What Turkey and EU’s conflicting visions mean for Cyprus’ future

Erdogan’s appearance at a military parade on July 20 in the northern part of the capital, Nicosia, might have passed off without incident had he not reiterated his contentious position on the Cyprus dispute. (AFP)
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Erdogan’s appearance at a military parade on July 20 in the northern part of the capital, Nicosia, might have passed off without incident had he not reiterated his contentious position on the Cyprus dispute. (AFP)
Tourists are evacuated from Cyprus with British Army truks in Nicosia, on July 27, 1974. (AFP/File Photo)
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Tourists are evacuated from Cyprus with British Army truks in Nicosia, on July 27, 1974. (AFP/File Photo)
A dated file photo in 1974 shows Greek Cypriot soldiers taken priosners of war by Turkish soldiers who invaded Cyprus following an ethnic bloodshed that erupted in the mediteranean island. (AFP/File Photo)
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A dated file photo in 1974 shows Greek Cypriot soldiers taken priosners of war by Turkish soldiers who invaded Cyprus following an ethnic bloodshed that erupted in the mediteranean island. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 01 August 2021

What Turkey and EU’s conflicting visions mean for Cyprus’ future

Erdogan’s appearance at a military parade on July 20 in the northern part of the capital, Nicosia, might have passed off without incident had he not reiterated his contentious position on the Cyprus dispute. (AFP)
  • Turkish President Erdogan repeated his demand for a two-state solution during a recent visit to the northern part of Cyprus
  • UN Security Council responded by condemning “the further reopening of a part of the fenced-off area” of derelict Varosha town

ANKARA/DUBAI: Europe’s longest “frozen conflict” is once again in the spotlight following a visit to the northern part of Cyprus by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which he repeated his demand for a two-state solution and backed moves to rebuild a ghost town that lies within the island’s military buffer zone.

Erdogan’s appearance at a military parade on July 20 in the northern part of the capital, Nicosia, might have passed off without further ado had he not reiterated his contentious position on the Cyprus dispute with remarks that were echoed and elaborated on by his ally, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.

If the past is any guide, the Cyprus imbroglio defies ready solution, be it reunification or partition.

Attempts to resolve the conflict suffered a blow in 2004 when Greek Cypriots voted against a UN proposal to reunite the Turkish and Greek sides of the nation, while Turkish Cypriots approved it. Three out of four Greek Cypriots rejected the plan put forward by Kofi Annan, the UN chief, that would have given tens of thousands of Cypriots the right to return to homes they lost in 1974.

The year 1974 was a watershed in the history of Cyprus: Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the country in response to an abortive coup engineered by a Greek military junta that aimed to unite the island with Greece.

As for the ghost town undergoing a controversial reopening with the blessing of Erdogan, it is Varosha, a suburb of Famagusta, once the Mediterranean island’s top coastal resort whose Greek Cypriot population fled with the Turkish invasion.

Budding hopes of a UN-sponsored settlement in the aftermath of the invasion had been nipped by the unilateral establishment in 1983 of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Turkey. While Cyprus has been largely at peace since the de-facto partition of 1974, the “frozen conflict” has proved so intractable, it has come to be known as the “graveyard of diplomats.”

Now, in addition to playing the nationalist card to humor their domestic constituencies, Erdogan and the Turkish Cypriot leadership may well be signaling their loss of faith in time and negotiations to bring the breakaway north’s international isolation and decades-old economic embargo to an end.

For a start, they intend to convert part of Varosha into a resettlement site and to allow people to reclaim properties vacated during the 1974 invasion. In November 2020, Turkish Cypriot authorities reopened a small area of Varosha. Now Erdogan says “a new era will begin in Maras (the Turkish name for Varosha) which will benefit everyone.”

During his latest visit to the northern part of Nicosia, Erdogan, who as Turkey’s prime minister in 2004 had backed the Annan reunification plan, asserted that Ankara does not have “another 50 years to waste.”

On Wednesday, in a video address to members of his AK Party, he said: “We will make every possible effort to ensure recognition of the Turkish Cypriot state as soon as possible. All other offers and proposals are not valid anymore.”




Erdogan vowed to make no "concession" as he pressed for a two-state solution for Cyprus, during a visit to the divided eastern Mediterranean island. (AFP)

Tatar got down to the nitty-gritty of the regeneration plans, saying that an initial 3.5 percent of Varosha, whose abandoned hotels, residences and shops lie under Turkish control, would be removed from its military status.

An earlier version of the buffer zone where Varosha is situated was created in 1964 by a UN peacekeeping force in response to a spate of inter-communal violence. Following the 1974 Turkish invasion, this so-called Green Line became the de-facto line of partition.

