Greek-Turkish relations: Is thaw setting in?

Greek-Turkish relations: Is thaw setting in?
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed he will visit Athens on Monday for talks with his Greek counterpart in a bid to prepare for a possible meeting between the countries’ top leaders. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 27 May 2021

Greek-Turkish relations: Is thaw setting in?

Greek-Turkish relations: Is thaw setting in?
  • FMs from both countries will try to lay the groundwork for a possible meeting between Erdogan and Mitsotakis
  • Countries embroiled in disputes over territorial claims in the Aegean Sea and energy drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean

ANKARA: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed he will visit Athens on Monday for talks with his Greek counterpart in a bid to prepare for a possible meeting between the countries’ top leaders.
If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sit down for a meeting, it is likely to take place on the sidelines of the NATO summit on June 14 in Brussels.
The delegations of the Turkish and Greek defense ministries held their fourth round of meetings on confidence-building measures this past week.
The foreign ministers of the two countries had a war of words on April 15 in Ankara during a joint press conference over their competing interpretations of the maritime law in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean Seas. Greece accused Turkey of infringing on Greek sovereignty in its drilling operations and Turkey blamed Greece for pushing back migrants to Turkish shores.
The overlapping territorial claims of the two countries in the Aegean Sea, disagreements over ethnically split Cyprus and Turkey’s controversial energy drilling activities in the Eastern Medetrterian led to a standoff between Ankara and Athens last year.
Eduard Soler, an expert on Turkey and geopolitics at the Barcelona Center for International Affairs, thinks that such a high-level meeting between the two countries is the key message as it shows the willingness of both parties to engage in dialogue instead of pursuing unilateral actions, unlike the case in 2019 and 2020.
“I do not expect major substantive progress, but the very existence of these meetings is a positive development, contributing to prolonging the current phase of appeasement,” he told Arab News. 
“But unless we move from talking to something else, we will not be able to leave behind this phase of ‘fragile appeasement’ to enter something more sustainable and productive. But we are not there yet.”
On whether the Cyprus conflict will be part of the bilateral agenda, Soler thinks that “if not on the agenda, it is on everyone’s mind.”
He said tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean intersect and that there are fewer chances of positive openings on Cyprus.
“Short-term tensions have already significantly declined,” he said. 
“My concern is how to avoid the crisis we have agreed to postpone. This will require trust, avoiding mistakes, refusing the seduction of short-term political and electoral calculations on both sides, borrowing perceptions and interests of extra-regional actors. Because there is certainly a lot of fatigue on both sides.”
The UN-sponsored Geneva meeting on April 27-29 failed to push for formal settlement talks on the Cyprus conflict, while the parties agreed to meet under UN auspices in the coming months.
Despite the strong words between the two foreign ministers at the meeting, the two sides have expressed their willingness to promote a positive economic and trade agenda. They also agreed to work for the next steps in this area, according to Dr. Charles Ellinas, a senior fellow at the Global Energy Center of Atlantic Council.
“The fact that between then and now there have not been any flare-ups between the two sides is helpful,” he told Arab News.
“As a result, I expect the forthcoming discussions to be more business-like, covering all bilateral issues from the resumption of the exploratory talks to the regional and maritime issues and the next steps regarding resumption of the negotiations on Cyprus.”
However, Ellinas noted that maritime disputes remain unresolved and tension remains, while both countries still plan to hold naval exercises despite this meeting.
As Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez recently announced that Turkey may conduct more drilling for gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, it is still unclear whether Turkey will soon initiate its drilling activities in the controversial waters. 
“Time will tell, but we are hopeful. We evaluate that there is a potential,” Donmez said.
Turkey has already opened eight boreholes in the region, but they were not significant in the economic sense. EU leaders in March also warned Ankara of potential sanctions if it relaunches energy exploration in the contested Mediterranean waters.
“A constructive outcome from the forthcoming meetings, even without any breakthroughs, is in the interests of both countries, especially given the ravaging effects of COVID-19 on their economies. Regaining confidence requires restraint and avoidance of provocative rhetoric and actions,” Ellinas said.


Egypt announces first fully vaccinated governorate

Egypt announces first fully vaccinated governorate
Updated 43 sec ago

Egypt announces first fully vaccinated governorate

Egypt announces first fully vaccinated governorate
  • South Sinai is the governorate with the fewest COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as the highest recovery and vaccination rate among people aged 18 and over
  • South Sinai, where the town of Sharm El-Sheikh is located, is one of the most famous tourist governorates in Egypt

CAIRO: Officials in South Sinai have announced that it has become the first governorate in Egypt whose eligible population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

According to health sources, it is the governorate with the fewest COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as the highest recovery and vaccination rate among people aged 18 and over — the allowed age for inoculation. 

South Sinai, where the town of Sharm El-Sheikh is located, is one of the most famous tourist governorates in Egypt. It also includes famous religious sites such as Mount El-Tur and St. Catherine’s Monastery.

Maj. Gen. Khaled Fouda, governor of South Sinai, said there have only been 81 deaths from COVID-19 there since the start of the pandemic — the lowest rate among Egypt’s governorates. 

