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Posts tagged ‘United Island of Cyprus’

Cyprus president re-elected, defeats same opponent again

February 04, 2018

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades vowed to push on with attempts to reunify the ethnically divided island nation and to improve the economic fortunes of its people after he was re-elected by a wide margin Sunday.

Anastasiades defeated left-leaning independent challenger Stavros Malas in a runoff election. Anastasiades received 56 percent of the vote, compared to 44 percent for Malas, in the final returns. Malas telephoned Anastasiades to concede defeat about an hour after polls closed, when half of the ballots had been counted and Malas trailed badly.

Speaking to supporters, Malas said he told Anastasiades to “take care of our Cyprus.” It’s the second consecutive time that Anastasiades, 71, a conservative veteran politician, won a head-to-head contest with Malas, 50, for the presidency.

“Tomorrow, a new day, a new era dawns, where people demand cooperation from all of us,” Anastasiades told throngs of jubilant supporters at his campaign headquarters. Malas campaigned as the candidate who would bring change to a tired political system that short-changes ordinary Cypriots, who have seen salaries and benefits slashed in the wake of the national economy’s near-meltdown.

But voters appeared to heed the incumbent’s campaign message, which blamed the left-wing economic policies of previous administrations for bringing Cyprus close to bankruptcy. Malas also struggled to separate himself from the party that supported him, the communist-rooted AKEL. Anastasiades accused AKEL of crushing the economy during the presidency of former leader Demetris Christofias.

“I know that the result has disappointed you, but we must respect it, and above all else for all of us to recognize that this was a worthy battle that neither begins nor ends with an election,” Malas told his backers.

Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps more than 35,000 troops in the north.

Voters remain skeptical about whether a reunification deal can be reached any time soon. The latest round of talks at a Swiss resort in July collapsed amid finger-pointing about who was responsible for the failure.

To buoy public hopes, Anastasiades said he would reach out to Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to try and resuscitate their negotiations. “I call on all Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to understand the current state of affairs can be a solution to the Cyprus problem,” he said.

Anastasiades repeated that he would seek a peace deal that doesn’t include Turkey’s demands for a permanent troop presence and the right to intervene militarily in a federated Cyprus. One of the president’s first orders of business will be to oversee ongoing exploratory drilling for gas off the island’s southern coast — an enterprise that could help the economy but also complicate efforts to heal Cyprus’ ethnic divide.

Italian energy company ENI is currently drilling an exploratory well and Cypriot Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said indications of another find are “very encouraging.” The hydrocarbon search undergirds alliances Cyprus has forged with Egypt and Israel, which have located their own sizeable offshore gas reserves.

The exploration has raised the ire of Turkey, which has characterized the work as an attempt to cheat Turkish Cypriots. Results showed that 74 percent of eligible voters cast ballots Sunday, slightly more than the first round of voting last week, but 7 percent less than in the 2013 election.

Anastasiades has said a second term would be his last.


Turkish Cypriots vote PM’s party, set for coalition


NICOSIA – The party of the prime minister of northern Cyprus, a statelet recognized only by Turkey, has won parliamentary elections but will need to form a coalition after falling short of a majority, results showed Monday.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), established in the wake of Turkey’s 1974 invasion of the island in response to an Athens-backed coup, voted Sunday in snap polls forced by tensions in the previous coalition.

The vote comes ahead of presidential polls later this month in the internationally recognized Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus, with peace efforts on hold until both sets of elections are over.

The National Unity Party (UBP) of prime minister Huseyin Ozgurgun came out on top with 36 percent of the vote, ahead of the socialist Republican Turkish Party (CTP) at 21 percent, Turkish Cypriot media reports said, based on an unofficial near complete count.

Projections show that this should give the UBP 21 seats, short of the 26 seats needed for a majority in the 50-member house.

Final results are due late Monday or early Tuesday. More than 190,500 people were registered to vote.

“The UBP has emerged has the biggest party by a wide margin,” said Ozgurgun in a victory speech early Monday. “We are preparing for new days with the power the people have given to the UBP.”

A coalition with the CTP — whose vote plunged in these polls — is unlikely and the UBP may team up with smaller parties like the Democrat Party (DP) and the Rebirth Party (YDP) to muster the seats.

