Erdogan’s two-state demand puts the jinx on planned UN-led Cyprus meeting

   A 2004 UN plan overseen by former secretary-general Kofi Annan to solve the Cyprus issue proved popular with Turkish Cypriots, but was rejected by most of their Greek neighbors. (AFP)
1 / 6
A 2004 UN plan overseen by former secretary-general Kofi Annan to solve the Cyprus issue proved popular with Turkish Cypriots, but was rejected by most of their Greek neighbors. (AFP)
The status of the Cypriot National Guard is an issue for both of Cyprus’ ethnic groups. (AFP)
2 / 6
The status of the Cypriot National Guard is an issue for both of Cyprus’ ethnic groups. (AFP)
Erdogan’s two-state demand puts the jinx on planned UN-led Cyprus meeting
3 / 6
Erdogan’s two-state demand puts the jinx on planned UN-led Cyprus meeting
4 / 6
Erdogan’s two-state demand puts the jinx on planned UN-led Cyprus meeting
5 / 6
Erdogan’s two-state demand puts the jinx on planned UN-led Cyprus meeting
6 / 6
Short Url
Updated 14 February 2021

Erdogan’s two-state demand puts the jinx on planned UN-led Cyprus meeting

Erdogan’s two-state demand puts the jinx on planned UN-led Cyprus meeting
  • Diplomatic initiative on reunification of ethnically divided island faces hurdles before it can even take off
  • Cyprus government rejects discussion of two-state formula as it implies Turkish Cypriot sovereign authority

RIYADH/LONDON: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent assertion that the only way to resolve the Cyprus dispute is a two-state solution may have just muddied the waters further, rather than helping resolve Europe’s longest-running frozen conflict.

By rejecting the reunification of Cyprus under a two-zone federal umbrella, long favored by Greece and the UN, the Turkish leader has purposely raised the stakes in the run-up to a UN-led meeting to assess the possibility of resuming talks.

Erdogan’s comments also came shortly after the leaders of Greece and Cyprus said they would only accept a peace deal based on UN resolutions, rejecting the two-state formula supported by his government and the Turkish Cypriot leadership.

Greek Cypriots, who make up the EU member’s internationally recognized government, refuse to discuss proposals for a two-state union as it implies Turkish Cypriot sovereign authority.

UN initiatives have failed to break the deadlock since the eastern Mediterranean island underwent a de-facto partition into Greek- and Turkish-speaking zones in 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third in response to a coup in Nicosia engineered by the Greek junta.

The last UN-sponsored negotiations at the Swiss ski resort of Crans Montana came to naught in July 2017, going the way of the talks brokered by then UN chief Kofi Annan in 2004. For the March meeting, the UN is expected to invite Cyprus’ two communities as well as foreign ministers from the three guarantor nations – Greece, Turkey and Britain – to discuss how to move forward on the issue.

“Cyprus has been a quagmire for every UN secretary-general since the 1970s and (current UN Secretary-General Antonio) Guterres will be no exception,” Dimitris Tsarouhas, professor of international relations at Turkey's Bilkent University, told Arab News.

“The parameters of a solution are known to all parties involved: a bi-zonal, bi-communal state that will incorporate international law provisions for the protection of the rights of all, and be functional enough to make it all work. Maximalist positions on both sides meant that golden opportunities were lost at Crans Montana in 2017 and during the Annan Plan in 2004.”

But then again, the rivalry runs deep. Greek Cypriots reject granting veto powers to Turkish Cypriots, and oppose both permanent troop presence and the continuation of military intervention rights by Turkey.

For its part, Turkey not only rejects suggestions of a federation between the two zones, it is also asking for hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean to be shared. Last month, Greek and Turkish officials met in Istanbul after a five-year gap for exploratory talks on a raft of long-standing issues, including the status of Cyprus.

Conflicting claims to Cyprus’ political status and natural resources go back more than a century. Cyprus was annexed by Britain in 1914 at the conclusion of the First World War, following more than 300 years of Ottoman rule, and officially became a British colony in 1925.