He added that South Sinai recorded only one case on Sunday night after recording no cases for two weeks in a row, bringing the total number of cases to 1,371 since the start of the pandemic, with only 29 hospitalizations. 


10,000 children killed or maimed in Yemen since 2015: UNICEF

10,000 children killed or maimed in Yemen since 2015: UNICEF
Updated 19 October 2021

10,000 children killed or maimed in Yemen since 2015: UNICEF

10,000 children killed or maimed in Yemen since 2015: UNICEF
  • Four out of every five children need humanitarian assistance in Yemen

GENEVA: Ten thousand Yemeni children have been killed after the Iran-aligned Houthi group ousted the government in 2015, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Tuesday.
“The Yemen conflict has just hit another shameful milestone. We now have 10,000 children who have been killed or maimed since ... March 2015,” UNICEF spokesperson James Elder told a UN briefing in Geneva after returning from a visit to Yemen.
“That is the equivalent of four children every single day,” Elder said, adding that many more child deaths or injuries went unreported.
Four out of every five children — a total of 11 million — need humanitarian assistance in Yemen, while 400,000 are suffering from acute malnutrition and more than 2 million are out of school, Elder said.
UN-led efforts to engineer a nationwide cease-fire have stalled as the Houthis resist compromise to end more than six years of a war that has caused what the UN calls the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
Hundreds of Yemenis are trapped by fierce fighting between government and Houthi forces in the northern Marib governorate, residents and a local official said last week, after battles for control of the gas-rich region displaced some 10,000 people.


Qatar forms climate change ministry, appoints finance minister

Qatar forms climate change ministry, appoints finance minister
Updated 19 October 2021

Qatar forms climate change ministry, appoints finance minister

Qatar forms climate change ministry, appoints finance minister

DUBAI: Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has appointed Ali Bin Ahmad Al-Kuwari as finance minister in a government reshuffle, according to a statement issued by the emiri court on Tuesday.

Al-Kuwari had been serving as commerce and industry minister and as acting finance minister before the reshuffle.

Qatar's emir created an environment and climate change ministry on Tuesday, naming Faleh bin Nasser al-Thani as its minister. 

Two women were handed cabinet posts for education and social development. They join Health Minister Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari, who had been the only woman in the cabinet.

 

(with Reuters)


Egypt aviation sector sees jump in flights, passengers, cargo

Egypt aviation sector sees jump in flights, passengers, cargo
Updated 19 October 2021

Egypt aviation sector sees jump in flights, passengers, cargo

Egypt aviation sector sees jump in flights, passengers, cargo
  • There were 2.1 million aircraft passengers in July

CAIRO: There were 18,500 flights into and out of Egypt in July compared to 6,500 in the same month last year, an increase of 185 percent, according to the country’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.

In June there were some 14,000 flights, compared to 500 in the same month last year.

There were 2.1 million aircraft passengers in July, more than quadruple the 500,000 passengers in the same month last year.

In June there were 1.6 million passengers, compared to 300,000 in the same month last year.

There were 19,200 tons of cargo transported by plane in July compared to 16,700 in the same month last year, an increase of 13 percent.

In June 21,300 tons were transported compared to 16,100 in the same month last year, an increase of 32 percent.


Lebanese parliament confirms March polls amid efforts to secure IMF rescue

Lebanese parliament confirms March polls amid efforts to secure IMF rescue
Updated 19 October 2021

Lebanese parliament confirms March polls amid efforts to secure IMF rescue

Lebanese parliament confirms March polls amid efforts to secure IMF rescue

CAIRO: Lebanon's parliament voted on Tuesday to hold legislative elections on March 27, parliamentary sources said, giving Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government only a few months to try to secure an IMF recovery plan amid a deepening economic meltdown.
Lebanon's financial crisis, labelled by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern history, had been compounded by political deadlock for over a year before Mikati put together a cabinet alongside President Michel Aoun.
The currency has lost 90% of its value and three quarters of the population have been propelled into poverty. Shortages of basic goods such as fuel and medicines have made daily life a struggle.
Mikati, whose cabinet is focused on reviving talks with the International Monetary Fund, had vowed to make sure elections are held with no delay and Western governments urged the same.
But a row over the probe into last year's Beirut port blast that killed over 200 people and destroyed large swathes of the capital is threatening to veer his cabinet off course.
Some ministers, aligned with politicians that lead investigator Judge Tarek Bitar is seeking to question over the explosion, last week demanded that the judge be removed from the probe.
Mikati has since said the cabinet will not convene another meeting until an agreement is reached on how to deal with the matter.
On Thursday, Beirut witnessed the worst street violence in over a decade with seven people killed in gunfire when protesters from the Hezbollah and Amal Shi'ite movements made their way to demonstrate against Judge Bitar.
The bloodshed, which stirred memories of the 1975-1990 civil war, added to fears for the stability of a country that is awash with weapons.
The early election date - elections were originally expected to be held in May - was chosen in order not to clash with the holy Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Once a new parliament is elected, the Mikati cabinet will only act in a caretaker role until a new prime minister is given a vote of confidence and tasked with forming a new government.