Cyprus president: no drilling let-up despite Turkey’s moves

(File photo: Reuters)
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Updated 10 February 2020

Cyprus president: no drilling let-up despite Turkey’s moves

  • Anastasiades said pausing drilling in the face of Turkish pressure would be tantamount to Cyprus abrogating its sovereign rights

NICOSIA: Cyprus won’t put its exploratory gas drilling plans on hold despite Turkey’s attempt to force the east Mediterranean island nation to halt its activities by conducting its own gas search in Cypriot waters, president of Cyprus said Sunday.
President Nicos Anastasiades said pausing drilling in the face of Turkish pressure would be tantamount to Cyprus abrogating its sovereign rights.
Anastasiades said he was ready to engage with Turkey on charting a course to a deal that would reunify Cyprus, which has been divided into ethnically Greek and Turkish areas since the 1970s.
But that won’t happen if Turkey sets preconditions such as the suspension of offshore drilling for such peace talks to take place, he said.
“Disputing sovereign rights or preconditions such as ‘I’m violating international law and in return, you must give up your sovereign rights so that we can talk’...that doesn’t demonstrate either good will or good faith,” said Anastasiades, who is the president of Cyprus’ internationally recognized government.
Only Turkey recognizes a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the island’s northern third. Cyprus was was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup aiming at union with Greece.
“Just because Turkey doesn’t recognize us as a state we should renounce our statehood so that there’s dialogue.”
Turkish warship-escorted vessels are drilling in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights, including in areas where it has licensed energy companies Eni of Italy and France’s Total to carry out exploratory drilling.
Turkey says it’s acting to protect its rights in interests and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the area’s energy reserves. Turkey’s foreign ministry says the country won’t stop its hydrocarbon search off Cyprus until either all drilling ceases or Turkish Cypriots jointly manage such activity.
Last week, US Assistant Secretary of State Francis Fannon urged against “provocative actions” that undermine regional stability. He also voiced Washington’s support for Cyprus’ right to develop its energy resources and for proceeds to be shared between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots under a peace accord.


Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

Updated 04 July 2020

Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

  • Young volunteers tackle tough terrain, pandemic myths in isolated northern region

JAKARTA: A group of tech-savvy young locals in Indonesia’s northern North Halmahera regency is spreading awareness about the dangers of COVID-19 in remote corners of the archipelago at a time when bureaucracy has impeded a rapid response to the pandemic.

The Relawan Merah Putih, or Red and White Volunteers, includes a multimedia expert, university students, lecturers, civil servants and a web developer in Tobelo, the main city of North Halmahera in North Maluku province, about 2,500 km from the capital Jakarta.

The city is located on Halmahera island, part of the Maluku Islands, Indonesia’s fabled Spice Islands on the northeastern part of the sprawling archipelago.

Stevie Recaldo Karimang, a 28-year-old freelance photographer and videographer, told Arab News that he set up the group after social restrictions introduced to counter the pandemic put him out of business. 

He quickly developed a website on the pandemic and created online flyers and audiovisual materials that he and 31 other volunteers distributed on social media platforms and messaging apps to educate the public about the pandemic soon after the first cases in Indonesia were confirmed in Jakarta in early March.

“We translated the information we took from the national COVID-19 task force into the market language spoken here, which is a mixture of Indonesian and the local dialect, to make it more understandable for the locals,” Karimang said.

The group also used a drone to issue public warnings against mass gatherings.

“The drone helped to remind people not to form a crowd when social restrictions were enforced. We attached a flashlight to the device to catch the crowd’s attention, and we were able to dismiss such gatherings.”

But the volunteers shifted their efforts to rural areas after the first coronavirus case in North Maluku province was confirmed on March 23.

Jubhar Mangimbulude, a microbiology expert at Halmahera University and the group’s adviser, said the team had visited 30 isolated villages out of 196 townships in the regency, which is home to 161 million people.

“We reached one village after hours of driving over rough terrain. We have to use four-wheel-drive vehicles because along the way we may have to cross a river where the bridge is damaged,” he told Arab News.

Mangimbulude said that many villagers were unaware of the pandemic and only knew from TV that a dangerous virus was spreading quickly and infecting people. He was glad to find that no COVID-19 cases had been detected among the villagers.

But he acknowledged that misinformation was rife and said that he had to debunk myths about “how alcohol could be used to prevent the disease.”

“The villagers heard that the virus can be killed with heat in one’s body, and since drinking alcohol can warm the body, they encouraged their children and elders to drink a local alcoholic beverage made of fermented sugar palm fruit,” Mangimbulude said.

Fellow volunteer Oscar Berthomene, a local civil servant, said that the group was able to move faster than the regency administration whose bureaucracy slowed down the response to the pandemic.

“I have support from my supervisor, and we were able to help their activities with cars to allow them to move around,” he told Arab News.

The regency has about 18 percent of the 953 cases in the province, which make up about 1.5 percent of the national total of 62,142 as of Saturday.