Cyprus ‘in unison with other EU members’ on Ukraine conflict, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides tells Arab News

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Updated 27 November 2022

Cyprus ‘in unison with other EU members’ on Ukraine conflict, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides tells Arab News

The interview with Foreign Minister Kasoulides was conducted after he met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir. (AN Photo)
  • Principles, values and EU unity prevail over relation with Russia, says Cyprus FM
  • Nicosia supports Saudi bid for Expo 2030 and bilateral relations heading towards more organized, more targeted direction

RIYADH: The foreign minister of Cyprus has said in an exclusive interview with Arab News that his government’s position is aligned with fellow EU members in supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine and all countries in the world.

As a country that has a problem with a part of its own territory occupied, Cyprus could not be expected to have a different stance, Ioannis Kasoulides said on Tuesday, referring to the breakaway statelet of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.

“Cyprus stands together with the other members of the EU in unison. Imagine Cyprus, which has a problem with part of its country occupied, having a different stance from one of support for the territorial integrity of countries,” he said.

Alluding to a landmark agreement that addressed a range of global issues signed in 1975 by 35 countries in Finland’s capital, Helsinki, Kasoulides said: “We are in favor of the Helsinki Accords, which means the inviolability of borders and no settling of disputes through military means.”

Like many other countries, Cyprus has been put on the spot by the Ukraine conflict since it maintains close relations with both Russia and Ukraine.

The Mediterranean country has a population of 1.22 million. Its main industry is tourism, accounting for about 18 percent of its economy. Both Russia and Ukraine are major contributors to its tourism revenues.




Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides speaking to Arab News assistant editor-in-chief Noor Nugali in Riyadh on Tuesday. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

More than 780,000 Russian tourists visited Cyprus in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, out of a total of some 3.9 million. More than 95,000 Ukrainian arrivals were registered in the same year.

“We have good relations with Russia, in the financial sector, and a lot of (Russian) tourists visit Cyprus,” Kasoulides said.

“We would like to have preserved this good relationship, but when it comes to principles, values and the unity of the EU, I’m afraid that’s what prevails.”

The interview with Foreign Minister Kasoulides was conducted after he met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir.

On Tuesday, the crown prince hosted the president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, at the Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh.

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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hosted the president of Cyprus at the Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh. Read more here.

After a welcoming ceremony, the crown prince and President Anastasiades discussed relations and cooperation between the two countries, and reviewed efforts to enhance joint coordination in various fields, as well as regional and international issues of common interest.

Anastasiades’s landmark visit is testament to the solid footing of Saudi-Cyprus bilateral ties since the establishment of diplomatic relations. They have intensified the strategic nature of their partnership as well as strengthened their political, trade and socioeconomic links. Just last month, a Saudi delegation led by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan visited Cyprus’ capital, Nicosia, as the first guests of Kasoulides after his assumption of duties.

“First of all, let me say that we have come here as the beginning of the new stage of relations,” Kasoulides said. “We have had good relations for five years now. We are changing gear now to a much faster, more organized, more targeted relations.

“We have announced publicly our support for the Expo 2030 bid of Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding that joint efforts to this end will now be within the framework of the strategic partnership, in line with Vision 2030.

Speaking of the Gulf Cooperation Council as a whole, Kasoulides said: “We have excellent relations with all the GCC countries and we are grateful that looking at a small country like ours, they look at a friend and somebody who can contribute, in any way possible.”




Foreign Minister Kasoulides spoke about a range of issues, including the ongoing situation in Ukraine, attacks on the Kingdom by the Houthis and Cyprus’ relations with Turkey. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

Cyprus is among the many countries that have voiced concern over recent attacks aimed at disrupting the stability and security of the Gulf region. It has expressed strong solidarity with the government and people of Saudi Arabia and categorically condemned drone strikes by Iran-backed Houthis on civilian facilities.

“We have condemned unreservedly the terrorist attacks by the Houthis,” he said. “We have raised the issue within the EU, with the aim to see one day the EU declare the Houthis a terrorist organization.

“Certain member states are hesitant to do this, claiming that in order to provide humanitarian aid to Yemenis, they cannot at the same time declare (the Houthis) terrorists because they will not be able to have relations with (the Houthis). I don’t agree with this assertion. Let’s hope that this will be done in the near future.”

During their meeting in Nicosia, Kasoulides had briefed Prince Faisal bin Farhan on the latest developments on the Cyprus issue. He had described the confidence-building measures the Anastasiades government intended to propose in order to pave the way for the “resumption of meaningful negotiations for the reunification of Cyprus according to the agreed framework.”