Then, in the mid-1950s, Greek Cypriots launched a guerrilla war against British rule, demanding unification with Greece.

Independence was won in 1960 and a constitution agreed on by the island’s Greek and Turkish communities. Under the Treaty of Guarantee, the UK, Greece and Turkey each retained the right to intervene in Cypriot affairs, while Britain kept hold of two military bases.

IN NUMBERS

1.28 million Total population of Cyprus.

$35 billion GDP (purchasing power parity).

Harmony was short-lived, however. Inter-communal violence erupted in 1963 when the president, the clergyman cum politician Archbishop Makarios, suggested changes to the island’s power-sharing arrangements. The following year, a UN peace-keeping force arrived and delineated the “Green Line.”

Events moved quickly in 1974 when Greece’s military junta orchestrated a coup against Makarios in an attempt to annex Cyprus. The consequent deployment of Turkish troops on the island’s north effectively partitioned the island along the UN-policed Green Line.

While an estimated 165,000 Greek Cypriots fled south, about 45,000 Turkish Cypriots relocated to the north, where they established their own independent administration with Rauf Denktash as president. Despite a unanimous UN Security Council resolution, Turkey has refused to withdraw its troops from Cyprus.

Fresh attempts at UN-sponsored talks in the early 1980s were dashed when Denktash proclaimed an independent “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” — an entity recognized only by Turkey to date.

Open conflict loomed in the 1990s when the Greek Cypriot government considered purchasing a Russian-made S-300 missile defense system — a move quickly dropped when Turkey threatened military action.

Repeated failures of diplomacy and the accompanying rhetoric of ethnic nationalism have taught political analysts to manage their expectations.

“Recent electoral results in northern Cyprus have strengthened hardliners there — and they are themselves benefiting from Erdogan’s material and ideological support,” Tsarouhas told Arab News. “For the first time, Turkish Cypriots now claim that a two-state solution is the only way forward, and Erdogan echoes that. This means the partition of the island.

“On the other hand, it is equally true that Greek Cypriots have missed their opportunities to push for a successful resolution of the problem in the past, so they are not in a hurry. They have never been, since 1974.”

Stavros Avgoustides, ambassador of Cyprus to Saudi Arabia, rejects the claim that the Greek Cypriot side has also mishandled the issue and places the blame squarely on Turkey.




Turkey has been carrying out exploration and drilling operations for oil and gas in the Mediterranean Sea despite protests from Cyprus and Greece. (AFP)

“The failure of successive efforts to achieve a solution was fundamentally due to Turkey’s insistence to maintain Cyprus as a protectorate through the obsolete post-colonial system of guarantees and the presence of Turkish troops on Cyprus’ soil,” Avgoustides told Arab News.

“Cyprus has ended up being ‘ethnically divided’ as a result of the 1974 Turkish military invasion and occupation and the policy of ethnic cleansing executed by Turkey against the people of Cyprus.”

Judging by the statements coming from Ankara, it is obvious that ruling party politicians have nothing to lose by adopting a harder line ahead of the UN-led meeting. “There is no longer any solution but a two-state solution,” Erdogan told a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) last week. “Whether you accept it or not, there is no federation anymore.”

A day later, in an interview with TRT Haber, Ibrahim Kalin, the presidential spokesman, expanded on his boss’s statement. “We cannot discuss the things we discussed for 40 years for another 40 years,” he said.

“Now, this issue will be discussed under the UN’s roof. It will be discussed at the 5+1 talks. We will now be discussing a two-state solution.”

The remarks by Erdogan and Kalin came shortly after Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister of Greece, said that “significant” talks to reunify Cyprus could not be resumed if Turkey insists on a two-state accord that disregards the UN and EU framework for a peace deal.

Even if next month’s meeting goes ahead as planned, a successful outcome is far from guaranteed. After all, with the new millennium had come renewed impetus to resolve the dispute, led by Annan. The 2002 road map — known as the Annan Plan — envisaged a federation with two constituent parts, presided over by a rotating presidency.

