UN urges rivals in Cyprus to de-escalate tensions and seize opportunity to restart negotiations

UN peacekeepers walk by the Venice wall at the medieval core across the U.N buffer zone, in the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, April 26, 2021. (AP)
UN peacekeepers walk by the Venice wall at the medieval core across the U.N buffer zone, in the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, April 26, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 31 January 2024
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UN urges rivals in Cyprus to de-escalate tensions and seize opportunity to restart negotiations

UN urges rivals in Cyprus to de-escalate tensions and seize opportunity to restart negotiations
  • Cyprus was divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south in 1974 following a Turkish invasion that was triggered by a coup aimed at union with Greece

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus for a year and urged all parties including rival Green Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to take steps “to de-escalate tensions in and around the buffer zone” dividing the Mediterranean island.
The council also strongly encouraged all parties “to seize the opportunity” of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ appointment of a new personal envoy for Cyrus to restart negotiations between the two sides.
Cyprus was divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south in 1974 following a Turkish invasion that was triggered by a coup aimed at union with Greece.
Numerous rounds of UN mediated talks have ended in failure, with the last push for a peace deal in July 2017 ending in acrimony.
That meeting also led to a shift by Turkiye and the Turkish Cypriots toward seeking a two-state deal which they are still demanding, instead of pursuing their earlier aim of reunifying the country. The plan for a federation made up of Greek and Turkish speaking zones was endorsed by the UN Security Council – and was again in the resolution adopted Tuesday.
María Ángela Holguín Cuellar, the UN chief’s new personal envoy, said earlier Tuesday on her first visit to Cyprus that she believes she can work with both Greek Cypriots in the island’s internationally recognized south and Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway north to get them back to the negotiating table after years of complete stalemate.
Council members stressed in the resolution “that the status quo is unsustainable, that the situation on the ground is not static, and that the lack of an agreement furthers political tensions and deepens the estrangement of both communities, risking irreversible changes on the ground, and reducing the prospects of a settlement.”
It calls on the leaders of the two Cypriot communities to “improve the public atmosphere for negotiation to secure a settlement.”
Both sides should also “more explicitly” encourage contact and cooperation between the communities, support “grassroots people-to-people initiatives,” and refrain from actions and rhetoric that could make a settlement more difficult to achieve, the council said.
The resolution condemns the continued violations of the military status quo along the ceasefire lines, the reported encroachment by both sides into the buffer zone and the reported increase in the number and severity of military violations and unauthorized construction. It strongly urges both sides and all involved to respect the authority of the UN mission known as UNFICYP and the delineation of the buffer zone, and to stop unilateral violations.
The resolution also expresses concern over unauthorized or criminal activities in the buffer zone and the risks they pose to peacekeeper safety and security.
The council extended the 1,000-strong UNFYCIP mission until Jan. 31, 2025.

 


No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says

No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says
Updated 2 sec ago
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No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says

No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says
  • Rafah was a major entry point for humanitarian relief before Israel stepped up its military offensive on the Gaza side of the border
GENEVA: The Palestinian health minister said on Wednesday there was no indication from Israel that the Rafah crossing, used to bring in essential humanitarian and medical supplies, could be opened soon.
“Since it was closed, we have no indication that the Israelis would like it to be opened any time soon,” the minister, Majed Abu Ramadan, told reporters on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in Geneva.
Rafah was a major entry point for humanitarian relief before Israel stepped up its military offensive on the Gaza side of the border earlier this month and seized control of the crossing from the Palestinian side.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis

Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis
Updated 47 min 6 sec ago
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Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis

Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis
  • Iran’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment
  • Iran is armed with the largest number of ballistic missiles in the region

DUBAI: Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Wednesday that Tehran’s sea-launched ballistic missile Ghadr has been made available to Yemen’s Houthis.
“Iran’s sea-launched ballistic missile, named Ghadr, now has been made available to Yemen’s (Houthi) fighters,” — reported Tasnim, which is believed to be affiliated to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
“Now, the missile … has become a weapon capable of presenting serious challenges to the interests of the United States and its main ally in the region, the Zionist regime,” Tasnim said.
Iran’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Iran supports the Houthis but has repeatedly denied arming the group.
The Houthis have been attacking shipping lanes in and around the Red Sea to show support for Palestinians in the Gaza war impacting a shipping route vital to trade.
According to the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Iran is armed with the largest number of ballistic missiles in the region. It is also a major producer of drones.


Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’

Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’
Updated 29 May 2024
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Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’

Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’
  • Calls on the ‘Islamic world’ to react after the latest deadly Israeli strikes in Gaza
  • Turkish premier hits out at fellow Muslim-majority countries for failing to take common action over the Israeli strike

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday hit out at the United Nations and called on the “Islamic world” to react after the latest deadly Israeli strikes in Gaza.
“The UN cannot even protect its own staff. What are you waiting for to act? The spirit of the United Nations is dead in Gaza,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his AKP party.
Erdogan’s comments came as the UN Security Council met to discuss a deadly Israeli attack on a displacement camp west of Rafah on Tuesday that killed 21 people, according to a civil defense official in Hamas-run Gaza.
The Turkish premier also hit out at fellow Muslim-majority countries for failing to take common action over the Israeli strike.
“I have some words to say to the Islamic world: what are you waiting for to take a common decision?” Erdogan, who leads a Muslim-majority country of 85 million people, told lawmakers from his AKP party.
“Israel is not just a threat to Gaza but to all of humanity,” he said.
“No state is safe as long as Israel does not follow international law and does not feel bound by international law,” Erdogan added, repeating an accusation that Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza.