The Cyprus dispute has its origins in the Turkish invasion of the country in 1974 in response to a coup aiming at union with Greece. About 180,000 Greek Cypriots fled Cyprus’ northern third while tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots settled the north, whose declaration of independence only Turkey recognizes.

Kasoulides touched on the issue again during Tuesday’s interview. “We have always been steady in our policy to resolve the dispute through negotiations and under the UN, based on the resolutions of the UN for the creation of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation,” he said.

“I am afraid that this is what Turkey does not want now. We have nothing else but to persist through international legality, through the resolutions of the UN, through the framework of the (relevant) Security Council resolutions, to achieve this.”


Pockets of shelling across Ukraine as wintry warfare looms

Elderly residents are evacuated from the southern city of Kherson, Ukraine, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP)
Elderly residents are evacuated from the southern city of Kherson, Ukraine, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP)
Updated 28 November 2022

Pockets of shelling across Ukraine as wintry warfare looms

Elderly residents are evacuated from the southern city of Kherson, Ukraine, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP)
  • Kherson city, which was liberated more than two weeks ago — a development that Zelensky called a turning point in the war — has faced intense shelling in recent days by Russian forces nearby

KHERSON, Ukraine: Russian forces struck eastern and southern Ukraine early Sunday as utility crews scrambled to restore power, water and heating with the onset of snow and frigid temperatures, while civilians continued to leave the southern city of Kherson because of the devastation wreaked by recent attacks and their fears of more ahead.
With persistent snowfall blanketing the capital, Kyiv, Sunday, analysts predicted that wintry weather — bringing with it frozen terrain and grueling fighting conditions — could have an increasing impact on the conflict that has raged since Russian forces invaded Ukraine more than nine months ago.
Both sides were already bogged down by heavy rain and muddy battlefield conditions, experts said.
After a blistering series of Russian artillery strikes on infrastructure that started last month, workers were fanning out in around-the-clock deployments to restore key basic services as many Ukrainians were forced to cope with only a few hours of electricity per day — if any.
Ukrenergo, the state power grid operator, said Sunday that electricity producers are now supplying about 80 percent of demand, compared to 75 percent the previous day.
The deprivations have revived jousting between Ukraine’s president and Kyiv’s mayor. Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Sunday defended himself against allegations levelled by President Volodymyr Zelensky that too many Kyiv residents were still without power and that insufficient centers had been set up for them to stock up on food, water, battery power and other essentials.
Kitschko wrote on Telegram that hundreds of such centers are in operation, as well as hundreds of emergency generators, adding that “I do not want, especially in the current situation, to enter into political battles. It’s ridiculous.”
The president and the mayor have sporadically sparred since Zelensky took office in 2019. Zelensky has accused Klitschko and officials around him of corruption, while Klitschko contends the president’s office has put him under political pressure.
The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank that has been closely monitoring developments in Ukraine, said reporting from both sides indicated that heavy rain and mud have had an impact — along with wider freezing expected along the front lines in the coming days.
“It is unclear if either side is actively planning or preparing to resume major offensive or counter-offensive operations at that time, but the meteorological factors that have been hindering such operations will begin lifting,” it said in a note published Saturday.
ISW said Russian forces were digging in further east of the city of Kherson, from which Ukrainian forces expelled them more than two weeks ago, and continued “routine artillery fire” across the Dnieper River.
The think tank also cited reports that Russian forces were moving multiple launch rocket and ground-to-air missile systems into positions closer to the city as part of a possible plan to step up “the tempo of rocket and anti-air missile strikes against ground targets north of the Dnieper River in the coming days.”
Kherson city, which was liberated more than two weeks ago — a development that Zelensky called a turning point in the war — has faced intense shelling in recent days by Russian forces nearby.
The top UN official in Ukraine said civilians, many of whom lamented unlivable conditions and feared more strikes to come, continued to pour out of Kherson on Sunday.
“The level of destruction, the scope of the destruction, what’s required in the city and in the oblast — it’s massive,” said UN resident coordinator Denise Brown, referring to the region. UN teams were ferrying in supplies like food, water, shelter materials, medicines, and blankets and mattresses, she said.
“Time is of the essence, of course, before it becomes an absolute catastrophe,” Brown told The Associated Press in Kherson.
Galina Lugova, head of the city’s military administration, said in an interview that evacuation trains had been lined up and bomb shelters set up in all city districts with stoves, beds, first aid kits and fire extinguishers.
“We are preparing for a winter in difficult conditions, but we will do everything to make people safe,” Lugova said. Her biggest worry, she said, was “shelling that intensifies every day. Shelling, shelling and shelling again.”
On the roads out of the city, some residents felt they had no choice but to leave.
“The day before yesterday, artillery hit our house. Four flats burned down. Windows shattered,” said Vitaliy Nadochiy, driving out with a terrier on his lap and a Ukrainian flag dangling from a sun visor. “We can’t be there. There is no electricity, no water, heating. So we are leaving to go to my brother.”
In the eastern Donetsk region, five people were killed in shelling over the past day, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said. Overnight shelling was reported by regional leaders in the Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk areas to the west. In addition, he said two people were killed in artillery firing on the town of Kurakhove.
Kharkiv governor Oleh Syniehubov said one person was killed and three wounded in the northeastern region.
Russian rockets hit unspecified railroad facilities in Kryvyi Rih, Zelensky’s hometown, on Sunday, according to a regional official. No injuries were immediately reported.
 