If the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides agreed to the plan, Cyprus was to be offered EU membership. If they failed, only the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south would be permitted to join.

The Annan Plan was put to the Cypriot public in twin referendums in 2004. Although it won support among Turkish Cypriots, it was overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots, thus compounding the situation.

Animosity between the two sides deepened in 2011 when Cyprus began exploratory drilling for oil and gas. Turkey responded the following year with its own drilling onshore in northern Cyprus despite protests from the Cypriot government. In a parallel development, UN-sponsored reunification talks launched in 2015 again ended inconclusively in July 2017.




The election last year of the staunchly pro-Ankara anti-reunification nationalist Ersin Tatar as the new Turkish Cyprus president has made the UN-backed peace vision seem ever more unrealistic. (AFP)

Then, in Oct. 2020, anti-reunification nationalist Ersin Tatar narrowly won the Turkish Cypriot presidency, making the UN-backed vision for peace seem even more unviable. With the Turkish side backing Ankara’s demand for a two-state formula, expectations of a deal based on the UN resolutions being reached are low.

As far as the Greek Cypriots are concerned, the terms have not changed, according to Ambassador Avgoustides. “We are committed to the continuation of negotiations with the aim of achieving a solution of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation as provided in the relevant UN resolutions,” he told Arab News.

“We earnestly hope that the same level of commitment will be displayed by all involved.”

A solution must “fully respect the basic rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots, that will free Cyprus from foreign guarantors and from the presence of foreign troops, and will render it fully able to exercise its role as a beacon of peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean.”

As things stand, whether the two competing visions for the future of Cyprus can be reconciled in the near future is an open question.

___________

Twitter: @NoorNugali

@RobertPEdwards

 


Libyan FM calls for ‘stability, peace, security’

Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
Updated 52 min 5 sec ago

Libyan FM calls for ‘stability, peace, security’

Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
  • Tripoli laying path for ‘fair, legal elections,’ minister tells Italian MPs

ROME: “Stability, peace and security” are Libya’s major priorities ahead of the country’s next elections, Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush told a meeting of Italian MPs.

Speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News, El-Mangoush said that Libya’s transitional government intends to “talk to everyone the same way and put a new agenda on the table.”

“Peace and security will not be possible without regional and international support,” she said.

Libya’s first woman foreign minister addressed Italian MPs for more than an hour, and was quizzed on her Cabinet’s views on issues ranging from Libya’s relationship with Italy to tackling illegal immigration. 

She said that Libya takes responsibility for violations of migrants’ rights in its territory, but urged the global community to adopt a “different and alternative approach” to stop the flow of illegal immigrants crossing the country’s southern borders.

“Illegal immigration is a broad and thorny topic. However, it is not only a Libyan issue, but a regional and an international one,” El-Mangoush said.

“I ask the international community to be practical and proactive: You need a strategy that is consistent with the current phase. Blaming the coast guard is useless. We have an uninterrupted flow of migrants coming from African states. We do not know who is coming: They could be criminals or sick.

“We are against the violation of human rights and we are sad for the condition of these migrants, but Libya is a transit country for migratory flows and our resources are limited.”

She added that “in southern Libya, we have a famine in progress. What can you ask to a people on the edge  of famine? How can these people help somebody arriving from the south if they need help themselves? Please, don’t blame us, but try to understand the difficult situation we are facing. We have limited resources and outdated policies to deal with this.”

Discussing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya, the minister said she believes this will not happen in a day, but will be the result of long negotiations. However, she believes that the dialogue with several states involved “gives us hope.”

“For us, sovereignty is the top priority, so stability and security are in order to be able to hold democratic, clean and legal elections,” she said.  

“We asked everyone, including Turkey, for cooperation to get all foreign forces off Libyan soil. Our safe future depends on the withdrawal of foreign forces.”