Unlike the socialist CTP, these parties including the UBP are not fans of negotiations with the Greek Cypriots to unify the island, preferring a two state solution.

The People’s Party (HP) — a new party that has expressed skepticism over negotiations to reunify the island — polled well on 17 percent and was on course to win nine seats.

President Mustafa Akinci, whose dovish Communal Democracy Party (TDP) was set to win only three seats, will want broad backing at home as he seeks to push once more for a federal solution to the Cyprus problem and convince his Greek Cypriot counterparts he means business.

The election in the northern third of Cyprus comes six months after efforts to reunify the island collapsed at a United Nations-hosted peace summit in Switzerland over several sticking points including the withdrawal of Turkey’s 45,000 troops.

On January 28, the Republic of Cyprus is set to hold a presidential election in which conservative incumbent Nicos Anastasiades is the frontrunner.

Anastasiades has campaigned on a pro-peace ticket, vowing to attempt to revive talks with Akinci, despite the souring of their relationship after two years of tough and ultimately fruitless negotiations.

Source: Middle East Online.


Greece: Joint air force drills with Cyprus, Egypt, Israel

October 01, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Greece’s defense minister says plans are being drawn up for joint air force drills with Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and other European countries as part of efforts to bolster stability in the eastern Mediterranean.

Panos Kammenos’ remarks Sunday came after a military parade in the Cypriot capital to commemorate the 57th anniversary of the ethnically divided island’s independence. The parade included the overflight of a pair of Greek Air Force F-16 jets, the first showing of the Greek warplanes at the event in 16 years.

The island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said there will be no let-up in efforts to reunify Cyprus, despite July’s collapse of peace talks with breakaway Turkish Cypriots. Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missiles were also put on the display at the parade.

Back to Switzerland for Cyprus peace deal talks

June 26, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — It’s back to Switzerland for Cyprus peace talks. This time the rival leaders of the ethnically-divided island will be meeting at the secluded Swiss resort of Crans-Montana. Previous summits were held in Mont Pelerin and Geneva.

The talks kick off Wednesday and are due to last at least a week. They will likely determine whether a deal to reunify Cyprus, which is divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south, is possible or not.

The key issue is how security will be overseen if and when Cyprus is reunified as a federation. Other issues still to be resolved include how much territory the Greek and Turkish Cypriot federated states would be made up of and the process for allowing tens of thousands of displaced people to reclaim lost homes and property.

Here’s a look at what will be at play at the peace summit:


The issue is one of the toughest in the complex negotiations that officials say have made significant headway in the last two years and has been left to be tackled last.

It revolves around the 35,000-plus troops that Turkey has kept in place since 1974 when it invaded Cyprus following a coup aimed at union with Greece. Turkey mounted the military action, invoking intervention rights that were granted under Cyprus’ 1960 constitution to the island’s “guarantors”: Turkey, Greece and ex-colonial ruler Britain.

Cyprus’ Greek Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, and the leader of the Turkish Cypriots, Mustafa Akinci, both tackled the security conundrum in Geneva during January talks. The foreign ministers of the “guarantor” nations also took part.

But that meeting dissolved relatively quickly amid recriminations that neither side was unwilling to put its cards on the table and get down to hard bargaining.


The Greek Cypriot side wants military intervention rights expunged and Turkish troops gone to eliminate what is sees as an existential threat and Ankara’s instrument of control over the island. Its argument is that no European Union member country would ever need third-country security guarantees.

Anastasiades has proposed an international police force to oversee post-reunification security with the U.N. Security Council using its clout to back it up.

The minority Turkish Cypriots see Turkey’s troops as their sole assurance of protection in case a peace deal unravels and want them to stay.

Akinci has said a rethink over the need for troops could happen around 15 years after reunification. Turkish Cypriot and Turkish officials insist a Greek Cypriot call for a full troop withdrawal is a non-starter.

An alternative proposal that’s been floated unofficially would see small contingents of Greek and Turkish troops deployed on the island after a deal, while intervention rights would be amended to remove any clause for unilateral action.


Any compromise on security must pass muster with Greek and Turkish Cypriots who will vote on any peace accord in separate referendums before it would be implemented.

U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide told The Associated Press in April that the world body has helped put together a compromise formula to overcome the security hurdle. He said the formula was the result of consultation with the Cypriot leaders, the European Union and the “guarantors.”