 


Russia court extends Kremlin critic Yashin’s detention by six months

Russia court extends Kremlin critic Yashin’s detention by six months
Updated 28 November 2022

Russia court extends Kremlin critic Yashin’s detention by six months

Russia court extends Kremlin critic Yashin’s detention by six months
  • Yashin insisted in court that he would not flee the country, but the judge extended his detention by six months

MOSCOW: A Russian court on Wednesday extended by six months the detention of opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who risks being jailed 10 years for denouncing President Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine.
The 39-year-old Moscow city councillor is in the dock as part of an unprecedented crackdown on dissent in Russia, with most opposition activists either in jail or in exile.
He faces up to 10 years behind bars, if convicted.
Yashin refused to leave after Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 and regularly took to his YouTube channel, which has 1.3 million subscribers, to condemn the Kremlin’s offensive.
Standing in the defendant’s glass box at Moscow’s Meshchansky district court, Yashin smiled and flashed a peace sign at the end of the hearing as some of his supporters clapped.

Yashin insisted in court that he would not flee the country, but the judge extended his detention by six months.
“I love my country and in order to live here I am ready to pay with my freedom,” he said.
“I am a Russian patriot,” he said.
Prosecutors argued that Yashin should be kept in detention because he had “inflicted considerable damage to Russia” and “increased political tensions during the special military operation” — Moscow’s term for its Ukraine offensive.
One of the opposition activist’s lawyers, Vadim Prokhorov, said that extending Yashin’s detention until May 10 was against the law.
Yashin sought to put on a brave face during the hearing and looked relaxed.
Wearing a dark green hoodie and jeans, he smiled to his parents in the front row. At one point he asked his father if he had watched the World Cup match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night and they exchanged a laugh.
As the hearing ended and the audience was leaving the courtroom, a scuffle erupted between court employees and Yashin’s father, apparently after guards told his mother to stop talking to her son.
The men tussled in the corridor for several minutes, with Yashin’s father at one point held on the floor. He was taken to another room for some time before being released by the guards.
The next hearing is expected to take place on November 29.
Yashin is an ally of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and was close to Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015.

Yashin was detained over the summer while walking through a Moscow park.
He is accused of spreading “fake” information about the Russian army under legislation introduced after Putin launched the operation in Ukraine.
In an April YouTube stream Yashin spoke about the “murder of civilians” in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha where the Russian army has been accused of war crimes.
He called it a “massacre.”
His supporters at court said authorities were using the draconian legislation to muzzle critics of the military campaign in Ukraine.
“This law is absolutely anti-legal,” said Anastasia Leonova, 48.
“It’s just there to shut people up.”
Her 20-year-old daughter, Olga, said their family liked Yashin’s Youtube streams.
“We would gather in the kitchen every Thursday to watch them,” she said. “Me, mum and my 87-year-old grandmother.”
Since Moscow’s intervention began in Ukraine, independent media outlets have been shut down or their operations suspended in Russia.
Tens of thousands of Russians — including many independent journalists — have left the country.
Another Moscow councillor, Alexei Gorinov, was in July sentenced to seven years in prison for denouncing the Ukraine offensive.
The 61-year-old had questioned plans for an art competition for children in his constituency while “every day children are dying” in Ukraine.
Almost all of Putin’s well-known political opponents have either fled the country or are in jail.
Navalny, 46, is serving a nine-year sentence for embezzlement charges, which is widely seen as politically motivated. His political organizations have been outlawed.