Three Israeli soldiers killed in combat in southern Gaza, military says

Three Israeli soldiers killed in combat in southern Gaza, military says
Updated 29 May 2024
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Three Israeli soldiers killed in combat in southern Gaza, military says

Three Israeli soldiers killed in combat in southern Gaza, military says
  • Israeli forces have kept up their offensive in Rafah, defying an order from the International Court of Justice

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said three soldiers had been killed in combat in southern Gaza on Wednesday, as it pressed ahead with its offensive in Rafah.
Three more soldiers were badly wounded in the same incident, the military said, though it provided no further details. Israel’s public broadcaster Kan radio said they were injured by an explosive device set off in a building in Rafah.
Defying an order from the International Court of Justice, Israeli forces have kept up their offensive in Rafah, where they aim to root out the last major intact formations of Hamas fighters and rescue hostages.
International unease over Israel’s three-week-old Rafah offensive has turned to outrage since an airstrike on Sunday set off a blaze in a tent camp in a western district of the city, killing at least 45 people.
Israel said it had been targeting two senior Hamas operatives and had not intended to cause civilian casualties. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “something unfortunately went tragically wrong.”
The Israeli military said it was investigating the possibility that munitions stored near a compound targeted by Sunday’s airstrike may have ignited.
Israel told around one million Palestinian civilians displaced by the almost eight-month-old war to evacuate from Rafah before launching its incursion in early May. Around that many have fled the city since then, according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
On Tuesday, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah but said it did not believe such an operation was under way.


Syrians in Lebanon fear unprecedented restrictions, deportations

Syrians in Lebanon fear unprecedented restrictions, deportations
Updated 29 May 2024
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Syrians in Lebanon fear unprecedented restrictions, deportations

Syrians in Lebanon fear unprecedented restrictions, deportations
  • Lebanon remains home to the largest refugee population per capita in the world: roughly 1.5 million Syrians
  • Five million Syrian refugees who spilled out of Syria into neighboring countries, while millions more are displaced within Syria

BEKAA VALLEY: The soldiers came before daybreak, singling out the Syrian men without residence permits from the tattered camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. As toddlers wailed around them, Mona, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon for a decade, watched Lebanese troops shuffle her brother onto a truck headed for the Syrian border.
Thirteen years since Syria’s conflict broke out, Lebanon remains home to the largest refugee population per capita in the world: roughly 1.5 million Syrians — half of whom are refugees formally registered with the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR — in a country of approximately 4 million Lebanese.
They are among some five million Syrian refugees who spilled out of Syria into neighboring countries, while millions more are displaced within Syria. Donor countries in Brussels this week pledged fewer funds in Syria aid than last year.
With Lebanon struggling to cope with an economic meltdown that has crushed livelihoods and most public services, its chronically underfunded security forces and typically divided politicians now agree on one thing: Syrians must be sent home.
Employers have been urged to stop hiring Syrians for menial jobs. Municipalities have issued new curfews and have even evicted Syrian tenants, two humanitarian sources told Reuters. At least one township in northern Lebanon has shuttered an informal camp, sending Syrians scattering, the sources said.
Lebanese security forces issued a new directive this month shrinking the number of categories through which Syrians can apply for residency — frightening many who would no longer qualify for legal status and now face possible deportation.
Lebanon has organized voluntary returns for Syrians, through which 300 traveled home in May. But more than 400 have also been summarily deported by the Lebanese army, two humanitarian sources told Reuters, caught in camp raids or at checkpoints set up to identify Syrians without legal residency.
They are automatically driven across the border, refugees and humanitarian workers say, fueling concerns about rights violations, forced military conscription or arbitrary detention.
Mona, who asked to change her name in fear of Lebanese authorities, said her brother was told to register with Syria’s army reserves upon his entry. Fearing a similar fate, the rest of the camp’s men no longer venture out.
“None of the men can pick up their kids from school, or go to the market to get things for the house. They can’t go to any government institutions, or hospital, or court,” Mona said.
She must now care for her brother’s children, who were not deported, through an informal job she has at a nearby factory. She works at night to evade checkpoints along her commute.
’Wrong $ not sustainable’
Lebanon has deported refugees in the past, and political parties have long insisted parts of Syria are safe enough for large-scale refugee returns.
But in April, the killing of a local Lebanese party official blamed on Syrians touched off a concentrated campaign of anti-refugee sentiment.
Hate speech flourished online, with more than 50 percent of the online conversation about refugees in Lebanon focused on deporting them and another 20 percent referring to Syrians as an “existential threat,” said Lebanese research firm InflueAnswers.
The tensions have extended to international institutions. Lebanon’s foreign minister has pressured UNHCR’s representative to rescind a request to halt the new restrictions and lawmakers slammed a one billion euro aid package from the European Union as a “bribe” to keep hosting refugees.
“This money that the EU is sending to the Syrians, let them send it to Syria,” said Roy Hadchiti, a media representative for the Free Patriotic Movement, speaking at an anti-refugee rally organized by the conservative Christian party.
He, like a growing number of Lebanese, complained that Syrian refugees received more aid than desperate Lebanese. “Go see them in the camps — they have solar panels, while Lebanese can’t even afford a private generator subscription,” he said.
The UN still considers Syria unsafe for large-scale returns and said rising anti-refugee rhetoric is alarming.
“I am very concerned because it can result in... forced returns, which are both wrong and not sustainable,” UNHCR head Filippo Grandi told Reuters.
“I understand the frustrations in host countries — but please don’t fuel it further.”
Zeina, a Syrian refugee who also asked her name be changed, said her husband’s deportation last month left her with no work or legal status in an increasingly hostile Lebanese town.
Returning has its own dangers: her children were born in Lebanon and do not have Syrian ID cards, and her home in Homs province remains in ruins since a 2012 government strike that forced her to flee.
“Even now, when I think of those days, and I think of my parents or anyone else going back, they can’t. The house is flattened. What kind of return is that?” she said.