Turkish Cypriot daily Halkın Sesi (17.12.19) publishes statements by Turkish Cypriot politicians on the decision to allow unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be stationed at the occupied Lefkonoiko airport. The flights were launched yesterday.
The Cyprus Socialist Party (KSP) criticizes the decision, saying that the Turkish Cypriot people do not want to take sides in the war in the Middle East. It also stated that the island should be cleared of all foreign forces, nuclear warheads, fighter planes and UAVs.
The Left Movement (SH) stated that Turkish Cypriots want neither drones nor military bases in the island.
The leader of the Communal Democracy Party (TDP) Cemal Ozyigit stated that the “government” should have consulted or at least informed the Turkish Cypriot parties before such a decision was taken.
The leader of the United Cyprus Party (ΒΚΡ) Izzet Izcan stated that the drones would increase tension in the area. He also underlined the need for the Cyprus negotiations process to start as soon as possible to create a demilitarized Cyprus.
Under the title: “Drone go home” Afrika (17.12.19) writes that the general secretary of KTÖS (Turkish Cypriot Teachers’ Union) Şener Elcil stated: “The transformation of Lefkonoiko Airport into a military base and the military advances made by Turkey with the excuse that the Greek Cypriot side was in an arms race and the British were using its bases to launch attacks is a direct attack on those supporting peace in Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriot Secondary School Teachers’ Union (KTOEÖS) has criticized both “Turkey and the Greek Cypriots for their armament policies and for giving nationalists concessions”. In a written statement on Monday, KTOEÖS President Selma Eylem said that authorities on both sides of the divide were trying to maintain the status quo thus implementing or advocating policies that will lead to war.
“Deputy speaker of parliament” Zorlu Töre said the decision “was a proper move in line with increasing military activity in the area”.
In addition, illegal Bayrak (17.12.19 https://www.brtk.net/?english_posts=atakan-speaks-on-uavs) broadcast that the so-called minister of public works and Tolga Atakan alleged that “it was necessary and the right move to allow UAVs to use Lefkonoiko Airport”.
Speaking to BRT, Atakan said that “it was possible to see how justified and necessary the move was when one looked at the reason”. “If there were no problems in the region then perhaps we could have discussed the urgency and necessity of such a move,” said Atakan, claiming that “one should not ignore the moves made by the Greek Cypriot side”.
According to Turkish Cypriot daily newspaper Afrika (17.12.19), Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay, after the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) landed at the “Gecitkale airport” [occupied airport of Lefkonoiko] on Monday, share on Twitter: “Our first UAV, which landed at Gecitkale Airport to fly over the Eastern Mediterranean skies will protect the interests of the TRNC [breakaway regime in the occupied area of Cyprus] and our country, and will serve for the regional security and peace. Good luck to our nation”.
The paper further writes that Oktay also shared the first video footage taken of the TB2 type Bayraktar UAV landing at occupied Lefkonoiko airport.
Turkish Cypriot daily newspaper Havadis (17.12.19) reports on the paper’s report of October 29th that there were allegations that a military base would be established at a plot in the area of occupied Trikomo, which was projected to be a “green zone”, within the development master plan. Reportedly the said allegations have been confirmed by “high rank officials”, just as did the paper’s earlier reports on armed and unarmed aerial vehicles at Gecitkale airport [occupied airport of Lefkonoiko].
According to the paper, Asim Akansoy, “deputy” with the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) asked the “ministry of tourism and environment” to confirm or deny whether there were plans to construct a naval base in the forest area in occupied Trikomo, following a report in Havadis newspaper, with the title “A military base in the heart of tourism”, on October 29, 2019.
In a written response, the “ministry of tourism” said that there were no such plans. However, the “Turkish peace forces in Cyprus” [Turkish occupation forces in Cyprus], in its response to Akansoy’s question sent to the “prime minister’s office” confirmed its plans to build new headquarters, barracks and facility at the site, which used to be an old harbour used for carob trading.
According to illegal Bayrak television (17.12.19- https://www.brtk.net/?english_posts=ipcs-period-of-operation-extended), the “TRNC’s parliament approved a draft bill” on Monday which extends the “immovable property commission’s (IPC)” period of operation for another two years.
According to the “draft bill”, Greek Cypriot owners of property in the occupied area of Cyprus will now have another 24 months to apply to the “commission” for remedies concerning their properties.
The “remedies” on offer supposedly include restitution (return) of the property, exchange of property with Turkish Cypriot-owned property in the Republic of Cyprus and compensation for loss of use.
Speaking in the so-called parliament on Monday, the “chairman of the committee for legal and foreign affairs”, Oguzhan Hasipoglu claimed that there were currently 6629 applications at the IPC, 1203 of which had been finalized. He also alleged that the remaining 5232 cases were still pending at the commission.
Hasipoglu claimed further that there were some cases which have been pending examination for six years and that there are 280 applications concerning property located within the fenced-off city of Varosha [Maras].
Hasipoglu alleged also that there was an intention to improve the “ipc” but claimed that “the Greek Cypriot side continued its guardianship regime” regarding Turkish Cypriot-owned properties in the south. “They are also introducing obstacles to the Direct Trade Regulation and freedom of travel,” he added.
Hasipoglu added: “In spite of the fact that the TRNC was not recognized internationally, international law and human rights were trying to be implemented in the country”.
Turkish daily Hakikat (17.12.19) reports that Turkish Minister of Tourism and Culture Nuri Ersoy, who is currently in the occupied area of Cyprus for a series of “contacts”, attended yesterday the inauguration ceremony of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA)'s 62nd office abroad, which has opened in the occupied part of Lefkosia.
Besides Ersoy, so-called deputy prime minister and “foreign minister” Kudret Ozersay, so-called prime minister Ersin Tatar, so-called tourism and environment minister Unal Ustel and so-called Turkish ambassador, in the occupied area of Cyprus Ali Murat Basceri, were present at the event.
