GCC Press Review 18 Sep 2020

Front Page Headlines

Politis

Agreement framework by spring

The aim of the Guterres initiative announcement. Simultaneous efforts by the US, EU and Angela Merkel for deescalation and start of dialogue on the Aegean and the Cyprus problem. Turkey torpedoes the UN Secretary-General’s initiative from the get-go, Kyriacos Kousios said in response to Ankara’s preconditions. Rumours over the postponement of the elections in the occupied areas in order for Ankara to curb the dynamics of Akinci’s candidacy.

Phileleftheros

Nothing is concrete until the Summit

The behind-the-scenes consultations are being intensified ahead of the European Council. Nicosia does not feel the expressed support is enough.

  • Ankara talks of a two-state solution: A comeback framework by the UN Secretary-General

Haravgi

Psychiatric patients and the thalassaemic have been left without medication

Serious problems remain unsolved at the Athalassa psychiatric hospital mainly those on infrastructure, understaffing, full occupancy and drug shortages. A series of problems and shortages are also observed in many public health sectors such as absence of modern pharmaceutical and medical treatment for the thalassaemic, pensioners etc.

  • Preparations for a new five-party conference on the Cyprus problem
  • (Ursula Von der Leyen) “The time has come for dialogue with Turkey…”

Cyprus Mail

UN floats talks bickering starts

Spokesman says Turkey is seeking to torpedo new Cyprus initiative.

Alithia

Torpedo by the Turks from the get-go

They put the Cyprus problem talks to bed before they even start. Turkey: Give political equality and natural gas or we will discuss about a two-state solution. No continuation from Crans-Montana talks. Cyprus: The threats and provocations need to cease and we should start from where we left off in Crans-Montana. The EU is by Cyprus’ and Greece’s side. The list of sanctions has been prepared and a powerful resolution by the European Parliament.

  • Developments in Libya, Sarraj is stepping down at the end of October – Turkey and Russia close to an agreement.  

Main News

Cyprob initiative highlights Nicosia’s & Ankara’s opposing views

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Phileleftheros, Politis
Negotiations Process, External Security, CBMs, Regional/International Relations

The opposing views of Nicosia and Ankara on the way forward as regards the Cyprus problem was among the main items in dailies on Friday.

The papers cite government spokesman Kyriacos Kousios accusing Turkey of torpedoing the talks before they even start after the Turkish foreign ministry announced the talks will not resume from where they left off in Crans-Montana and that unless the GCs agree on political equality, Ankara will promote a two-state solution.

Both Nicosia and Ankara issued statements on the announcement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on his commitment to revitalise the political process on the Cyprus problem right after the elections in the north in October.

Deputy government spokesman Panayiotis Sentonas said on Thursday President Nicos Anastasiades welcomed Guterre’s statement but that Turkey needs to cease its illegal actions in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“It is necessary for the threats against the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey’s illegal actions both in the EEZ and with what it mentions from time to time on the issue of Varosha, to cease,” Sentonas said. “We need to create an appropriate climate because we cannot negotiate under threat.”

On whether Nicosia’s position remains positively disposed to a five-member meeting consisting of the two communities and the three guarantor powers (Greece, Turkey, UK) despite Turkish provocations, Sentonas said: “What had been agreed is the convening of an informal five-party meeting that would pave the road for restarting talks.”

He also said Anastasiades discussed the Cyprus problem during meetings he had recently, with the President of the European Council, during the MED7 Summit, with the US Secretary of State and with the Russian foreign minister, expressing his readiness for the resumption of the negotiations from where they left off in Crans Montana.

As regards the UNSG’s call to develop confidence building measures (CBMs), Sentonas recalled that in his latest letter to Guterres, as well as during their latest telephone conversation, Anastasiades reiterated his proposal to set up a Technical Committee comprising Cypriot and international experts, for reconstructing Varosha. During his meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader in February 2019, Anastasiades submitted a proposal for 21 CBMs,” he added.

The Turkish Foreign ministry however, said that GCs must agree to political equality between the island’s two communities, otherwise a new negotiation process will start for a two-state solution. It also said that a resumption of the process did not mean things would start from where they stayed in Crans Montana, arguing that there was no common ground and vision for a solution between the two sides on the island.

