Cyprus urges Turkey to end gas standoff, resume peace talks

Cyprus' energy minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, right, and Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades attend a meeting with the leadership council of the island, at the Presidential palace in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Cyprus' president Anastasiades says an offshore hydrocarbons search will carry on as planned despite strong opposition by Turkey and the ethnically split island nation's breakaway Turkish Cypriots. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Cyprus urges Turkey to end gas standoff, resume peace talks

NICOSIA: Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday urged Turkey to lift its blockade of offshore gas exploration that would benefit both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots once the island is reunited.
"The rhetoric by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots is unjustified and unfounded, and it does not serve the best interests of the Cypriot people... The planning of the Republic of Cyprus in the field of energy will proceed," Anastasiades said in a statement.
"I publicly call on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community to immediately respond to my call to return to the negotiating table, provided this is preceded by the termination of the violation of the sovereign rights" of Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), he said.
Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, said the island's untapped energy riches belonged to the state and would be shared with the Turkish Cypriots once the island was reunified.
"Our goal is to fully explore Cyprus's hydrocarbon potential, in the best terms possible, so as to maximise the benefits for all the people of Cyprus," he said.
Cyprus is embroiled in a standoff with Turkish warships blocking an Italian drillship from exploring for gas in the divided island's politically sensitive waters.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to "overstep the mark" in the Mediterranean after Turkey's warships blocked the Italian vessel.
The standoff over exploiting energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean risks further complicates stalled efforts to reunify Cyprus following the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks last year.
Italy's energy giant ENI said its ship had been ordered to stop by Turkish ships earlier this month over "military activities in the destination area" as it was on course to start exploring in block 3 of Cyprus's EEZ.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup.
While the Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognised, the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Ankara.
Turkey and Cyprus have long argued over the eastern Mediterranean, and Ankara has been stringent in defending the claims of Turkish Cypriots for a share of energy resources.
Cyprus expects more exploratory drills, with US giant ExxonMobil also planning two drills in the second half of 2018.


Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

Updated 19 min 18 sec ago
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Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

  • At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists
  • More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape

NEW DELHI: Police have made a series of arrests in connection with the abduction and rape at gunpoint of five anti-trafficking campaigners in the central Indian state of Jharkhand early this week.

Khunti police station officials, where the incident happened, told Arab News that three people have been arrested, including the head of the school where the play was being performed. 

Police superintendent Ashwini Kumar Sinha said a leader of a local movement called Pathalgadi instigated the accused, saying that the play performers were against the movement and should be taught a lesson. 

Pathalgadi is a political movement whose followers recognize their village councils as the only sovereign authority and views all outsiders suspiciously.

Activists working in the area say the incident has left them shocked and worried for their safety.

Earlier this week, nine activists were abducted while performing a street play in Kochang village and driven into a forest, where they were beaten and the women raped.

The activists were from the nonprofit organization Asha Kiran, which runs a shelter in the Khunti district for young women rescued from trafficking. Activists say that while such incidents are rare, the abductions have shaken the community.

“There is definitely fear now,” said Rajan Kumar, of Sinduartola Gramodaya Vikas Vidyalaya, a nonprofit group campaigning against people trafficking in the district. 

“But people have to work. We need to do more to take members of the village council into our confidence.”

Rajiv Ranjan Sinha, of the Jharkhand Anti-Trafficking Network, a coalition of 14 organizations, said the incident has frightened everyone.

“We’ve never had to face this before,” Sinha said. “But it will definitely have an implication. New people will be scared to go into the field.”

On Saturday, several non-profit organizations called for a silent protest march at 10 a.m. in the state capital Ranchi on Sunday.

At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists and to take seriously the issue of violence against women.

“We are not only NGO workers, but we are female also,” a spokeswoman said. “There is a lot of fear among workers now.”

India has a poor record of sexual violence against women — at least 39,000 cases were reported in 2016, the latest government data available. Activists say many more incidents go unreported.

The country changed its rape laws and introduced Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences legislation after the rape and murder of a 19-year-old student in December 2012 in the Indian capital.

More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in the northern state of Kashmir.

The girl was kidnapped, drugged and raped in a temple where she was held captive for several days before being beaten to death.