Under the above title, Turkish Cypriot daily Star Kibris newspaper (04.03.18) reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in statements in Dakar while returning from his tour in several African countries, responded to journalists’ questions and stated the following: :”They want from us to handle with great care and sensitivity the issue about Cyprus and the Exclusive Economic Zone. And I have explained them that we are behaving according to the international law. Both, the northern part, as well as the southern part of Cyprus, have rights in the oil and natural gas to be found there. At this point, we will not allow anyone to act unilaterally. If Anastasiades wants to behave honestly, there is something that he can do: to determine through negotiations with the northern part of Cyprus who is going to undertake the drilling works. The drilling works should be carried out together and the product should be shared with each other.
Referring to the fact that Turkey has bought a drilling ship in order to carry out drilling activities in the Mediterranean; Erdogan claimed that the Greek Cypriot side was disturbed by this. “No steps can be undertaken in this region without Turkey’s and the TRNC’s permission. This became obvious with the case of ENI. Most probable tomorrow Total will come from France and would like to do this work. And most probably Exxon Mobil from the USA will also come. However, Turkey and the TRNC will of course not accept their rights deriving from the international law to be violated”.
According to illegal Bayrak television (02.03.18, http://www.brtk.net/?english_posts=pm-erhurman-holds-weekly-press-conference), self-styled prime minister of the breakaway regime in the occupied area of Cyprus Tufan Erhurman, during his weekly press conference on Friday, has argued that the latest statements made by the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades showed that he has no intention of restarting negotiations aimed at reaching a settlement to the Cyprus problem.
Stating that he had discussed this issue with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci during their weekly routine meeting, Erhurman said that it was not possible to perceive the Greek Cypriot leader’s latest remarks as productive for the restart of the talks. “As I said yesterday, Anastasiades has placed a wedge on the Cyprus negotiations process”.
Pointing out that the Greek Cypriot leader’s statements contradicted with his statements made in the past, Erhurman claimed that both Anastasiades and the Greek Cypriot leadership’s current position was very much behind the progress reached in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.
Erhurman also stated that the Greek Cypriot leader was insisting on preconditions for the restart of the talks, claiming that this was proof that the Greek Cypriot leader had no intention of restarting talks any time soon.
Touching upon domestic issues during his weekly press conference, Erhurman said that investigations in allegations of corruption were underway and would be followed through as promised earlier.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (03.03.18) reported that Erhurman said that according to a project prepared by the “state planning department” (“DPO”) on the population census in 2011, the number of the population was 286,257 and currently the population in the occupied area of Cyprus is determined around to 351,965 including the foreign students and the foreign workers with working permission excluding the tourists and the soldiers.
Erhurman explained that the amount of 5,5 million TL has already pulled out from the “budget” for the new population census. He added that the date December 2, 2018, is considered the most appropriate date for the population census to be held.
Turkish Cypriot weekly Cyprus Today newspaper (03.03.18), under the title “Tax plan for GC property” on its front page, reported that the head of the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) Ayfer Said Erkmen called on the “government” to introduce a type of “capital gains tax” to help pay off mounting compensation claims submitted to the IPC from Greek Cypriot owners. “People who acquired property left behind by Greek Cypriots in 1974 [Turkish invasion to Cyprus] could be hit with a 15% tax bill under moves proposed by Erkmen”, the paper wrote.
The paper further reported: “Latest figures show that the IPC has paid out almost £270 million since 2006 although the amount relates to less than a fifth of the 6,413 applications that have been lodged with it to date. The pace of pay-outs has slowed in recent years because of funding issues, although new applications are on the up again following the collapse of peace talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana last summer.
Under the proposal, a person holding an ‘esdeger’ (exchange) title deed – issued for equivalent land and property abandoned by Turkish Cypriots in the South – would be forced to stump up the cash to help pay for future compensation settlements.
Homeowners would be able to take out a special loan to pay the tax, Erkmen said, adding that they would then benefit from a subsequent rise in the value of their property, which he said would become ‘legalized’ in the eyes of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
‘Whether this tax is charged on an annual basis or … at the point of sale, is one issue that needs to be talked about’, Erkmen said. ‘However buyers need to understand that there is talk behind the scenes of introducing a “special purpose vehicle” company, backed by banks, which would offer low-interest mortgages for the payment of this tax. Once the Greek Cypriot owner is compensated, the value of the property would appreciate by two to three times its current value instantly’.