El-Mangoush said that the Libyan government “wishes for an even bigger role for Italy to solve Libya’s crisis, to put an end to foreign interference and help us to release all foreign forces.”

She called for Italian help in economic, medical and cultural areas, including the restoration of Tripoli’s old town and ancient buildings in the center of Benghazi damaged by war.

“Only the Italians can do a good job,” she said.


Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud

Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud
Updated 16 min 15 sec ago

Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud

Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud
  • The founder of cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, Faruk Fatih Ozer, fled the country with about $2 billion, leaving more than 391,000 users defrauded
  • The fraud case coincided with an overnight decision by the Central Bank of Turkey to ban the use of digital currencies and assets to pay for goods and services from April 30

ANKARA: Turkey’s cryptocurrency market has seen its first large-scale fraud case after the founder of cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, Faruk Fatih Ozer, fled the country with about $2 billion, leaving more than 391,000 users defrauded.

Ozer reportedly escaped to Albania.

In collaboration with Turkish authorities, Interpol has issued a red notice for the fugitive wanted for prosecution.

Although an investigation was launched into the company whose accounts were blocked by the financial crimes investigation board MASAK on April 21, the scheme revealed loopholes in the system.

The company has operated since 2017. It recently shut down services for several days, saying that it will allow outside investment from “prestigious banks and funding companies” in order to serve partners.

However, shortly after the statement, users began facing problems with money transfers before the site became inaccessible.

The daily volume of cryptocurrency trading in Turkey is believed to be about $1-$2 billion.

The fraud case is the largest in Turkish history, and coincided with an overnight decision by the Central Bank of Turkey to ban the use of digital currencies and assets to pay for goods and services from April 30.

Among other decisions, the central bank also targeted people and companies that fund illegal activities or facilitate money laundering through cryptocurrencies.

The Thodex founder was previously photographed in a meeting with several top Turkish policymakers.

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, Turkey ranked fourth among the 74 largest economies in the world and first in Europe for cryptocurrency adoption by the population.

“Thodex, as a cryptocurrency trading platform, is just another company in Turkey, and there are no laws for this kind of setup,” Fatih Guner, an expert on the cryptocurrency market, told Arab News.

Recent polls revealed that between 16 and 20 percent of Turks used or owned cryptocurrencies last year.

“The adoption is high, but the literacy is not that high. And the lack of literacy is crucial for cryptocurrency trading platforms because these platforms only make money if people buy and sell coins on their platforms. Exchanges from all over the world are investing in PR and dark marketing to gain new amateur traders, with influencers, YouTube creators, newsletter writers and Twitter trolls,” Guner said.

According to Guner, influencers work with exchanges to encourage inexperienced investors with false claims of profit.

“Turkey is a haven for coin exchanges because of the lack of legislation. The government has to step up and legislate heavily,” he said.

“In recent years, we saw that Turkish people heavily indulged in the lottery, football bets and all kinds of lawful gambling. The government seems to see exchanges as some other kind of gambling and loosely controls them to keep people busy while they live on the edge of poverty. Turkey’s cryptocurrency adoption rate is fourth in the world after Nigeria, Vietnam and the Philippines. The economic resemblance is uncanny,” Guner added.

Experts have long urged the government to take tougher measures to deal with criminals who defraud amateur cryptocurrency investors.

In March, a man in the southern Turkish city of Antalya killed his two children and wife before committing suicide after losing a large sum of money in Bitcoin investments.


Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries
Updated 23 April 2021

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries
  • Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi welcomed the resumption of flights
  • Putin expressed his country’s keenness to enhance various aspects of the bilateral relations with Egypt

DUBAI: Egypt and Russia have agreed to resume flights between the two countries after a five-year suspension, including Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, Presidency’s website reported.
The decision comes after Egypt maintained security standards for its air travel and both sides reached agreements on other undisclosed issues.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi welcomed the resumption of flights between the two countries in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
From his side, Putin expressed his country’s keenness to enhance various aspects of the bilateral relations with Egypt, praising the extended partnership between the two countries.
He also affirmed that Russia was counting on Egypt’s pivotal role in stabilizing its entire regional environment.
The report added that the call also covered discussions about developments in Libya and the Renaissance Dam file. It also covered issues of bilateral cooperation in investment, especially regarding the economic zone of the Suez Canal Corridor.
Russian aviation and tourism flights to Egypt were suspended after a Russian passenger plane crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31, 2015, with 224 people on board.


Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes
Updated 23 April 2021

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes
  • The violence flared outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather
  • Tensions were fueled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs”

JERUSALEM: Over 100 Palestinians and 20 Israeli police were wounded in overnight clashes in annexed east Jerusalem, authorities said Friday, as tensions mount over a ban on gatherings and videos of attacks on youths.
The violence flared outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather in large numbers during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Tensions were fueled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs.”
There have been nightly disturbances in the area since the start of Ramadan on April 13, with Palestinians outraged over police blocking access to the promenade around the walls, a popular gathering place after the end of the daytime Ramadan fast.
Police said that after night prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City “hundreds of rioters began disrupting the order violently, including throwing stones and objects at forces.”
Stun grenades were fired and water cannon deployed to disperse the “rioters” and force them toward less central areas of east Jerusalem, police said.
Police said officers attempted to “distinguish between them and those who finished prayers” and were not involved in the events.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said on Friday it had treated at least 105 people, with about 20 of them hospitalized.
Israeli police said 20 officers were injured, three of whom were taken to hospital.
“It was like a war zone; it was dangerous,” a Palestinian who was near the clashes outside the Old City told AFP. “That’s why I left the place.”
Tensions have been high in Jerusalem after a series of videos posted online in recent days showing young Arabs attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews and Jewish extremists taking to the street to bully Arabs in nightly confrontations.
On Thursday night, the Israeli extreme right group Lehava organized a march ending opposite the Old City attended by hundreds to protest the anti-Jewish violence.
Police erected barriers to keep them from entering the mainly Arab location.
The Palestinian presidency meanwhile condemned “the growing incitement by extremist far-right Israeli settler groups advocating for the killing of Arabs, which in recent days manifested in a wave of attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Old City.”
A statement late Thursday on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa urged the international community to protect Palestinians from the “settler” attacks, which it alleged were encouraged by the Israeli government.
Videos on social media also showed Palestinians attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews in the early hours of Friday, with reports of Israeli vehicles being stoned in and near east Jerusalem.
Police reported “a number of incidents overnight in which civilians were attacked, some of whom needed medical treatment.”
Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion said he tried to cancel the Lehava march, but police told him it was legal, noting that “dozens” of Jews who attacked Arabs had been arrested in the past two weeks.
Speaking with public broadcaster Kan, Lion said he was in talks with leaders of the Palestinian east Jerusalem neighborhoods “to end this pointless violence.”
More than 50 people detained overnight were taken for a remand hearing on Friday morning, a statement from police said.


Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village
Updated 23 April 2021

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

ADEN: Houthi "terrorists" have abducted three civilians from the Yemeni village of "Beit Al-Jabr" in the governorate of Dhamar, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.

The Houthis took their victims to a detention center in Jabal Al-Sharq district, in the same governorate controlled by the Iran-backed group, the report said.

The raiders claimed they were taking the victims under the pretext of setting up a funeral council, but the official Yemeni News Agency (Saba) quoted a local source as saying there was no such plan to establish a funeral council, SPA said.

According to the Saba source, the storming of the village was consistent with the "systematic policy of harassment" that the Houthi militia follows in dealing with the population in all areas under their control, SPA added.

Houthis earlier abducted Yemeni model and actress Entesar Al-Hammadi and two of her friends on Feb. 20 as they were traveling to shoot a TV drama series.

On Thursday, the captors reportedly placed Al-Hammadi in solitary confinement as punishment for her protest against her initial incarceration and prison conditions.