All past negotiation processes, it said, failed due to the fact that the GC  side has not accepted the political equality, which is a requirement for a partnership on the island and that it could not be defined in a concrete way. “The underlying reason is the GC’s unwillingness to share both power and natural wealth with the Turkish Cypriot side,” the ministry said.

If a partnership is still desired on the island, it said, political equality, as a principle requirement, should be recognised in advance by the GC side with its entire elements. “If this cannot be done, then the two sides should start a new negotiation process over a two-state solution on the basis of sovereign equality,” the Turkish foreign ministry said. It added that the idea of holding an informal 5+UN meeting, which was proposed by Turkey last year, aims at clarifying these issues.

“Otherwise, … Turkey will not enter into a new negotiation process with dubious grounds and methods that failed in the past.”

In response, government spokesman Kyriacos Kousios said it was clear that with its preconditions Turkey seeks to “torpedo” any prospects for talks. He added that in Berlin, in November 2019, the two leaders agreed to resume the talks from where they left off in Crans Montana, in 2017, based on the UN resolutions, the EU principles and the European acquis, and the framework of the UN Secretary-General.

Kousios said that Turkey obviously sets new terms and conditions in order to attend the talks and rejects what the two leaders agreed in Cyprus in August 2019, but also in Berlin in the presence of the Secretary General, to resume talks from where they left off in Crans- Montana.

Turkey, Kousios said, wants Greek Cypriot side to accept political equality, as Turkey itself perceives it and not according to UN resolutions, the Cyprus High Level Agreements and the convergences at the negotiating table. Turkey also wants resumption of talks not where they left off, but on a new basis, Kousios said adding that Turkey wants to enter a new procedure for a two-state solution in Cyprus.

The dailies also report that except from ruling DISY and main opposition AKEL that welcomed Guterres’ statements, the smaller parties expressed their discontent by the UNSG’s statements.

DISY MP and Vice-president Efthymios Diplaros called for unity so that the GC side could rise to the occasion as regards the national issue.

AKEL spokesman Stefanos Stefanou called on the government to stop going back and forth and send a clear and convincing message that it is ready for the restart of the talks from where they left off in Crans-Montana. “The upcoming moments are crucial for the future of the Cyprus problem and of Cyprus itself,” he said.

EDEK leader Marinos Sizopoulos but also the Citizens’ Alliance criticised Guterres for his reference to ‘Northern Cyprus’, which they said, was contrary to UN resolutions.

They also criticised him for his “insistence on a five-party and not an international conference”. Sizopoulos said this degraded the essence of the Cyprus problem from an international issue of invasion and occupation to a purely bicommunal one. It also degrades the Republic of Cyprus at community level and upgrades the occupation regime at state entity level.

The Solidarity Movement spoke of “wretchedness” on behalf of Guterres as regards his reference that he expects the results of the presidential elections in ‘Northern Cyprus’ before he launches his new initiative.

Politis, citing diplomatic sources, reported that Guterre’s move did not come out of the blue but rather it is an initiative combined with the procedure for deescalating tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Germany’s active role, the recent visits to Cyprus by the US secretary of State and the European Council President contributed to this move, the same sources told Politis.

Guterres had telephone conversations 15 days ago with Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci while he had also met with the Greek and Turkih foreign ministers. In his latest statement, Guterres puts forth three medium-term goals: a five-party meeting before the end of 2020, CBMs between the two sides and a stop to unilateral actions in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean which would lead to the adoption of a moratorium, Politis reported.

Citing people in the know, the paper reports that the UNSG does not want to set a tight timeframe on his initiative but he will demand during the five-party meeting a strategic agreement with clear timeframes on what the two sides will do to achieve some results soon. The basis of this agreement will be the concretisation of the Guterres Framework with its main points political equality and the effective participation of the TCs in the federal government in combination with the termination of the Turkish guarantees in Cyprus.

Diplomatic sources also told Politis it is not certain Guterre’s intentions will materialise citing information coming from the occupied areas on the postponement of the elections in the north. The daily reported that Turkey may intervene to curb Akinci’s popularity. The daily also reports that polls show that Akinci is in the lead despite Ankara’s clear support to Ersin Tatar. Politis also cites a TC source saying that such a move by Turkey could further benefit Akinci due to the increased reaction of the TC community against Tatar’s government due to the economic crisis.