Erkmen said he had managed to talk the Turkish authorities – which effectively bankroll the IPC – out of introducing a whopping 60% levy. He said funding from the TRNC government [the breakaway regime in the occupied area of Cyprus] of around 75 million TL a year – roughly £14 million based on the current exchange rates - was not enough to settle the thousands of outstanding claims.
Erkmen further said that a total of 21 new applications had been made to the IPC in the first two months of 2018 and that 2017 saw 87 more applications compared to the previous year.”
Turkish Cypriot daily Halkin Sesi newspaper (05.03.18) reports that the occupation regime will be attending the “ITB Berlin fair- 52nd International Tourism Bourse 2018”, which will take place in Berlin, Germany between March 7-11.
The “TRNC” will be “represented” at the fair under the umbrella of the “ministry of tourism and environment” with its “own stand”, covering 130 square meterS.
According to the paper, so-called minister of tourism and environment Fikri Ataoglu, will hold a series of contacts within the framework of the fair with local and foreign tourist officials. Ataoglu will further meet with tourism professionals and with local and foreign journalists, while at the same time he will also be inaugurating the “north Cyprus” stand at the fairgrounds.
A variety of activities are being planned this year so that much interest will be shown in the “north Cyprus stand” at the fair, writes the paper.
In statements on the issue, Ataoglu claimed that Germany has a great potential in the European travelers market and it’s also very important for the “TRNC”. He further argued that in 2016 around 48, 375 tourists from Germany chose to visit the “TRNC” for their vacations and claimed that due to their “promotion activities” this number increased by 17,7% in 2017 and reached to 57.000. He further argued that they expect a “big increase” on the number of tourists from Germany for this year, since, as he claimed they had attended two different tourist fairs in Germany until so-far, with the ITB Berlin tourist fair to be the third in place. “North Cyprus will make big openings in the German market this year. As ministry and together with the officials in the sector we will increase this interest much more”, Ataoglu alleged.
Under the title “TRNC’s trade deficit exceeded one billion dollars”, Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (05.03.18) reports that trade between Turkey and the “TRNC”, the breakaway regime in the occupied area of the Republic of Cyprus, continues increasing in favor of the former.
According to data published by Turkey’s Statistics Institution (TUIK), the exports of the breakaway regime to Turkey increased by 3,5% in 2017, while Turkey’s exports to the occupied area of Cyprus raised by 21%.
The breakaway regime’s exports to Turkey were 66,5 million US dollars in the above-mentioned period, while its imports from Turkey reached one billion 97 million US dollars. Therefore, the breakaway regime’s trade deficit reached one billion 30 million 333 thousand US dollars.
According to the data, the trade volume between the “two countries” raised to one billion 163 million dollars by showing an increase of 20%.
The export-import ratio in 2017 was 6,08%, which is of the lowest of the past eight years.
The regime’s imports from Turkey reached 10 billion 172 million 675 thousand dollars during the period 2008-2017, while its exports to Turkey in the same period were 656 million 744 thousand dollars. The total trade volume reached 10 billion 829 million 419 thousand dollars. The breakaway regime’s trade deficit was nine billion 515 million 931 thousand dollars and the total export-import ratio 6,45%.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris Postasi newspaper (05.03.18) reports that according to data announced by the “office for development and economic cooperation” of the Turkish so-called embassy in the occupied part of Nicosia, the occupation regime could not spend even half of the money granted by Turkey in 2017 for infrastructure investments.
According the data, Turkey granted 511,833,337 Turkish liras (TL) to the regime in 2017 for investments in sectors such as agriculture (22,200,000 TL), industry and commerce (10,000,000 TL), transports (86,600,000 TL), education (39,830,135 TL), culture (35,415,026 TL), health and social insurance (22,876,000 TL), other “public” sectors (258,762,176 TL), environment (13,650,000 TL), and defense, security and justice (22,500,000 TL).
The regime spent only 247,513,770 TL, that is, 48% of this amount.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (04.03.18) in a broad article reported that the “platform we protect our historical monuments” said that the majority of the historical monuments, which is the identity of the community, are being neglected and being used as storehouses and garbage dump due to indifference.
The head of the platform Oya Kutsal said that it is unacceptable to be indifferent in a cultural heritage of 10 thousand years.
The newspaper published also photos with historical places and monuments which are in a very bad condition.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (05.03.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-embassy-in-turkey-closed-for-operations-over-unspecified-security-threat-128237) reports that the U.S. Embassy in Turkey will be closed on March 5 due to an unspecified security threat, the Associated Press reported.