 


Mexican asylum seekers set their sights north — on Canada

Mexican asylum seekers set their sights north — on Canada
Updated 28 November 2022

Mexican asylum seekers set their sights north — on Canada

Mexican asylum seekers set their sights north — on Canada
  • Despite the risk of rejection, though, the surge in Mexicans seeking refugee status in Canada persists

MONTREAL: Pedro Meraz says living in Colima, Mexico, was like living in a war zone, with shootings, burning cars and dismembered bodies being left outside of schools.

When his wife Rocio Gonzalez, a 28-year-old lawyer who worked with abused women, began receiving death threats from a cartel and the local authorities ignored her pleas for assistance, they knew they had to leave.

“They knew where we lived and what car we drove,” said Meraz, 41, who taught at The University of Colima, near the Pacific Coast and about 485 kilometers west of Mexico City. “Feeling that you are going to lose your life, or one of your daughters, I don’t mind starting from scratch.”

The family is part of a surge in the number of Mexicans who have requested asylum in Canada this year. Due to the relative ease of obtaining asylum in Canada compared to the US, visa-free travel between Mexico and Canada, and the threat of violence back home, more than 8,000 Mexican nationals have sought refugee status in 2022. That’s almost five times as many as last year and more than twice as many as in 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions that accompanied it.

The vast majority of them are flying in to Montreal, which has many direct flights to and from Mexico.

Among them is Viviana Tapia Gonzalez, a human rights activist and mother of four from Aguascalientes, about 425 kilometers northwest of Mexico City, who said she left Mexico in January after being attacked by the military. She said her work with the families of missing and murdered women and girls made her a target.

“Death threats were constant,” she said. “I thought it was the last option I had to be safe. I work for many causes and help many people. I did not want to stop helping, but I must also protect (and) take care of myself.”

Tapia Gonzalez has been living in a Montreal women’s shelter while awaiting a decision on her asylum claim, which she fears might get rejected.

If her claim is turned down, she wouldn’t be alone.

In the first nine months of 2022, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, an independent tribunal that investigates and decides asylum cases, finalized more than 2,700 claims by Mexican asylum seekers. Of those, 1,032 were accepted, 1,256 were rejected; and the remaining 400-plus were either abandoned, withdrawn, or had other outcomes, said Christian Tessier, an IRB spokesperson.

In Canada, claimants must meet the United Nations’ definition of a “convention refugee,” meaning they are outside of their home countries and have a well-founded fear that they would be persecuted if they returned based on their race, religion, political opinions, nationality or affiliation with a social group. Otherwise, they must prove that they need protection and can’t safely return to their home countries without risking torture, cruel or unusual punishment, or death.

Despite the risk of rejection, though, the surge in Mexicans seeking refugee status in Canada persists.

The Welcome Collective, a Montreal-based charitable organization that provides essential goods to new asylum seekers, said half of the group’s current clients came from Mexico — a 300 percent increase compared with earlier this year.

“They had to run away because of violence and other humanitarian reasons. To find a better place for their children,” said Flavia Leiva, the group’s volunteer and social outreach coordinator.

As for what is causing the increase in applicants, Leiva suggested that social media is playing a role.

“There have been YouTubers and some videos on TikTok talking about how easy it is to come to Canada,” she said.

At least one YouTube video that was published 10 months ago and made for a Mexican audience explains the Canadian immigration process in Spanish and has more than 4 million views.

It has been harder for Mexicans to seek asylum in the US since the start of the pandemic. A US public health rule that suspends the right to seek asylum on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19 has fallen disproportionately hard on Mexicans. Title 42 authority has been used to expel migrants more than 2.4 million times since it was introduced in March 2020.

Further adding to Canada’s allure is that Mexicans haven’t needed a visa to travel to the country since the Canadian government lifted the requirement in late 2016.

Leiva also suggested that more Mexicans might be choosing to come to Canada instead of the US because they think it’s safer.

“In the US, they are put in cages, the conditions are not as good,” Leiva said. “People do not feel safe or protected.”

Meraz said he and his family decided that Canada would offer them the best chance to start over.

“My wife investigated the existence of international treaties to protect people who are at risk,” he said.

He referenced Canadian policies and regulations protecting women and children in addition to the country’s comparatively low crime rate.


Former Pakistan PM Khan ‘running out of options’ as party set to quit all assemblies

Former Pakistan PM Khan ‘running out of options’ as party set to quit all assemblies
Updated 27 November 2022

Former Pakistan PM Khan ‘running out of options’ as party set to quit all assemblies

Former Pakistan PM Khan ‘running out of options’ as party set to quit all assemblies
  • Khan said his PTI party was getting out of “corrupt system”
  • Announcement made in bid to create political disruption: Expert

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was trying to create more pressure on the government, experts said on Sunday, as he announced his party was quitting the country’s regional and national assemblies.