The Greek Cypriot side has insisted on prioritizing a security deal before other issues are tackled. Turkish Cypriots said all issues must be discussed concurrently as part of an overarching bartering process.

To accommodate both sides, negotiations at Crans-Montana will be split into two rooms — security in one, and everything else in the other.


The aim at Crans-Montana is for the two sides to achieve a breakthrough on an agreed peace accord framework. More work will be needed over the weeks and months ahead to fill in the gaps and prepare the ground for putting the completed deal to a vote.

Although it’s said the talks will be open-ended, officials say it’ll likely last a week to 10 days. And timing is essential.

The Cyprus government is set to start promising exploratory oil and gas drilling off the island’s southern shore in mid-July amid strong opposition from Turkey, and the Turkish Cypriots who warn of a potential “crisis” if drilling proceeds.

Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots say a “unilateral” Greek Cypriot search for gas flouts their rights to the island’s offshore mineral wealth. The Cypriot government insists drilling is it’s sovereign right and that any hydrocarbon proceeds will be shared after a peace deal is sealed, signed and delivered.

Cyprus uses high-tech tools to speed search for its missing

June 23, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — With glue gun in hand, Turkish Cypriot anthropologist Sinem Hossoz meticulously pieces together tiny fragments — the pulverized skull of a child, one of the youngest victims of conflict on ethnically divided Cyprus.

Paul-Henri Arni, the U.N.-appointed member to the Committee on Missing Persons, says such things must be done. “It’s for the dignity of the dead,” he says, but also to spare relatives the shock of seeing a smashed skull when the remains are returned to them.

“The skull in all cultures, including here, is the center of the human person, it’s the soul,” Arni said at the CMP laboratory on the grounds of the disused Nicosia airport straddling a U.N. controlled buffer zone where skeletal remains are assembled for identification.

With international donations, the CMP has worked diligently for 11 years to help heal a gaping wound from this east Mediterranean island’s tortured past and foster its future reconciliation. It has unearthed and identified more than a third of the 2,001 Greek and Turkish Cypriots who vanished during fighting between the two sides in the 1960s and during the summer of 1974. That’s when a coup aiming at union with Greece triggered a Turkish invasion that split the island into a breakaway, Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized south.

Time is working against the committee. Potential eyewitnesses who could help pinpoint graves are dying out, while unceasing construction sometimes makes such burial sites forever inaccessible. To expedite its work, Arni says the CMP is now sifting through archival information it has for the first time gained access to from the U.N., the International Committee of the Red Cross and some six countries that had dispatched peacekeeping troops to Cyprus at the time of the fighting.

It’s also investing in new technologies like the Geographic Information System, or GIS, that links all information gathered from archives, investigators and eyewitnesses to give a more exact estimate of possible burial sites.

Gulden Plumer Kucuk, the CMP’s Turkish Cypriot member, says she expects the new approach will begin to produce results within a year. She estimates the archival search will boost the inflow of information by up to 20 percent.

“The important thing is that we do everything in our capacity … so when we turn our faces to the families, we should be able to say that we did everything for them,” she said. The decades-long agony of the relatives of the disappeared is what drives Romanos Liritsas, a Greek Cypriot researcher with the committee.

It’s “the humanitarian aspect that edges us to speed up, because the relatives have been waiting much too long to find their beloved ones,” says Liritsas, standing in a field in the northern, Turkish Cypriot half of the island where colleagues, acting on an tip, are searching for a missing soldier’s remains.

Greek Cypriot Eleni Kyriakou lived long enough to bury her son. The 88-year-old sat in a wheelchair at the head of the grave into which the small, wooden flag-draped coffin carrying the remains of her son Epiphanios was lowered — a burial with full military honors at Makedonitissa military cemetery.

The remains of Epiphanios, a 20-year-old second-lieutenant, were found along with those of five other comrades in a makeshift grave after vanishing on Aug. 15, 1974, during a retreat from of advancing Turkish troops.

A Turkish Cypriot man who recently recalled seeing the soldiers’ unburied bodies in a gully shortly after fighting ceased, said Sevgul Uludag, a Turkish Cypriot journalist who for years has been gathering information on the whereabouts of the missing. The Turkish Cypriot man was 7 years old at the time, riding atop a donkey led by his grandfather, who had buried the soldiers.

