GCC Press Review 16 Sep 2020

Front Page Headlines

Politis

Reaching agreement on sanctions difficult

So far there is no unanimity among the member states. Moving towards the beginning of exploratory contacts between Greece and Turkey in the next few days. Turkey issued new NAVTEX binding part of plot 6 by Yavuz up to mid-October. President of Republic to brief party leaders ahead of EU summit and after a series of consecutive visits of foreign officials. Satisfaction over support, results expected. President of European Council expected today in Nicosia, while Germany and US act in the background to de-escalate tension, showing the way to negotiation table and Hague (international court).

Phileleftheros

Ankara embarrasses EU – Merkel

Blows up in the air the effort to de-escalate in the Eastern Mediterranean with a new NAVTEX. Intense diplomatic activity ahead of high-level summit.

  • Intense concerns over Famagusta
  • Al Jazeera investigation in Attorney General’s hands
  • Audit Office insists there are strong illegalities

Haravgi

Borrell’s admission on lack of unanimity…

New NAVTEX for Yavuz until October 12th. Government says one thing in Cyprus and another in Brussels. Greece – Turkey meeting in NATO headquarters.

  • Open-air cinema in acritic Deryneia
  • Latest developments under the microscope (of party leaders)
  • Storm of reactions over “golden” passports. Government elects guilty silence

Cyprus Mail

Intense contacts before EU meet

Turkey extends operations of energy drill ship off Cyprus until mid-October.

  • May launch for Greece ferry ‘realistic’
  • Legal view: How legal is turning away Lebanese boats?

Alithia

Borrell warning to Turkey over measures

Discussion at the European Parliament. He asks for immediate de-escalation in Eastern Mediterranean and dialogue, otherwise EUCO will examine consequences. “There is no unanimity for now among member states over sanctions, we are working on it”. Accusations against Turkey over tensions in Eastern Mediterranean also from political groups in the EP. New intervention by Pompeo to Greece – Turkey: Go to dialogue.

  • Deputy minister for Shipping: Aim to start maritime line Cyprus – Piraeus by May 2021 realistic
  • Deryneia Municipality: Open-air cinema within the buffer zone
  • Government spokesperson said yesterday, after council of party leaders, that EU should impose new sanctions on Turkey

Main News

Borrell says there is yet no unanimity for sanctions on Turkey

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

OVERVIEW

EU High Representative Josep Borrell said that right now there is no unanimity in the European Council regarding sanctions on Turkey, the dailies report. He added that he is working on the basis of the political agreement of the EU’s Foreign Ministers during their last unofficial meeting that proposals on sanctions against Turkey and Belarus should proceed in parallel. Borrell was speaking during a meeting of the plenary of the European Parliament.

Borrell said, while responding to questions by MEPs, that he believes it is clear that the EU needs to defend its interests and particularly those of Greece and Cyprus that are under threat.

He repeated that there is a need for a minimum of trust to be established again with Turkey so that dialogue can begin once more and so that there can be de-escalation.

Meanwhile, the government is expecting European Council President Charles Michel’s visit in Cyprus on Wednesday in order to assess the Council’s positions on sanctions on Turkey, the dailies report. Deputy government spokesperson Panagiotis Sentonas said after Tuesday’s meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers that Michel’s visit is the latest in a series of important visits from foreign officials, and recalled that President Anastasiades spoke with Michel, German chancellor Merkel and other leaders in a teleconference, as well as with UNSG Guterres over the phone.

Michel said in statements alongside Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens on Tuesday that the EU will move in two directions regarding Turkey. On the one hand, the EU will have to be strict in order for principles that are important for Greece and Cyprus are respected, while at the same time being ready to open its arms to show that there can be a positive agenda if principles are requested.

Prime minister Mitsotakis said that Greece is ready to begin a dialogue with Turkey, given that Ankara takes more active steps in de-escalation. He noted that until there is a final agreement on EEZ and territorial waters, or until an international court rules on the issue, international law dictates that both sides should avoid unilateral actions.

Politis reports that if a dialogue between Greece and Turkey does begin, then it would be difficult to impose further sanctions on Turkey regarding actions in the Cypriot EEZ, other than adding some names on the list of persons sanctioned by the EU over activities connected to Cyprus.

Phileleftheros reports that while the EU and Germany are trying to find ways to avoid sanctions, Turkey has announced it will be extending a NAVTEX for drillings by Yavuz in the Cypriot EEZ until October 12th.

Government spokesperson Kyriakos Koushios said that this move shows that Turkey remains a destabilising factor. He added that Turkey’s stance towards Cyprus should not be linked with Ankara’s threat towards Greece. He said that Cyprus had succeeded in getting a framework for sanctions and that it asks for further sanctions.

Sentonas said that this is a period of intense diplomatic activity, which is necessary due to the challenges Cyprus is facing, ahead of the European Council’s meeting on September 24th.