A statement posted on the embassy’s web page on Sunday urged U.S. citizens to avoid the embassy in Ankara as well as large crowds and to "keep a low profile."
The statement said the embassy will be closed "due to a security threat. The Embassy will announce its reopening, once it resumes services." It did not give details on the threat.
In 2013, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in front of the U.S. embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital. He killed himself and a Turkish guard. Turkish officials blamed the attack on domestic leftists.
Under the above title, Hurriyet Daily News (03.03.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/opinion/serkan-demirtas/turkey-should-be-cautious-against-greek-cypriot-gas-drilling-128185 ) published the following article by Serkan Demirtas:
“There is no question that the best option for the Greek Cypriot administration is to form a joint commission with the Turkish Cypriots to manage ongoing hydrocarbon activities off the island, on the grounds that all future produce will belong to both communities.
At the outset, this proposal may not seem realistic given the situation on the ground in Cyprus. But in fact it constitutes one of the best options for both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Such a move could have important consequences.
First, it could diffuse the tension in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greek Cyprus, allowing the latter to continue to its oil and natural gas exploration activities around the island. Second, such a partnership could set an example of joint action taken by both sides for a future united Cypriot state. In overall terms, a Greek Cypriot decision to abandon unilateralism when it comes to the oil and gas reserves of the island would likely open a new page between the two peoples.
Of course, we are a long way from there. Instead, what we are close to is continued tension in the region as the Greek Cypriots try to sign more contracts with big global energy companies to turn this rift into an international dispute between Turkey and the rest of the world. They are in an effort to capitalize from Turkey's poorly managed foreign policy, especially with the United States and some European nations.
Turkey's recent blockage of an exploration vessel belonging to Italy's ENI was one of the consequences of this tension. ENI's Saipem 12,000 left the region to Morocco after Turkey's intervention, but there are reports that the U.S.'s Exxon will also be involved in exploration activities in one of the blocks off the island.
This risky situation is well observed by Ankara. "Both southern and northern Cyprus have rights on the oil and gas to be explored there. We cannot approve any sides' unilateral move," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters travelling with him in Africa.
If [Greek Cypriot President Nikos] Anastasiades wants to move in an honest way, there is one thing he should do: Reach a negotiated deal with northern [Cyprus] on how and by whom these activities should be carried out. Drilling needs to be conducted jointly and the produce should be shared. No step can be taken in that region without Turkey's consent. Perhaps France will try to do this with Total in the future or the U.S. with Exxon. But it's impossible for us to allow the violation of the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cyprus stemming from international law," he added.
Erdogan recently spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on the issue and told reporters that his French counterpart called on him to adopt a "softer stance" on tension. Macron probably urged Erdogan that using military means against a civilian vessel would not be tolerated, especially if that ship belongs to an EU member country.
Likewise, the U.S. position on this issue differs from the Turkish line. In an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News earlier this week, a senior U.S. official explained the main pillars of Washington's approach on the issue. "First of all, we think the fact that there are major hydrocarbon finds in the Eastern Mediterranean is very positive thing for the prosperity and stability of the entire region," the official said.
"The U.S. position on exploration differs from that of the Turkish government. We have made clear for years that we think it is reasonable for companies to engage in exploration, with the understanding that any eventual economic benefits should be shared equitably by all the people of the island in the context of an agreement. That has not changed," the official added.
Turkey should be very cautious to not overreact to Greek Cypriot provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean and should avoid the use of military means against civilian explorations vessels. A repeat of such actions would further deteriorate Turkey's already fragile bonds with the Western world, particularly ahead of a key summit between Ankara and Brussels in late March and amid ongoing diplomatic efforts to mend ties with Washington.”
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (05.03.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-french-presidents-discuss-syria-over-phone-128238 ) reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron discussed over the phone the humanitarian crisis in Syria’s besieged Eastern Ghouta region, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on March 4, citing a presidential source.
The phone conversation came as Bashar al-Assad regime forces’ reported attacks continued on civilians in the opposition-hold area near capital Damascus despite decisions to implement a ceasefire made separately by Russia and the UN Security Council.
The two leaders agreed to intensify top-level diplomatic talks to implement ceasefire and to pave the way for providing humanitarian aid to civilians in the region, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on talking to the media.
