Under the title “Two protocols in one day”, Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis (08.02.19), on its front page, reports that the Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who carried out yesterday a series of contacts in the occupied area of Cyprus, signed two “protocols on migration, immigration and legal cooperation” with the self-styled minister of interior Aysegul Baybars.
One “protocol is on cooperation for the identification of illegitimate people in prevention of crimes and entry into the country”. Speaking to the press following the signing ceremony, Soylu reiterated that Cyprus for them is a priority case, adding: “We want you to know that you will never be alone”.
Baybars, for her part, pointing the importance of developing cooperation between them, added that “these protocols are important in the name of helping two neighbouring countries in the international sense and not only in the national sense to be able to safeguard the mutual data flow and to the fight of crimes”.
“The second protocol was on the support and cooperation on coast guard areas signed by the Commander of the Security Forces Command Brigadier General Tevfik Algan and the Commander of the Turkish Coast Guard Command Commodore Ahmet Kendir in the presence of prime minister Erhürman”, the paper writes.
Turkish Cypriot daily Star Kibris (08.0.19) reports that Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, within the framework of his illegal contacts in the occupied areas of Cyprus, met yesterday with so-called prime minister Tufan Erhurman. In statements during the meeting, Soylu said that they are exerting efforts for security, prosperity and the public order between the “two countries” to prevail. Referring especially to the FETO organization issue, Soylu alleged that they are following a good process with the “TRNC”. “Among our highest expectations is to intensify the struggle on the fight against FETO”, Soylu said.
In his turn, Erhurman said that they are working hard and with seriousness towards the FETO issue and added that they will intensify their works in cooperation with Turkey towards this issue. “Turkey’s problems are our problems as well and thus we will extend our cooperation”, Erhurman added.
Under the title “Soylu did not neglect the attackers of 22 January”, Turkish Cypriot newspaper Afrika (08.02.19) reports that Turkish Interior Minister, Suleyman Soylu, who illegally visited the occupied area of Cyprus yesterday, met with the administration of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) representation office in the occupied area of Cyprus, the administration of the party’s youth organization and Mehmet Ipek, chairman of the association of the settlers coming from Alexandretta (AK Hataylılar Derneği), who is known for his participation in the attack with stones against Afrika on 22 January 2018. AKP’s representative in the occupied area of Cyprus, Mehmet Demirci helped two of the attackers to avoid arrest. The two attackers had thanked Demirci and the Turkish “ambassador” in the occupied part of Nicosia, who “secured our release without even giving a statement”.
Turkish Cypriot newspaper Kıbrıs (08.02.19) reports that during the meeting to be held between President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci in the end of the month, the Turkish Cypriot side will not approve repetition of previously conducted works, which would lead to waste of time. According to “reliable sources”, the Turkish Cypriot side draws attention to the fact that both the two sides and the UN possessed a copy of a document with their agreements in black, the views of the Turkish Cypriot side in red and the view of the Greek Cypriot side in blue.
The sources argued that for this reason the proposal to prepare a document with three columns was a waste of time and would be an initiative of delaying tactics, which serves nothing else than prolonging the status quo. The sources also said that the approach for a document with three columns, which the Greek Cypriot side had tried to bring onto the agenda in the past, would not find a positive response by the Turkish Cypriot side or the UN, if it came onto the agenda again, as if it was a new idea.
Under the title “A ‘witness’ from the embassy is expected”, Turkish Cypriot newspaper Kıbrıs (08.02.19) reports that the “hearing” in the “trial” of Afrika newspaper’s publisher, Sener Levent and its columnist, Ali Osman, who are accused of publishing a caricature, which had allegedly insulted Turkish President Erdogan and incited hatred, was postponed for 21 February.
During the “hearing” yesterday, “public prosecutor”, Ergin Atici said that they would have a witness from the Turkish “embassy” in the occupied part of Nicosia and that they were waiting for the “embassy’s” answer to a letter they had sent.
Turkish Cypriot newspaper Afrika (08.02.19) reports that this “witness” will be Derya Kanbay, former Turkish “ambassador” in the occupied part of Nicosia, who is retired and spends his holiday in Turkey. This will be the last “witness” of the “public prosecutor”, notes the paper.
Under the title “There are a lot of mosques, but the imams are few. There is a budget but not staff”, Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis (08.02.19), on its front page, reports that there are 200 mosques throughout the occupied area of Cyprus, but the number of the imams of the “religious affairs directorate” is only 150. There are no imams in dozens of mosques. The paper also reports: “Although there is an allowance in the budget of the religious affairs directorate, the problem of personnel is continuing”.
According to the paper, 46 mosques do not have an imam. 12 in occupied Keryneia, 11 in occupied part of Nicosia, 9 in occupied Trikomo, 9 in occupied Famagusta, 1 in occupied Morphou and 4 in occupied Lefka. The lack of imams in the mosques becomes very serious, especially during funeral prayers. For this reason, help from students of theology faculty or sometimes from the retired imams is asked.
