Citizenship, Internal Security, Economy, EU Matters

OVERVIEW

The dailies report that Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides intends to appeal to the Supreme Court if Attorney General Giorgos Savvides rules that the Interior Ministry can refuse, or is not obliged, to hand over evidence regarding the country’s citizenship-through-investment programme.

Phileleftheros reports that the Interior Ministry requested a reason opinion by the Attorney General as soon as the Audit Office requested information on the programme on August 24th. However, the newspaper reports, on August 31st the Audit Office was given a list of all naturalisations approved since May 2018, along with copies of five specific files requested by the Auditor General in order to confirm accusations made in reports by Al Jazeera.

When the Audit Office requested a further 15 files on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry refused to hand them over before receiving an opinion by the Attorney General, Phileleftheros adds. Politis reports that the Audit Office gave the Interior Ministry an ultimatum, asking for the files to be handed over by Friday.

The Audit Office said in a statement that after an initial screening of the five files it received it found that there might be issues regarding loss of income for the state.

The dailies also report that the police has asked the permanent secretary of the House of Representatives, Sokratis Sokratous, to hand over documents related with the government’s citizenship scheme, in the context of a separate investigation over the provenance of the leak to Al Jazeera’s journalists.

Phileleftheros reports that the heads of the parliamentary parties will examine the question in a meeting on Wednesday. The House of Representatives is obliged to respond by Thursday. The newspaper notes that the investigation does not concern MPs but the institution of the parliament itself and its handling of confidential information.