Turkey insists on ‘two-state solution’ in Cyprus

Turkey has occupied almost 40 percent of Cyprus territory since 1974, while Turkish Cypriots have declared the independence of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” a state recognized only by Turkey. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Turkey has occupied almost 40 percent of Cyprus territory since 1974, while Turkish Cypriots have declared the independence of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” a state recognized only by Turkey. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
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Updated 15 February 2021

Turkey insists on ‘two-state solution’ in Cyprus

Turkey has occupied almost 40 percent of Cyprus territory since 1974, while Turkish Cypriots have declared the independence of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” a state recognized only by Turkey. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Island seen as part of forward basing system from Libya to the Gulf

ATHENS: Turkey insists that α “two-state solution” is now the only way to solve the Cyprus problem, even if it contradicts UN resolutions for a federation model with political equality between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

The Mediterranean island has remained divided since 1974, when Turkish troops took advantage of a coup orchestrated by the military government of Athens against then-Cyprus President Archbishop Makarios and invaded the island. 

Turkey has occupied almost 40 percent of Cyprus territory since then, while Turkish Cypriots have declared the independence of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” a state recognized only by Turkey.

Turkey wants to keep Cyprus as a “geopolitical hostage” as this serves President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans to revive the Ottoman empire and exert maritime dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Its position has hardened since the beginning of 2020, following the leadership election in the Turkish Cypriot community of Ersin Tatar, who is seen as entirely dependent on Erdogan. 

The UN secretary-general is expected to convene, possibly near the end of March, an informal meeting with the participation of Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and the three guarantor powers - Greece, Turkey and the UK - who are responsible for guaranteeing the security of the island under the agreements that led to the independence of Cyprus from the British Empire. 

The EU will be present as an observer, and the aim of this meeting will be to clarify whether there are enough grounds for holding an international conference to resolve the problem. 

Tatar has maintained, even during his meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, that at the March meeting he will present his vision for “a fair, realistic and viable solution” attained through a two-state partnership where the “constituent states” of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are equally sovereign and enjoy equal international status. However, such a proposal contravenes UN parameters for a solution as it is closer to a confederation that a federation. 

Erdogan also recently attacked Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for talking about the Turkish occupation when he visited Nicosia.

The last international conference aiming to solve the Cyprus problem was held in 2017 in Crans Montana, Switzerland. It failed to bridge differences and achieve a positive result. Turkey insists that the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation model championed by the UN has died and that other solutions should be explored. 

The Turkish side believes that it offered critical concessions in Crans Montana but in 2004, when the UN proposed the Annan Plan to resolve the Cyprus problem, the Greek Cypriot side backed down and voted against it in a referendum. 

At the same time, Turkey has pursued aggressive tactics in the Eastern Mediterranean, both against Cyprus and Greece, challenging the right of Cyprus to research and exploit hydrocarbons within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 

Turkey does not consider Cyprus to be a state entity and believes instead that it possesses exclusive rights to a continental shelf and an EEZ in the biggest part of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Apart from the two-state solution, which the EU does not accept as both the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the High Representative on Foreign Policy Josep Borrell have made clear in official letters to Cypriot government officials, the Turkish government has decided to open the closed area of the city of Varosha in order to exploit it economically and send a clear political message.

This is prohibited under UN resolutions, but Turkey is not intimidated. There are also many analysts who believe that it will engage in a cynical trade-off of its extreme positions with the other parties involved in the negotiations to extract benefits on issues of interest.

But Turkey’s plans do not stop there. It considers Northern Cyprus as part of a string of forward military bases it has established from Libya to the Gulf. This is why it has upgraded the parking capabilities of troops and drones in the occupied northern part of the island.

Turkey is trying to secure military bases for both air and naval forces in Libya. It has established a training military base in Somalia, is present in northern Syria and also has a military base in Qatar. This is the main reason for its intransigence on Cyprus.


Sudanese commander says forces secured eastern border with Ethiopia

Sudanese commander says forces secured eastern border with Ethiopia
Updated 39 min 7 sec ago

Sudanese commander says forces secured eastern border with Ethiopia

Sudanese commander says forces secured eastern border with Ethiopia
  • Karar reaffirmed Sudan’s commitment to non-aggression towards neighboring countries

DUBAI: A senior Sudanese commander said on Wednesday that his forces have secured the eastern border with Ethiopia, state news agency SUNA reported.
Lieutenant General Issam Mohammad Hassan Karar said the army was deployed within the borders to secure agricultural areas and retrieve all Sudanese lands in accordance with the 1902 border.
Karar also reaffirmed Sudan’s commitment to non-aggression towards neighboring countries.
Member of the council and head of the Revolutionary Front, Idris Al-Hadi, reconfirmed the statement.
“We will not seek the military solution to resolve the two issues of borders and water as there’s a possibility of resolving them peacefully,” he said.
The fertile Tigray region claimed by both countries has seen a rise in fights as Sudan sends in troops, which Ethiopia has described as an invasion.
The farmland borders Ethiopia’s Tigray region where Addis Ababa launched an offensive against the local leadership in November, sending some 60,000 refugees fleeing into Sudan.


Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings

Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings
Updated 21 April 2021

Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings

Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings
AMSTERDAM: Syria on Wednesday was stripped of its voting rights at the global chemical weapons watchdog by member states after its forces were found to have repeatedly used poison gas during the civil war.
A majority of nations voting at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) supported a decision to immediately revoke Syria’s privileges at the agency.

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media
Updated 21 April 2021

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media

AMMAN: Syrian President Bashar Assad on Wednesday submitted documents to run for a third term in an election scheduled for May 26, parliament’s speaker said on state media.
Parliament announced the election on Sunday. Washington and the Syrian opposition have denounced it as a farce designed to cement Assad’s authoritarian rule.
Assad’s family and his Baath party have ruled Syria for five decades with the help of the security forces and the army, where his Alawite minority dominate.
This year is the 10th anniversary of a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters which triggered a civil war that has left much of Syria in ruins.
The multi-sided conflict has sucked in world powers, killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more, but is now nearing its end with Assad, supported by Russian and Iranian allies, back in control of most of the country.
Candidates must have lived in Syria for the last 10 years, which prevents opposition figures in exile from standing.


Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines

Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines
Updated 21 April 2021

Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines

Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines
  • The delivery will be the first to Syria as part of the Covax program
  • 912,000 doses have been allocated to Syria for a first phase of vaccination

BAB AL-HAWA: A first batch of COVID-19 vaccine doses was expected to arrive Wednesday in war-torn northwestern Syria, where millions of people live in dire humanitarian conditions, a UN official said.

The 53,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were dispatched to the rebel-dominated region as part of the Covax facility, which ensures the world’s poorest economies get access to jabs for free.

“Once the vaccines arrive, we are prepared to start vaccination to priority groups through our implementing partners,” said Mahmoud Daher, a senior official with the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).

The delivery will be the first to Syria as part of the Covax program, which has already sent vaccine doses to more than 100 different territories worldwide.

The vaccine doses are intended for the extended northwestern Syrian region, which includes the jihadist-dominated Idlib enclave.

The first categories of people to be vaccinated in the coming days in the Idlib region will be medical personnel involved in the battle against the pandemic and first aid responders.

The next group will be people above the age of 60, followed by people from younger age groups with chronic diseases, said Daher, who is based in the Turkish city of Gaziantep.

Much of the Idlib enclave is controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a jihadist organization that includes ex-members of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda franchise.

Other regions of Syria will also receive vaccine doses through Covax, under which 92 countries are eligible.

Imad Zahran, a media officer for the Idlib region’s health department, told AFP that the vaccination campaign was expected to begin early next month and would last approximately three weeks.

According to the WHO, a separate 912,000 doses have been allocated to Syria for a first phase of vaccination in regime controlled and semi-autonomous Kurdish areas.

The aim is to vaccinate 20 percent of the population by year’s end.

Vaccination for health workers has started in government-controlled areas but not with doses received as part of the Covax program.

The official COVID-19 death toll in Syria is low compared to some other countries in the region but credible data collection across the conflict-ravaged country is almost impossible.

Syria’s war has killed more than 388,000 people since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.


UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states

UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states
Updated 21 April 2021

UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states

UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states
  • Both sides discussed mutual cooperation in areas such as trade, investment and tourism
  • The two countries lead the COVID-19 vaccination rollout

RIYADH: The UAE received Zvi Heifetz, Israel’s special envoy to the GCC states, in Abu Dhabi as both countries reviewed the progress of their bilateral relations since signing a peace agreement last September.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, welcomed the Israeli official to explore further UAE-Israeli relations and mutual cooperation in areas such as trade, investment and tourism, state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.

The two countries lead the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and during the meeting underlined the importance of accelerating efforts to ensure recovery from the crisis.

Last month, the UAE established a $10 billion fund to invest in strategic sectors in Israel that include energy, manufacturing and healthcare.

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, both countries have established reciprocal diplomatic missions, launched direct flights and held several trade visits – with the UAE attracting over 50,000 Israeli tourists.