Fahretttin Ogdu, “vice president of the religious affairs”, said that between 2017-2018, 50 of the imams, who came from Turkey, returned and only 13 came to replace them, adding that they have a request for replacing everyone who is leaving. Noting that Turkey is sending imams in the whole world, Ogdu added: “I believe it is difficult to find personnel for this reason. We have requested for every departing staff to be replaced. We will be satisfied if our request is met positive”.
Ankara Anatolia news agency (07.02.19-https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/turkey-ready-to-fight-terrorism-after-us-leaves-syria/1386601) reported that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Turkey is ready to assume counter-terrorism role after the U.S. leaves Syria.
"Turkey is ready to take over responsibility in fight against terrorist groups in [Syria] areas which the U.S. will withdraw from," Erdogan said during his address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American-Turkish Council.
"The recent initiative that Trump took in Syria ruined the plans of those who are trying to axe the Turkey-U.S. relations," Erdogan said.
Turkey is "determined" to fight against all terrorist groups, particularly Daesh, threatening itself, the region and the world, he added.
On the bilateral relations, Erdogan said that the two NATO allies have successfully overcome all problems and the resistance tests.
Erdogan also said that Turkey and the U.S. have a strong, comprehensive and strategic alliance based on common interests.
Reiterating his call for distinguishing the Kurds from the PKK/PYD terrorists, Erdogan said identifying PKK/PYD terrorist group with local residents is a "biggest insult" against the Kurds.
Turkish officials strongly condemned the U.S. conflation of Kurds with the terror group, saying that a forthcoming Turkish operation in northern Syria would target the terrorist group which threatens the Arabs, Turkmens, and Kurds alike in Syria.
"Our Kurdish brothers, who are now fleeing Daesh attacks and PKK/PYD persecution, shelter only in Turkey," Erdogan said, adding that it is not possible to understand support for "these killers".
He added that 23,000 trucks loaded with weapons and ammunition were recently brought to the terror group in northern Syria. "However, the U.S. still does not accept them as a terrorist organization," Erdogan said.
On a possible safe zone in Syria, Erdogan reiterated he supports the idea of establishing a terror-free zone for refugees to safely return home.
He also called for establishing container cities for refugees in Syria's safe zones.
About Turkey's fight against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), Erdogan said that Ankara expects the U.S. to take necessary steps "as soon as possible” over the terrorist group behind the July 15, 2016 defeated coup in Turkey.
Erdogan said further that Turkey and its families of martyrs get hurt since US-based FETO leader Fetullah Gulen has moved on with his life in Pennsylvania "as if nothing happens".
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (07.02.19-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/no-patriot-sales-to-turkey-in-event-of-s-400-purchase-us-official-141086) reported that a senior U.S. official has told Hürriyet Daily News that the U.S. government will end the process of the Patriot sale if Turkey proceeds with the purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense systems.
“We will not proceed as the condition of the congressional authorization to make the offer to Turkey, we’re not in a condition to proceed with the Patriot sale if the S-400 sale goes forward, said the official, on condition of anonymity”.
“We are very concerned that the Turkish purchase of S-400 missiles will endanger Turkish participation in the F-35 program and will likely result through our legislation in some sort of sanctions coming through the legislations called CAATSA,” the official stated, elaborating on recent talks between Ankara and Washington at which the latter brought forward a proposal for the procurement of the Patriots.
The U.S. has formally made an offer to Turkey for the sale of the multibillion dollar Patriot air defense systems in January in a bid to increase its pressure on the latter’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 systems. But Turkey says it would buy Patriot systems from the U.S. but not on the condition of cancelling the S-400 systems from Russia.
Elaborating on recent talks in Washington for the U.S.-Turkey working group on Syria, the official defined the meeting as “productive, constructive and positive.”
The U.S. withdrawal will happen “there is no doubt about that” and the withdrawal will happen in the context of completing the fight against ISIL”, he noted.
“We are trying to address seriously the Turkish security concerns and we have concerns of our own that we are working with our Turkish partners,” said the official, referring to Turkey’s objection for the YPG presence in the east of Euphrates.
Asked about Turkey’s warning for a possible military offensive if the U.S. fails to meet the Manbij road map in east Euphrates, the official noted that the U.S. is aware of the Turkish government’s “impatience” and its “very legitimate security concerns about what north Syria looks like in the context of the U.S. withdrawal.”
Officials from the two NATO allies are discussing “to find peaceful ways to address these concerns rather than have to see that sort of offensive,” the official stated.
In a commentary in Turkish daily Sabah (07.02.19-https://www.dailysabah.com/columns/talhakose/2019/02/08/turkish-greek-normalization-key-to-economic-opportunities-in-eastern-mediterranean), columnist Talha Kose, writes the following about Greek Prime Minister’s Alexis Tsipras recent visit to Turkey:
“During his trip to Turkey, Tsipras became the first Greek Prime Minister to visit the Halki seminary in Heybeliada on the Princes’ Islands, Feb. 6, 2019.