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. Despite a unanimous UN Security Council resolution, Turkey refused to withdraw its troops from Cyprus.

According to the UN resolutions, Varosha should be handed over to UN administration and the town’s vacant properties should be returned to their legal owners. In a statement on Friday, the Security Council condemned “the further reopening of a part of the fenced-off area of Varosha” and expressed “deep regret regarding these unilateral actions.”

THENUMBER

* 1,281,506 - Current total population of Cyprus.

Some analysts think Erdogan’s rhetoric is designed to encourage Greek Cypriots to deal with the Turkish side on an equal footing.

Ahmet Sozen, professor of political science and international relations at Eastern Mediterranean University in Northern Cyprus, says the pressure tactics might push Greek Cypriots to enter into negotiations, albeit gradually.

“This is a game-changing move. It is just a beginning, because Greek Cypriots do not welcome it,” he told Arab News, “But, at the end of the day, there are 300 individual claims by Greek Cypriots to their properties in this area and it should encourage the Greek side to negotiate with the Turkish side over these property rights.”

Sozen believes Turkey intends to use the Varosha issue to launch future rounds of negotiation with a stronger hand with the goal of achieving a two-state solution.

“This move also aims to prevent thousands of applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg by those who claim their property rights in Varosha. By opening a part of the military zone to civilian use, it will give Turkish Cyprus’ Immovable Property Commission (IPC) the authority to deal with the compensation issue,” he said.

The IPC is the only Turkish Cypriot institution recognized by the ECHR, which dropped several applications lodged by displaced Greek Cypriots after it was established for redressal of such grievances. If Varosha is partially returned to civilian use, the IPC will likely be in charge of resolving property issues.




People cross the Ledras crossing point in the Cypriot capital Nicosia from the southern part towards the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), on June 4, 2021, as the country opens its crossing points following the easing of restriction in the divided island amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP)

But as the Security Council condemnation demonstrates, Turkey is facing strong pushback from NATO allies, EU members and even the UN. Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, who discussed the developments with his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Nikos Christodoulides, has called the Varosha move “unacceptable and inconsistent” with UN resolutions.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” and appealed to “all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that provoke tensions.”

Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus, described any moves to open up Varosha as “illegal and unacceptable.” If Turkey’s real concern was returning properties to their legal owners, “they should have adopted UN resolutions and handed the city over to the UN, allowing them to return in conditions of safety,” he said.

Dimitris Tsarouhas, an expert at Bilkent University, in Ankara, describes the new approach to the Varosha issue as “strange although not unexpected,” since it is “not really a Turkish Cypriot decision but a Turkish one.”




Derelict hotels, restaurants, and residential buildings remain abandoned at the fenced-off beachfront eastern town of Varosha, in the Turkish-held north of the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, on October 14, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

“The enclave had been abandoned by its Greek Cypriot owners in 1974 and they have lived in hope of returning ever since, not least because Turkey did not send in settlers,” he told Arab News.

“I am guessing that this small reopening aims at enticing Greek Cypriots to move back in, or at least to claim their property through the Turkish Cypriot authorities, thus partially legitimizing the TRNC.”

Noting that the EU and the US “both have been explicit in condemning a move contradicting decades of UN work on Cyprus,” Tsarouhas said: “It seems to me that Erdogan’s goal is to consolidate the nationalist coalition at home and show to the world that he really means the two-state policy he proposed for the first time a few years back.”

Once famous as a playground of Hollywood celebrities, Varosha may yet rise from the ruins of war. But for now, its new lease of life is mainly as a bargaining chip in a geopolitical game.


’Loss and pain’: Families testify at Dutch MH17 trial

Updated 15 sec ago

’Loss and pain’: Families testify at Dutch MH17 trial

’Loss and pain’: Families testify at Dutch MH17 trial
AMSTERDAM: A woman whose daughter was among 298 people who died when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine said on Friday she wanted to look the suspects in the eye and “make them feel our loss and pain.”
Relatives of the victims of flight MH17, brought down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014, denounced the “senseless and brutal” deaths of their loved ones during the trial of four suspects accused in the disaster.
Their testimony concluded three weeks of statements from 90 relatives from eight countries. They told the judges about the impact of the loss on their lives and their hopes for justice.
Prosecutor Alwin Dam said many relatives have issues with the “amount of misinformation and conspiracy theories that are spread about MH17” and the fact that no one has claimed responsibility.
The plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by what international investigators and prosecutors say was a Russian surface-to-air missile.
Jeanne Hornikx’s daughter Astrid, 31, and Astrid’s partner Bart, 40, were among those on board.
Hornikx showed the judges a tattoo of her daughter’s fingerprint, saying “that is how she was identified.”
“I would like to look the suspects straight in the eye and make them feel our loss and pain. That our suffering becomes their suffering, that maybe grief shared — and remorse — can become grief halved,” Hornikx said.
Dutch prosecutors have brought charges against three Russians and a Ukrainian citizen, all suspected of having key roles in transporting the missile system. They went on trial for murder last year.
Two-thirds of the victims were Dutch citizens and the Netherlands blames Moscow for the attack.
Russia, which maintains that it has not funded or supported pro-Russian rebels fighting Ukrainian government troops, has refused to extradite the suspects. Only one defendant has appointed a lawyer.
The court adjourned until November with the prosecution closing statement expected on Nov. 15, judges said. A verdict will likely be handed down late next year.

