Erdogan tells Cyprus not to test Turkey over gas standoff

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan issued a warning to Cyprus and international companies exploring for gas in the eastern Mediterranean not to ‘step out of line’ and encroach on Turkey’s rights. (AP Photo)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Erdogan tells Cyprus not to test Turkey over gas standoff

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned Cyprus not to “overstep the mark” in the eastern Mediterranean, after Greek Cypriots accused the Turkish military of obstructing a vessel exploring for natural gas over the weekend.
Turkey, which does not have diplomatic ties with Cyprus, says some areas of Cyprus’s offshore maritime zone fall under the jurisdiction of Turkey or Turkish Cypriots, underscoring tensions in the broader eastern Mediterranean over competing claims for offshore resources.
“Our warships and security units are following all developments in the region with the instruction to do whatever is necessary,” Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in parliament.
“We warn those who overstep the mark in Cyprus and the Aegean,” he said. “They are standing up to us until they see our army, ships and planes,” he said, comparing the situation in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus with the Syrian region of Afrin where Turkey is waging an offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades declined to comment on Erdogan’s remarks but said there was no cause for worry.
Cyprus is one of several states, also including Israel and Lebanon, racing to tap gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greek Cypriots run Cyprus’s internationally recognized government, while Turkish Cypriots have a breakaway state in the north — recognized only by Ankara — and say resources around the island belong to them too.
The area where the Saipem 1200 drill ship was headed, Block 3 of Cyprus’s economic zone, is also claimed by Turkish Cypriots. Turkey’s state-owned oil company also plans to search for oil and gas off Cyprus, ethnically partitioned between its Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.
Saipem is contracted by Italy’s state-controlled Eni , whose officials have confirmed the drill ship was stopped by Turkish ships on Friday afternoon because of a military exercise in the area.
Cyprus has seemed keen to downplay the standoff, which appears to be the worst escalation of simmering tensions since the island struck a small quantity of natural gas in 2011.
“There is no cause for anyone to be concerned. This is being handled in a manner to avert any possible crisis which could create problems either to the economy or to the state,” President Anastasiades told reporters in Nicosia.
The European Union on Monday called on Turkey to avoid threats and “refrain from any actions that might damage good neighborly” ties.
Eni and France’s Total, partners in a Cyprus venture, announced last week finding a promising gas field off Cyprus. They said the find looked geologically similar to the Zohr field off Egypt, which holds an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, the largest field ever found in the Mediterranean .
Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup. Peace talks collapsed last year.


Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 29 min 10 sec ago
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Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon
  • Jan Kubis: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”