He also said that the government’s position regarding Belarus is in accordance with the political agreement among the EU’s Foreign Ministers during August’s unofficial Foreign Affairs Council.

In a statement, AKEL spokesperson Stephanos Stephanou accused the government of not having clarified how it will handle the issue of sanctions against Belarus, Haravgi reports. AKEL points out that while Foreign Minister Christodoulides says the two issues are now connected, the government spokesperson said that the two are not related. Stephanou wondered what President Anastasiades will say when he is Brussels, and whether he will remain silent or say something other than what he says in Cyprus.

Alithia reports that Greek Foreign Ministry Nicos Dendias and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry met in Athens on Tuesday. Dendias repeated that Greece is expecting Turkey to consistently de-escalate and called the withdrawal of Oruc Reis a positive first step. Shoukry said that Egypt is against any action that destabilises the region.

Haravgi reports that both the Greek and the Turkish Foreign Ministers, Nicos Dendias and Mevlut Cavusoglu, published op-eds in Greek newspaper Kathimerini outlining their positions. Dendias reiterates that Athens is ready to begin a dialogue with Turkey in order to prepare negotiations, but only on the issue of the delineation of their continental shelves and EEZs.

Cavusoglu wrote that Turkey supports diplomacy without preconditions. He also said that attempts to cut Turkey off the resources of its own neighbourhood and expects Greece to reopen all channels of dialogue.

Oikonomiki Kathimerini reports that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indirectly called on Greece and Turkey to move forward with negotiations in statements made during a visit to France on Tuesday. Pompeo told radio station FranceInter that military footprints need to be reduced everywhere and countries need to work with diplomatic and not military means. He added that disagreements in the Eastern Mediterranean need to be solved without the use of military force.

In another development, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the founding charter for the East Mediterranean Gas Forum which will be signed by the energy ministers of Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority on September 22nd, Cyprus Mail reports. Energy Minister Natasa Pelides said that the forum’s objective is to leverage the countries’ cooperation to find the best ways to use the region’s natural wealth.

During a meeting between the political party leaders, the President and ministers, the government informed the parties that so far the Turkish side seems to not be moving forward with its plans to unilaterally open Varosha. The government shared the assessment that due to reactions by the international community and due to conflicts inside the T/C community, the effort is postponed for after the elections in the north.


Deryneia Municipality creates open-air cinema in buffer zone

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Politis
CBMs, EU Matters

OVERVIEW

The dailies report on an iniative by Deryneia Municipality, which lies on the buffer zone next to Famagusta, to create an open-air cinema in an area within the buffer zone.

Politis reports that the municipality is moving forward in coordination with the Italian Embassy in Cyprus, the Point Centre for Contemporary Art, the UN and Italian artist Rosa Barba. The cinema will remain an asset for the municipality and will be used in its cultural and bicommunal activities.

The municipality has said in a statement that the project is a part of its efforts to use the buffer zone in creative ways, and is the winner of an international competition. It also points out that Rosa Barba is a recognised artists who has exhibited her work in private exhibits and has participated in group exhibits in many important museums.

Barba has also shown its interest in conducting research in the buffer zone and in other archaeological sites throughout Cyprus.

The municipality adds that it will continue moving forward with projects that will have a bicommunal appeal and will work towards building peace and solidarity between the communities, and that it is also promoting the usage of the buffer zone to provide new families with the opportunity and land to build new homes.

It also notes that the buffer zone is officially territory still controlled by the RoC, which is being administrated by the UN based on UNFICYP’s mandate as defined in Security Council Resolution 186 (1964).


Auditor and parties accuse government of “golden” passport misdeeds

Alithia, Phileleftheros
Migration & Citizenship, Internal Security, EU Matters

OVERVIEW

The Audit Office insists believes that the handling of the citizenship-through-investment scheme has created a large scandal, given the evidence found in files it had access to so far, Phileleftheros reports.

According to the report, the main finding is that thousands were naturalised relatives of investors in violation of the regulations that were in effect until August 2020. The other big issue was the fact that naturalisations were given to investors that bought properties that were subsequently not built.

Phileleftheros reports that the Police is expecting instructions from the government’s Law Office regarding the issue of the files that the authorities requested the House of Representatives to hand over, as part of the investigation over the leaks to Al Jazeera.

Political parties continued their clash on this issue. AKEL spokesperson Stephanos Stephanou said that the government has managed to turn the investment programme into a bazaar in which citizenships were sold, giving out passports to crooks. DIKO vice president Michalis Damianou said that corruption and lack of transparency remain, and said that the Audit Office’s initial findings show why the government is afraid of being investigated.

In related news, Alithia reports that the Cypriot passports remains high on indexes on the most useful passports in the world. The newspaper cites a story by Sigmalive, which in turn has published a story from a news agency from Luxembourg regarding the increase of the desirability of the country’s passport. A web platform called Passport Index has kept the Cypriot passport high on the list, 34th out of 94 countries, pointing out that it gives access to travelling in 117 countries, 84 of which without a visa.