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.


Yemen’s divisions were never fully healed

Yemen has entered its third year of war between the Iran-backed Houthi militia and the national army, supported by the Saudi-led Arab coalition. (AFP)
Updated 51 min 25 sec ago
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Yemen’s divisions were never fully healed

  • 28 years after the north and south merged, the challenges of bringing the country under one govt remain as great
  • It’s unity on paper only, but not in the hearts and minds of people, says Fatima Abo Al-Asrar, a senior analyst at the Arabia Foundation in Washington.

DUBAI: When Yemen’s national army marked the anniversary of north and south becoming one country, it was a reminder of the growing danger of the country once again fragmenting.

On May 22, 1990, the Republic of Yemen was formed when the two existing countries agreed on a unity constitution.

On Tuesday, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who leads the internationally recognized government, which is fighting Houthi militias, said the unification of north and south Yemen remained the most popular situation and one that “reflected the civilization of an ancient people.”

As it stands, the Houthis control the capital Sanaa and the north, while the government, backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, controls the south and much of the rest of the country. Twenty-eight years after the north and south merged, the challenges of bringing the country under the control of a single government remain as great.

“When it happened in 1990, Yemen’s unification was nearly universally viewed as a historical achievement,” Adam Baron, co-founder of the Sanaa Center For Strategic Studies, told Arab News. He said current tensions are a result of how the unification was carried out.

“Until they’re dealt with — and until serious dialogue occurs — these fissures are only likely to deepen,” Baron said.

Yemen’s divides were exacerbated by colonialism. Britain had been present in the south from 1874 in agreement with the Ottomans, while the north was part of the Ottoman Empire. After the collapse of the empire in 1918, the north became an independent state and the south became a British colony in 1937.

Following civil wars in the north and the south and weak economies, the governments of the two states agreed to renew discussions about unification.

In 1990, Ali Abdullah Saleh of North Yemen and leader of the south Ali Salim Al-Beidh agreed on a unity constitution.

However, conflicts within the coalition resulted in the self-imposed exile of Al-Beidh, who had become vice president of the transitional government, to Aden in 1993. After clashes intensified, civil war broke out in May 1994.

In the aftermath of the war, in October 1994 Saleh was elected by Parliament to a five-year term. He remained in power until he was overthrown by the 2011 uprising that forced his resignation in 2012.

Six years later and Yemen has entered its third year of war between the Iran-backed Houthi militia against the national army and the Popular Resistance supported by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition.

Yemeni political analyst Baraa Shiban said that after 2011 the people aspiring for change and building a new country strongly believed in the outcomes of the National Dialogue, a 10-month consultation process that would form the basis of a new constitution. Many believed a new federal system of government would be the best outcome. 

“The Yemeni people didn’t have the chance to vote for this new vision due to the coup led by the Houthis,” Shiban said.

“The regime that ruled after 1990 failed in meeting the dreams and hopes of the Yemeni people, who struggled for many years to reach unification.”

He added that Hadi’s administration needs to find a new form of governance that meets the demands of the people.

Amid the conflict between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government, other battles have erupted with Al-Qaeda and Daesh insurgents, as well as the Southern Transitional Council, who are calling for the south to secede.

Tensions escalated earlier this year when army forces clashed with southern separatist fighters.

Fatima Abo Al-Asrar, senior analyst at the Arabia Foundation think tank in Washington, said there is no indication that the government of Yemen is working to improve relations or solve the southern crisis.

“So far, the government of Yemen has directly clashed with southern leadership that called for secession,” she said. “The government fails to understand the pulse of the street and fails to realize that it is the only culprit standing in the face of prosperity.”

Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher accused southern separatists of attempting a coup in the interim capital of Aden after they took over the government headquarters in January.

At least 15 people were killed, among them three civilians, medical sources in four hospitals in Aden said.

The clashes led Saudi Arabia and the UAE to send envoys in a bid to end the standoff.

The Saudi and Emirati envoys “met with all concerned parties, stressing the need to abide by the cease-fire ... and refocus efforts on the front lines against the Houthis,” the UAE’s official WAM news agency reported.

However, Al-Asrar says that the country is already divided. “There is no one unified Yemen anymore. Northerners find it difficult to step foot in the south. It’s unity on paper only, but not in the hearts and minds of people.”