Rome to host 1st International Youth Forum Against Islamophobia

Rome to host 1st International Youth Forum Against Islamophobia
Updated 24 September 2021

Rome to host 1st International Youth Forum Against Islamophobia

Rome to host 1st International Youth Forum Against Islamophobia
  • Event, co-funded by European Commission, seeks ‘more inclusive’ society, organizers tell briefing attended by Arab News
  • 65% of Italian Muslims say they have suffered violence, prejudice or discrimination: Study

ROME: The first International Youth Forum Against Islamophobia will be held this weekend in Rome.

The online forum, organized as part of the Youth Empowerment Support project, aims to raise awareness about Islamophobia so as to effectively combat it.

“Free to believe, free to think, free to be” is the title of the event, which is co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Program of the European Commission.

The forum “aims to be a space and an opportunity for young people to discuss and think concretely about how to build a more inclusive and diverse society, free from stereotypes and discrimination, through debates, workshops and exchanges of experiences,” the organizers said at a press conference attended by Arab News.

The goal, they added, is “to create new connections between communities in Europe and to transfer knowledge” so as to help young Italians and Europeans — Muslim and non-Muslim alike — provide information and guidance on the rights of religious minorities.

At the end of the forum, a youth manifesto against Islamophobia will be approved. The event will include panels of experts with representatives from Muslim organizations, civil society, and Italian and European institutions.

Triantafillos Loukarelis, director of the European Network Against Racism, said Muslim females, “particularly if they wear religious symbols, are victims of multiple discrimination — based on gender, religion and origin — which results in verbal aggression in public, hate speech on social media and social exclusion, with difficulties in accessing the labor market and training courses.”

Islam is the second-largest religion in Italy with about 2.5 million faithful, over 1 million of them with Italian citizenship.

According to a study published recently by ENAR, 65 percent of Italian Muslims say they have suffered violence, prejudice or discrimination.


Spanish volcano remains volatile 5 days after eruption

Spanish volcano remains volatile 5 days after eruption
Updated 24 September 2021

Spanish volcano remains volatile 5 days after eruption

Spanish volcano remains volatile 5 days after eruption
  • The lava has destroyed almost 400 buildings on La Palma
  • The Spanish government will provide aid for rebuilding homes and public infrastructure

TODOQUE, Canary Islands: A volcano in Spain’s Canary Islands continued to produce explosions and spew out lava Friday, five days after it erupted, authorities said.
The lava has destroyed almost 400 buildings on La Palma, including many homes, on the western side of the island of 85,000 people, a European Union monitoring program said.
It said the lava stretches over 180 hectares (almost 20,000 square feet) and has blocked 14 kilometers (9 miles) of roads. Islanders make a living mostly from farming and tourism, and some may lose their livelihoods.
The government of La Palma Island said officials had recorded 1,130 quakes in the area over the past week as the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge shook with blasts of molten lava.
On a visit to La Palma, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a package of measures to help get the island back on its feet and “rebuild lives.”
The Spanish government will provide aid for rebuilding homes and public infrastructure, such as roads, irrigation networks and schools, as well as relaunching the island’s tourism industry, Sánchez said. He did not say how much money would be made available, but said a Cabinet meeting next week would provide more details.
The blasts are sending ash up to 4500 meters (almost 15,000 feet) into the air, the Guardia Civil police force said in a tweet. Local authorities advised people to protect themselves from the ash with face masks.
Two rivers of lava continued to slide slowly down the hillside, with experts doubting whether they would cover the remaining 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) to the sea due to their slowing progress.
One of the lava flows has almost ground to a halt and a second one is moving at between 4 and 5 meters an hour, the Guardia Civil said.
Both are at least 10 meters (33 feet) high at their leading edge and are destroying houses, farmland and infrastructure in their path.
Scientists say the lava flows could last for weeks or months.
Authorities haven’t reported any casualties from the eruption. Scientists had been monitoring the volcanic activity and had warned of a possible eruption, allowing almost 7,000 people to be evacuated in time.


Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community

Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community
Updated 24 September 2021

Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community

Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community
  • Imam tells Arab News of ‘catastrophic consequences on youth’
  • Drug use in US up 61% between 2016 and 2020, with 93,000 overdose deaths last year

DEARBORN: Despite an abundance of studies and preventive efforts, drug addiction is growing more than ever in the US, including at alarming rates in the Arab-American community, leaders in Greater Detroit have told Arab News.
There were more than 70,000 overdose deaths in 2019 and 93,000 last year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Today, drug abuse among youth in particular is a high public-health concern as at least one in eight teenagers, some as young as 13, use an illicit substance. Drug use increased 61 percent between 2016 and 2020.

Half of teenagers have misused a drug at least once, and it is estimated that 43 percent of college students use illicit drugs.
 “The issue of drugs and its catastrophic consequences on the youth of the Arab-American community has become apparent to any sane person,” Imam Mardini, the imam of the American Islamic Center in the city of Dearborn, told Arab News.
 “Everyone is at risk. We’ve had cases from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and some were even from wealthy conservative families.”
 Adel Mozip, a Dearborn school board trustee, told Arab News: “Drug abuse is alive in the Detroit community, where youth lose their lives consistently due to overdoses and addiction, and Arab and Muslim students are impacted greatly.”
 Dr. Omar Reda — a board-certified psychiatrist, Harvard-trained trauma expert, author and family advocate — advised parents: “You can detect the symptoms of drug use by monitoring certain changes in children such as language, behavior, weight loss, sleep disturbance, tendency to be secretive, skin marks, or even leaving home. Some other dangerous symptoms might include delusions, hallucinations, violence, or expressing suicidal thoughts.”
 He said the main social and behavioral reasons for youth drug addiction in Arab communities are isolation — which has become worse since the coronavirus pandemic — marginalization, despair, poor family and social support, and stigma because of cultural and religious taboos.
Takween Katrous, mental wellness coordinator at the American Islamic Center, told Arab News: “Many young adults in the Arab community have self-esteem issues and can be affected by peer pressure because they’re eager to fit in, and can easily succumb to societal pressures.” 
She said there is a clear lack of emotional support from immigrant parents, including from Arab and Muslim communities, due to generational differences that lead to misunderstanding and conflict within families.
Mozip said part of the problem is related to the easy accessibility of drugs. As such, doctors and pharmacists should “stop writing prescriptions that lead to addiction, and in addition they must closely monitor their patients.”
Experts said another important factor is the stigma surrounding mental health in the Arab community, as parents prefer to hide family problems than deal with them because of perceived shame.

In this context, Mardini advises parents to pinpoint the problem and confront it courageously at an early stage. Mozip said: “Please don’t be ashamed of treating your child.”  
As for the role of the community in confronting this issue, Katrous said: “It should offer youth more recreational programs in order to make sure they’re preoccupied with activities that benefit them emotionally, physically and academically.” 
Until authorities find effective solutions to the problem, and Arab and Muslim communities acknowledge and take it more seriously, drug addiction will worsen, Arab community leaders warn.

They say local communities, religious institutions and families must work together with openness, sincerity and solidarity to save their children. 


British police arrest man over killing of London teacher

British police arrest man over killing of London teacher
Updated 24 September 2021

British police arrest man over killing of London teacher

British police arrest man over killing of London teacher
  • Nessa, 28, was found dead in Kidbrooke, southeast London on Sept. 17
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday described the violence against women as a national “epidemic”

LONDON: Police have arrested a 38-year-old man on suspicion of killing Sabina Nessa, a primary school teacher found dead in a London park.
Nessa’s killing — as she walked to meet a friend a few minutes from her south London home — has renewed concerns that women are not safe on the city’s streets. A vigil is due to be held in Nessa’s memory on Friday.
Nessa, 28, was found dead in Kidbrooke, southeast London on Sept. 17. Detectives believe she was attacked during what would have been a five-minute walk through a local park to meet a friend at a pub. Her body was found by a member of the public the next day. Results from a post-mortem examination carried out on Monday were inconclusive.
Late Thursday police said they had arrested a man in a nearby area of London on suspicion of murder. He has not been charged, and his name was not released.
Police also released images of another man they want to speak to as part of the investigation.
Nessa’s death came months after the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who was abducted and killed as she walked home in south London in March. An off-duty police officer has admitted raping and killing her.
Everard’s slaying shocked the country and saw thousands take to the streets to denounce violence against women.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday described the violence against women as a national “epidemic.” He said more than 180 women have been killed by men across England from March 2020.