During the phone conversation, Erdoğan mentioned the trilateral summit of leaders from Turkey, Russia and Iran which is due as early as April, and stressed the formation of a constitutional Committee, which was decided at Sochi Congress, to contribute to the revival of Geneva process.
The two leaders agreed on continuation of mutual dialogue on Syria.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (05.02.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/almost-60-000-cases-filed-against-prime-ministry-over-turkeys-state-of-emergency-decrees-128206) reports that some 57,679 cases were filed against State of Emergency decree laws in 2017, the Prime Ministry Office’s activity report for the year has stated. Around 4,500 of these cases directly accuse the Prime Ministry over rights violations in the decrees.
“In 2017, 56,679 cases filed against State of Emergency decrees were referred to the Prime Ministry. In around 4,500 of these cases, the Prime Ministry was a direct party to the legal proceeding and the defenses to these cases were prepared in coordination with the ministry’s Directorate of Legal Services,” the activity report of the Prime Ministry read on Feb. 28.
Some 55,426 of the cases filed demanded an annulation of decree provisions.
The figures mark a significant rise from number of cases filed against the Prime Ministry in 2016 (15,053) and in 2015 (1,336).
The report added that other cases are being followed by the directorate, and the Prime Ministry has formed a joint “information repository” for the July 2016 coup attempt cases as well as an “arbitration data network.”
The report stated that cases against the Prime Ministry concerning State of Emergency decree number 685 have been directly conveyed to the State of Emergency Investigation Commission, in line with State of Emergency decree number 690 article 56, which states that local courts have no jurisdiction over these decrees.
The commission was formed in 2017 to receive complaints about the state of emergency provisions. It announced on Feb. 28 that it has received 107,076 applications so far, making decisions on 6,400 complaints.
Among those decisions, only 100 of the complaints were accepted and 4,316 were rejected. Some 1.984 of the applications were directed for preliminary examinations, leaving around 100,000 applications still to be reviewed.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (05.03.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-riot-police-break-up-womens-rights-march-in-ankara-128239 ) reports that Turkey is among the 15 NATO members to meet the alliance’s guideline to spend at least 2 % of its total GDP on defense by 2024. According to a diplomat from one of Turkey’s NATO allies, if Ankara ultimately opts to buy the Russian S-400 anti-missile defense systems then it will easily meet this target, but as the system will not be interoperable with the NATO air defense network it will not help Turkey in terms of capacity.
“A non-interoperable system is not helpful in terms of capability for NATO,” the diplomat in Brussels told the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity.
Turkey recently increased its defense expenditure to 1.52% of its overall GDP. The country’s equipment expenditure as a share of defense spending was 30.40 % in 2017, exceeding the NATO guideline of 20 %.
In the wake of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea, NATO’s heads of state and government agreed at a summit to commit to spending at least 2 % of their GDP on defense.
In its definition of “military expenditure,” NATO includes research and development costs, as well as defense ministry budgets, pensions, and expenditure for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.
According to the diplomat in Brussels, just five out of 28 members currently meet the commitment to spend at least 2 % of their GDP on defense: The United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, Estonia and Greece.
“Since 2014, the increase in defense spending in NATO, including the European allies and Canada, outside of the U.S., has amounted to $46 billion. Three allies have spent at least 3 % of their total GDP on defense, but by the end of 2018 we hope to see that number reaching eight: Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the U.K. and the U.S.,” said the diplomat.
If currently planned budgets are followed through, by 2024 NATO expects at least 15 allies to have reached the 2 % target, he said, stressing that the alliance cannot maintain its strength and capability with only half of its member countries meeting the target.
“It takes all allies to achieve success,” he added.
“One of the things we often hear from allies is that they are not going to get to 2 % but they are still very actively engaged in contributing to the alliance’s missions and they have high quality resources ready to go whenever the alliance needs to go. In response, usually we say: ‘You’re right. We really appreciate what you are contributing today. But we want to make sure that you are able to make that contribution tomorrow. In order to do that, you are going to need to invest today. And you will need a good defense budget to do that.’”
Once capabilities are developed it also takes considerable resources to operate and sustain them, so sufficient funding must be allocated year after year, the diplomat noted.
Burden-sharing has long been a key issue in U.S.-NATO relations. The U.S. has been by far the alliance’s largest defense spender and in recent years has been urging other member states to meet their burden-sharing. After U.S. President Donald Trump directly criticized NATO member countries for not meeting their financial commitments to the alliance, many NATO allies increased their defense spending in 2017, particularly Baltic countries that feel under increasing pressure amid rising tension with Russia.