Epiphanios’ older brother Kyriakos said the back of his brother’s skull bore a small hole. “After 43 years, you can imagine the emotional pressure,” said Kyriakou. “When I saw the bones of my brother, I felt relief from this pressure.”

The CMP still encounters a strong unwillingness from some witnesses or even perpetrators to talk, despite promised immunity from prosecution. “We’re 100 percent sure that there are people that are still alive who are keeping information,” says Kucuk’s Greek Cypriot counterpart, Nestoras Nestoros. “We want them to understand that it is very, very useful for us and for the families that are still waiting and still looking for their loved ones.”

A public appeal for information has been made by the island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who will meet in late June in Geneva for a summit in continuing pursuit of a breakthrough deal reunifying the island. A similar appeal has been made by the island’s Christian and Muslim leaders.

Not all remains of the missing will be found, says Kucuk. In some instances, only partial skeletal remains will be returned to families. Some of the dead were left exposed on hilltops or buried in riverbeds, so their bones were scattered. Others may be buried under apartment buildings where the remains are inaccessible, although the CMP did dig up a private pool to get to the remains of two missing persons. In other instances, remains could have been dug up and reburied elsewhere, reinforcing the silence of perpetrators.

Nestoros says even a single bone from a missing person can offer some consolation to families. “It shows that this person has died,” he says. “This is an answer for the relatives.” Turkish Cypriot Raif Toluk is hopeful his family will soon find answers about his missing father. Working at the state telecommunications authority CyTA, Mehmet Raif vanished on Dec. 22, 1963. Toluk says his brothers were told their father was shot as he rode his bicycle home.

For 40 years, the family had heard nothing. Now Uludag’s investigative work has indicated that Mehmet Raif may be among a number of Turkish Cypriots buried in a mass grave. Toluk says an excavation at the site late last year unearthed the remains of seven people and that DNA results are pending.

“My mother died waiting, ‘He will come, he will come,'” says Toluk. “When you say ‘This is your father’ and we bury, I think we will relax. At least we will know that he’s there.”

Germany considering Jordan, Cyprus for anti-IS base

May 17, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s defense minister says her office has drafted a list of eight locations where it could move aircraft supporting the anti-IS mission if Turkey continues to block German lawmakers from visiting troops at the Incirlik base.

Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday a team is already in Jordan to assess a site there for its Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refueling plane, and Cyprus is also being considered. Nonetheless, she stressed talks with Turkey were still ongoing.

Germany has granted asylum to some soldiers Turkey believes were involved in a failed coup attempt last summer. That has prompted Turkey to block a request for German lawmakers to visit some 270 troops serving with the coalition against the Islamic State group at the Incirlik air base.

UN chief to meet rival Cyprus leaders in New York

May 31, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — United Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet the rival leaders of ethnically divided Cyprus at U.N. headquarters in New York amid faltering reunification talks, officials said Wednesday.

Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said that the meeting Sunday evening will aim to carry out a review of the state of play in negotiations that are now at a standstill. Aleem Siddique, a U.N. spokesman in Cyprus, said the U.N. chief looks forward to welcoming the leaders to New York.

Last week, U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide broke off mediation efforts after the island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, Mustafa Akinci, failed to agree on how to move the peace process toward a final summit aiming for a comprehensive accord.

Guterres has intervened in an apparent bid to prevent the two year-old talks, which have made significant headway at reunifying the island as a federation, from unravelling. On Tuesday, Anastasiades warned that talks were now at risk of deadlock because of an insistence by Turkey and the breakaway Turkish Cypriots to keep Turkish troops deployed on the island even after a peace deal.

Turkey has maintained 35,000 troops in the country’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north since mounting an invasion in 1974 in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Greek Cypriots see the troops as a threat and want them removed as part of any peace deal. Anastasiades has proposed the deployment of an international police force to oversee security.

The minority Turkish Cypriots say a peace deal must include the deployment of Turkish troops they see as their only security guarantee. Anastasiades insists on prioritizing at a final summit in Geneva an agreement on withdrawing Turkish troops before resolving all other outstanding issues.

Akinci maintains that all issues should be discussed in a give-and-take process.

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