Phileleftheros reports that Guterres has set the framework within which he expects everyone to act to achieve the restart of efforts on the Cyprus problem. It adds that Guterres deliberately did not give details on the issues allowing that way each side to interpret his statement through their own lens.

Cyprus Mail reports that feelers sent out by the UN for relaunching long-stalled Cyprus reunification talks appeared to falter on Thursday as – in a redux of previous tries – Nicosia and Ankara both set their own ground rules that were inevitably at odds with one other.

KEY ACTORS
Sentonas (RoC – Dpty gov spokesman)
>>
RoC welcomes Guterre’s  initiative to revive the Cyprob procedure but this will mean that Turkey must stop its illegal activities in Cyprus’ EEZ & threats over opening of Varosha.
>> GCs are ready to resume the negotiations from where they left off in Crans-Montana but will not negotiate under threat.
>> Anastasiades has already submitted CBM ideas such as a technical committee for the reconstruction of Varosha.

Turkey (MFA)
>>
Resumption of Cyprob process does not necessarily mean starting from where things left off in Crans- Montana since there is no common ground and vision for a solution between GCs & TCs.
>> GCs must agree in advance to political equality between the two communities which is a requirement for a partnership on the island, otherwise a new negotiation process will start for a two-state solution based on sovereign equality.
>> All past negotiation processes failed due to GCs’ unwillingness to share power & natural wealth with the TCs.
>> Unless all these issues are agreed on at the informal 5+UN meeting, Turkey will not enter into a new negotiation process which is condemned to fail as in the past.

Kousios (RoC govt spokesman)
>>
Turkey wants to torpedo any prospects for talks before they even start.
>> Turkey rejects what the two leaders agreed on at the Berlin meeting last year which is to resume the talks from where they left off in Crans-Montana based on the UN resolutions, the EU principles and the European acquis, and Guterres’ Framework.
>> Turkey wants the GC side to accept political equality, as Turkey itself perceives it and not according to UN resolutions, the Cyprus High Level Agreements and the convergences at the negotiating table.
>> Turkey is looking for excuses to promote a two-state solution in Cyprus.

Diplaros (DISY)
>>
Calls for unity so that the GC side could rise to the occasion as regards the Cyprob.

Stefanou (AKEL)
>>
Calls on the government to stop going back and forth and send a clear and convincing message that it is ready for the restart of the talks from where they left off in Crans-Montana.
>> Warns that the upcoming period is crucial for the future of the Cyprob & of Cyprus.

Sizopoulos (EDEK)/Citizens Alliance
>>
Criticise Guterres’ reference to ‘Northern Cyprus’ & call for a five-party conference instead of an international one.

Sizopoulos
>>
The call for a five-party conference degrades the essence of the Cyprob from an international issue of invasion and occupation to a purely bicommunal one & the RoC at community level while it upgrades the occupation regime at state entity level.

Solidarity Movement
>>
Accuses Guterres of wretchedness for expecting the results of the presidential elections in ‘Northern Cyprus’ before he launches his new initiative.


Efforts for deescalation continue ahead of EU leaders summit

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

The dailies report that consultations ahead of next week’s European Council continue with Germany leading the initiative for deescalation in the  Mediterranean.

President Nicos Anastasiades had separate telephone conversations on Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Both of them expressed their full support to the Republic of Cyprus and its sovereign rights with regard to the provocations of Turkey and its illegal actions in Cyprus exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as well as in relation to Turkish threats about the issue of Famagusta, Director of the President’s Press Office, Victoras Papadopoulos, said in a written statement, the dailies report.

According to Papadopoulos, Anastasiades exchanged views with the two leaders regarding the forthcoming European Council meeting and they agreed that they will be in close contact, so that the EU effectively contributes to the termination of Turkey’s illegal actions.

Haravgi reports that President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen told journalists, including of the Cyprus News Agency that now was the time for dialogue and negotiation on the Greek-Turkish dispute.

The EU official said it was very important that Greece and Cyprus have full European solidarity for the violation of their legitimate sovereign rights.