At a time when Turkey and Greece have had significant disagreements, Tsipras' meeting with Erdogan can be considered a confidence-building step.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made a two-day official visit to Turkey. In terms of its content, the visit did not have any significant agenda items. The two leaders did not sign any noteworthy agreement or reach a consensus on any controversial issues that have generated tensions between the two neighbors. Tsipras' visit can be considered a confidence-building step at a time when the two countries have had significant disagreements, hence it was important for the Greek prime minister to take a chance and keep dialogue channels open with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Tsipras' step was bestowed by a unique gesture by Turkish authorities. Tsipras became the first Greek Prime Minister to visit the Halki seminary, which is located in Heybeliada on the Princes' Islands. The Halki seminary was an essential training center for Orthodox Christians, which was closed in 1971 under the law that placed religious and military training under state control. The position of the Halki seminary is one of the key controversial issues between the two countries. The Turkish authorities' decision to let Tsipras visit the seminary can be considered as an essential conciliatory gesture in the relations of the two countries. Turkish authorities also expect Greek authorities to show a similar gesture by improving the conditions of the Muslim minority in Western Thrace. President Erdogan mentioned that the Halki seminary could be reopened if the Greek authorities improve the conditions of Muslim minorities in Thrace.
Tsipras' Halki seminary visit is probably the most significant highlight of current diplomatic contacts in the history of relations between the two countries. It was crucial for the improvement of confidence between the leaders of the two countries at a critical juncture. This confidence may be key in future engagements by the two countries on more controversial issues including the military tensions in the Aegean Sea; controversy over the zones of natural gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean; tensions related to the failure of the Cyprus peace negotiations in July 2017 and the Greek courts' decision to grant asylum to eight Turkish officials who had essential roles in the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
One of the emphases of President Erdogan's speech during the press conference was the statement on Turkey's expectations from Greek authorities on not making Greece a safe haven for the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the PKK, or the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) terrorists.
Tsipras responded to Erdogan about the terrorists that have sought asylum in Greece by holding the Greek courts responsible for such decisions. The most significant outcome of the meeting was the statement that emphasized that Turkey and Greece agreed to decrease tensions in the Aegean Sea and to take confidence-building steps. The two leaders reached a consensus that the best way to deal with the problems between the two countries is to improve diplomatic contacts. However, there are considerable impediments in the improvement of the relations between the two countries.
Rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean due to the competition over the exploration and extraction of hydrocarbon resources is a sensitive issue. Turkey's exclusive economic zones overlap with the exclusive economic zones declared by the Greek Cypriots. Turkey argues that the hydrocarbon resources around Cyprus belong to both communities on the island and cannot be explored without the consent of Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish navy warned ExxonMobil and other energy companies for offshore drilling around Cyprus.
The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum is also considered by the Turkish authorities as part of a geopolitical plan to encircle the country. The Energy Ministers of seven countries in the Eastern Mediterranean including Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority formed the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum. The organization excludes Turkey explicitly, which is one of the most crucial players in the region, and will have its headquarters in Cairo. Those efforts to ban Turkey from the Eastern Mediterranean are seen as a part of geopolitical plans of isolating and encircling Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey's seismic research vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa conducts explorations in the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey's first offshore drilling vessel Fatih started work in the region. Disagreements on the drilling zones and exclusive economic zones can create tensions between the actors in the region. The energy projects can be more feasible and efficient if Turkey was also included in the energy game in the Eastern Mediterranean. Energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean should bridge and bring countries together around mutual gains, rather than dividing and further polarizing them. Turkish and Greek authorities' coordination in the Eastern Mediterranean can play a significant role in ascertaining better cooperation of the players in the region. The most efficient way to operationalize energy resources in the region is to reduce tensions, encourage joint ventures and work on collaborative pipeline projects. Energy companies may be willing to invest more in the region if political actors came to a shared understanding rather than being involved in malignant competition.
Tsipras' Ankara visit happened at a critical moment where the course of bilateral relations between the two countries may either generate new tensions or produce new economic opportunities, not only for the two countries, but also other actors in the region. Improving economic collaboration between the two neighbors may help to ease the current financial difficulties of both countries”.
Turkish daily Cumhuriyet (08.02.19-http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/siyaset/1237046/Mehmet_Akif_Hamzacebi_nin_istifasinin_nedeni.html) reports that the General Secretary of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Akif Hamzacebi, in a statement in social media yesterday, announced his resignation from his position, without elaborating the reasons behind his decision.
According to the paper, close circles to Hamzacebi said that the reason which led Hamzacebi to resign was that the proposals submitted by him to the chairman of the party concerning the CHP candidates in the forthcoming local elections in Turkey, were not taken into consideration. The same sources said further that there was an effort by the party’s leadership to exclude and ignore Hamzacebi.
Hamzacebi conveyed yesterday his resignation to the leader of CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
TURKISH AFFAIRS SECTION