Under the above title, Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (05.03.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/opinion/murat-yetkin/time-for-de-icing-in-turkish-german-relations-128232_) publishes the following article by Murat Yetkin:
“The formation of the new grand coalition in Germany under Angela Merkel could improve Turkish-German relations, bringing an end to the “ice age,” as diplomatic sources call it.
“De-icing” is a process that has been prepared by the diplomats of the two countries for some months, according to Turkish and European diplomats who prefer to remain anonymous. The first step was taken with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s invitation of German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to his hometown, Turkey’s Mediterranean tourism center of Antalya on Nov 4, 2017. The importance of the meeting was to enable a realistic assessment of the tension in between following the German elections on Sept. 24.
The German elections were a turning point for Berlin regarding relations with Ankara. One European diplomat has said Germans have “learnt that non-speaking terms with Turkey is not good” for them. With some 3.5 million Turkey-origin people (some 800,000 are estimated to be Kurdish, according to German figures) from all religious, ethnic and political backgrounds, whenever Germany gets too involved with Turkish politics, Turkey’s political problems are echoed in Germany in an amplified manner, creating an internal security problem for Germany.
The second important step was Gabriel inviting Çavuşoğlu for a tea party at his house in his hometown Goslar on Jan. 6, during which the two ministers decided to speed up the contacts in between, and try to stop “megaphone diplomacy,” which is practice of two parties speaking to each other through the media. Diplomatic sources say that Gabriel and Çavuşoğlu held three more meetings since the end of last year other than those known to the public.
The increase in diplomatic contacts were not limited to foreign ministries. A Turkish delegation headed by Interior Ministry Undersecretary Muhterem İnce was in Berlin on Jan. 17-18 to talk with his counterpart Emily Haber about the joint struggle to fight terrorism, especially against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and the network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher (indicted in Turkey as “Fethullahist Terror Organization” or “FETÖ”) accused of being behind the July 2016 coup attempt. Some 400 Turkish citizens, including high ranking Turkish military officers, have sought political asylum in Germany following the 2016 coup attempt. The German delegation reciprocated the visit on Feb. 15-16 in Ankara, where diplomats and intelligence officers from both countries also took place in the talks.
The release of a total of 12 German citizens held by the Turkish court, from Meşale Tolu on Dec. 18, 2017 to Deniz Yücel on Feb. 16, has played an important role in the “de-icing” process. Another factor was Germany’s low profile position regarding Turkey’s ongoing military operation in Syria to clear the neighboring Afrin area of the PKK’s Syrian branch the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militia the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Merkel’s government ignored calls to impose sanctions on Turkey, preferring to caution Turkey against civilian causalities.
Economic relations between Turkey and Germany have continued to increase despite the political problems. Recently Siemens won a 1.1 billion euro wind energy project in Turkey, which includes joint production of wind turbines in Turkey.
During their Feb. 15 meeting in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım decided to speed up the dialogue.
The “ice age” in Turkish-German relations started when the German Parliament on June 2, 2016 voted to “recognize” the so-called “Armenian genocide,” meaning the atrocities that took place in 1915 under Ottoman rule in Turkey. Turkey has consistently denied claims that a “genocide” took place, and invariably slams any party that seeks to strengthen them.
Following this, Merkel orchestrated a major deal between Turkey and the EU over the control of the Syria-war-triggered migration flow to and through Turkey. The German government did not endorse the parliament’s decision but also did nothing to prevent it. Relations worsened when Germany, like some other EU governments, did not let President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and ministers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government, including Çavuşoğlu, to address Turkish citizens in Germany to secure “Yes” votes in Turkey’s April 2017 referendum that sought to increase the powers of the presidency.
If the de-icing process between Turkey and Germany continues, it is also expected to have a positive effect in Turkey-EU relations. The next important step in that direction could be a meeting between Erdoğan, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU’s term president Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. The meeting is scheduled to take place in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna on March 26.
However, some European diplomats, including Tusk, have claimed that the Varna meeting cannot take place because of Greek Cyprus’ complaint that the Turkish navy did not let an Italian drill platform to operate in a disputed area; while others claim that a cancellation would precipitate a “train crash” in Turkey’s relations with EU.”
TURKISH AFFAIRS SECTION
(CS / AM)