“This was a very critical situation when we saw how Turkey tried to intimidate its neighbours. It is a good sign that this research vessel, … has been brought back to a Turkish port, because it opens a door to negotiations and dialogue. And I think that we should now respect this space, sit down at the negotiating table to find a sustainable solution, a peaceful solution to the open topics the topics at question. This is the moment now really to engage in negotiations and dialogue,” she said, according to Haravgi.

The daily also reports that Berlin is in constant contact with Athens, Nicosia and Ankara as the initiative of the German Chancellor is evolving for deescalation in the Mediterranean but also in view of the Summit of September 24 and 25 that will clarify the stance of the EU on Turkey and will set the tone on the continuation of the EU-Turkey relations.

Phileleftheros, in its main item, reports that the German initiative has not delivered all that was anticipated and that nothing is set in stone until the leaders’ summit next week.

Nicosia wants the decisions at the Summit to move beyond the expression of support for its sovereign rights, since the bloc’s stance so far did not push Turkey to deescalate tensions but rather Ankara perceives it as a form of tacit tolerance, the paper reports.

It added that next Thursday at the Summit leaders will be presented with a document on sanctions.

Cyprus Mail, citing an article by Reuters, reported that the Summit was supposed to show a united front to Ankara over the latter’s aggressive posture toward both Cyprus and Greece over maritime jurisdictions but gestures by Ankara this week to return its exploration ship to port have only served to complicate a unified EU response from all 27 governments.

The paper cites an EU diplomat who told Reuters that Turkey is trying to divide the member states.

It also reports that Cyprus has asked for more time to consider separate sanctions on Belarus in support of a mass pro-democracy movement there, which other EU governments interpret as a way of pressing for similar punitive measures against Turkey.

Another EU diplomat told Reuters it was fundamentally wrong to be linking Turkey and Belarus sanctions. “Cyprus seems to be saying it will only approve Belarus the moment Turkey is done simultaneously. But that kills the idea of a swift EU reaction to the Belarus repressions.”

Cyprus denies linking the two issues, the daily reports.

Haravgi and Cyprus Mail also report that the European Parliament Plenary adopted a resolution on the preparation of the extraordinary European Council, condemning Turkey’s illegal activities on the continental shelf / EEZ of Greece and Cyprus.
 
The EP welcomes Turkey’s decision on to withdraw last week the Oruc Reis and calls on Turkey to show restraint and contribute to the initiative.
 
Furthtermore, it calls on Turkey to respect the territorial integrity and all its neighbours, immediately ending all further illegal exploration and drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, insists that further sanctions can be avoided only through dialogue, genuine cooperation and tangible progress. The resolution also said that the Council should be ready to draw up a list of further restrictive measures in the absence of significant progress on cooperation with Turkey.

In addition, the EP urges all stakeholders to actively support the negotiations for a fair, comprehensive and sustainable settlement of the Cyprus problem, urges a full environmental risk assessment for all drilling activities, reiterates its call on the Turkish government to sign and ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and recalls that, although Turkey is not a party, customary law provides for EEZs even for uninhabited islands.

The resolution urges the parties to submit their disputes to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague or to resort to international arbitration in the event that a settlement is not possible through mediation.

KEY ACTORS
Von der Leyen (EU Commission)
>>
The withdrawal by Turkey of Oruc Reis provides an opportunity for dialogue & negotiation on the Greek-Turkish dispute.
>> Greece &  Cyprus have full European solidarity for the violation of their legitimate sovereign rights.

European Parliament
>>
Condemns Turkey’s illegal activities on the continental shelf / EEZ of Greece and Cyprus & welcomes the withdrawal of the Oruc Reis from Greek waters.
>> Calls on Turkey to show restraint & contribute to the initiative for de-escalation in the region but also respect the territorial integrity and all its neighbours by  ending all further illegal exploration and drilling in the East Med.
>> Calls on the EU leaders to draw up a list of further restrictive measures in the absence of significant progress on cooperation with Turkey arguing that further sanctions can be avoided only through dialogue, genuine cooperation and tangible progress.
>> Calls on Turkey to sign & ratify UNCLOS & recalls that customary law provides for EEZs even for uninhabited islands.
>> Calls on all stakeholders to actively support the negotiations for a fair, comprehensive and sustainable settlement of the Cyprob.
>> Calls on Cyprus, Greece & Turkey to submit their maritime disputes to the ICJ or resort to international arbitration in the event that a settlement is not possible through mediation.