Khan was removed in a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April.

The former cricket star turned politician is now in the opposition and has since held several anti-government rallies and demanded early elections, frequently claiming that his ouster was part of a US-backed “foreign conspiracy,” accusations denied by Washington and Khan’s opponents who are now in power.

The leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party on Saturday made his first public appearance since being wounded in a gun attack earlier this month, when he called off a protest march that began from the eastern city of Lahore and was set to culminate in Islamabad.

He also announced that his party was quitting the country’s regional and national assemblies, telling tens of thousands of cheering supporters that the PTI was getting out of a “corrupt system.”

The announcement was a new move taken after months of calling for early elections, which saw Khan’s narrative “getting weaker due to repetition,” said political analyst Dr. Huma Baqai.

“Economy is the main concern of all, and after mass resignations by the PTI, the situation will further deteriorate and put the government on the back foot and can force them to announce early elections,” she added.

Pakistan, faced with high inflation and dwindling foreign reserves, has been battling an economic crisis exacerbated by devastating floods that killed more than 1,700 people.

The former attorney-general of Pakistan also said the latest political development “can build pressure” on the current government.

“But they tried it in the national assembly but did not succeed. It is a matter of wits and how long the government can sustain pressure,” Anwar Mansoor Khan told Arab News.

PTI lawmakers resigned from the national assembly en masse in April, ahead of a vote to elect a new premier after Khan was removed from office.

Khan’s decision could “create a lot of problems” for the federal government and was taken because of the recent change in military leadership, senior journalist Arifa Noor told Arab News.

“He wants to increase the pressure on the new army chief to make some decision in favor of his demand of calling early elections,” Noor said.

Pakistan named Lt. Gen. Asim Munir on Thursday as chief of its army, an organization that plays a major and influential role in the governance of the nuclear-armed nation. The appointment coincided with a dispute between Khan and the military, who the former premier blamed for playing a part in his ouster.

The PTI’s mass resignation was intended to “create the possibility of political disruption,” Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, told Arab News.

“By doing this he maintains pressure on the government and sends a message to the army as well that they should use their influence to prevent the possible disruption,” Mehboob said.

Khan, who said he called off his protest march because he feared it would cause havoc in the country, was “running out of options,” Mehboob added.

“Threat to resign from provincial assemblies is all he could do at this time to keep the momentum of his campaign.”

But there remain uncertainties with Khan’s announcement. Political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi told Arab News that, “resignations from the assemblies would not have the same effect as a dissolution.”

“PTI’s threat of the dissolution of the KP and Punjab assemblies would need to actually happen for it to actually challenge the federal government,” Zaidi said, alluding to the PTI’s stronghold in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the coalition government Khan has in Punjab with ally the Pakistan Muslim League (Q).

The former secretary of Pakistan’s election commission Kanwar Dilshad said Khan’s announcement was incomplete, as he had not clarified whether “he will dissolve assemblies or will just resign,” adding that each would have different consequences.

“Dissolution of assemblies can bring a real constitutional crisis and force the federal government to call early elections.”

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Militants attack hotel used by officials in Somalia’s capital

Militants attack hotel used by officials in Somalia’s capital
Updated 27 November 2022

Militants attack hotel used by officials in Somalia’s capital

Militants attack hotel used by officials in Somalia’s capital
  • Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab, which controls large swathes of the country, claimed responsibility for the attack
  • The assailants stormed the Villa Rose hotel, which is close to the presidential palace, two police officers said

MOGADISHU: Militants attacked a hotel used by government officials in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Sunday evening, police and witnesses said.
Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab, which controls large swathes of the country, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that it was targeting the nearby presidential palace.
“We were shaken by a huge blast, followed by heavy exchange of gunfire,” said Ahmed Abdullahi, who lives close to the scene. “We are just indoors and listening to gunfire.”
The assailants stormed the Villa Rose hotel, which is close to the presidential palace, two police officers told Reuters. It was not immediately clear how many attackers there were, the officers said.
Some government officials at the Villa Rose were rescued after using windows to escape, said Mohammed Abdi, one of the police officers.
The state minister for the environment, Adam Aw Hirsi, wrote on Twitter that he was safe after a “terrorist explosion targeted at my residence” at the hotel, where many government officials stay.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected earlier this year, has been carrying out a military offensive against Al-Shabab.