Speaking during the inauguration ceremony, Tatar claimed that the “TRNC” has become a strategic center in the Eastern Mediterranean region after 45 years. "The TRNC is now in an extremely important status in the Eastern Mediterranean for Turkey’s tranquility, security and peace," Tatar said, adding that it is their duty to work further for strengthening the “TRNC and increase its prosperity”.
Stressing the importance of the opening of TIKA office in the “TRNC”, Tatar described this as an important project and an important step.
Speaking at the same event, Ersoy said TIKA has gained international prestige with its strong corporate structure, achievements and original projects.
"TIKA is an institution which transforms humanitarian and conscientious judgments coming from the national and spiritual values of the Turkish nation into concrete actions and projects," Ersoy said. He recalled that recently, with TIKA’s contribution, the residence of Arpaslan Turkes was restored.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris (17.12.19) refers to the number of students at the illegal universities and writes that the numbers of Turkish Cypriot and Turkish students for the academic year 2019-2020 was reduced compared to the previous 2018-2019 academic term while the number of students from third countries has increased by 5,091.
According to the paper, there are 41,219 foreign students from 140 countries, while the total number of students is 103,748 compared to the previous 2018-2019 academic term. In addition, the paper writes that the majority of the students come from Nigeria (7,916) and Jordan (3,405); the rest of the students are from Syria, Pakistan, Cameroon, Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, the Republic of Congo, Libya, Egypt and Palestine.
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (16.12.19-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/parliamentary-panel-approves-turkey-libya-security-deal-149916) reports that the Parliament’s Foreign Relations Commission has approved a comprehensive security and defense cooperation memorandum of understanding between Turkey and Libya with plans to have it legislated by the General Assembly on Dec.18.
The MoU on defense and security was signed on Nov. 27 between senior government officials from two countries along with another deal on the delimitation of the maritime jurisdiction areas in the Mediterranean.
The agreement pledges a legal basis for substantial cooperation in the field of defense and security including establishing defense offices in each other’s countries, training, allocating of air, ground and naval vehicles, holding joint exercises and intelligence.
The move has come as the Tobruk-based General Khalifa Hafter forces have intensified attacks against the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli under the leadership of Prime Minister Mustafa Fayez al-Sarraj.
“Demands for increasing our security and military cooperation came from Libya. We already had some works on it, and we just accelerated them,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakçı said in his introduction of the content of the deal to the panel.
"We think that the agreement will make a great contribution to Libya's stability, improving the country's crumbling infrastructure and protect Turkey's interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, along with contributing to the stability of Libya" Kaymakçı said, also informing that Turkey signed similar agreements on security with 77 countries.
He noted that the agreement would form the legal infrastructure for Turkey-Libya relations.
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (17.1219-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/main-opposition-chp-objects-to-sending-troops-to-libya-149940) reports that the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has urged the Turkish government to take lessons from the Syrian conflict and not to deploy troops to Libya as Ankara and Tripoli have agreed on a comprehensive security and defense deal.
“What are we in Libya for? For what were we in the Syrian marsh? The government has to take lessons from what happened in the Syrian marsh,” Kilicdaroglu told daily Hürriyet in an interview on Dec. 16.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s warning came after Turkey and the United Nations-backed Libyan government inked a memorandum of understanding on security and defense cooperation which would constitute a legal framework for the deployment of the Turkish troops in Libya.
The memorandum was approved at the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission on Dec. 16, but the opposition parties voted against it on the grounds that it would make Turkey a party to an ongoing civil war between the two factions in the oil-rich country.
CHP officials expressed their support to another memorandum signed between the two parties that provides the delimitation of the maritime jurisdiction areas in the Mediterranean Sea. But they say they won’t approve sending troops to Libya as it would put the lives of the Turkish soldiers in danger. The government needs to get the consent of the parliament for the deployment of troops to other countries, and it requires a simple majority.
(…)Upon questions, Kılıçdaroğlu evaluated the current state of ties between Turkey and the United States in the wake of the latter’s attempts to sanction Ankara for its unilateral military operations into Syria and the former’s threat to shut down U.S. bases on its soils.
“Our wish is to see the reconciliation of ties between Turkey and the U.S.,” he said, urging both sides to follow common sense and a mature understanding. “Sanctions would lead to further strain in ties and to an irreversible break-off. Both sides should refrain from it,” he stressed.
On a question about whether Turkey should bar the US from using the key military bases, İncirlik base and Kürecik radar site, in retaliation, Kılıçdaroğlu advised the government to engage in dialogue with Washington instead of threatening it.
“Using this language in almost every incident is against the interests of Turkey. Instead, an approach that prioritizes diplomacy through keeping dialogue channels open should be embraced”, Kilicdaroglu added.
In a commentary in Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (17.12.19- http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/opinion/serkan-demirtas/turkey-seeks-to-protect-its- sole-ally-in-med-basin-149873), under the above title, columnist Serkan Demirtas writes the following:
“The two memoranda of understanding Turkey signed with Libya on Nov. 27 have already changed balances on both the eastern Mediterranean and the Libyan civil war theaters.
The one on the delimitation of the maritime jurisdiction areas in the Mediterranean has already been brought to the attention of the UN while other littoral countries, as well as the European Union, slammed the move as not complying with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third parties, meaning Greece and Greek Cyprus [Translator’s note: RoC]. A discussion on its legal parameters will likely go on in the coming period.
The other MoU between Turkey and Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) on defense and security cooperation was submitted to the Turkish Parliament for the accomplishment of necessary legislative procedures over the weekend although parliament is heavily busy with the 2020 budget.
The scope of the agreement has been outlined under article 4 of the MoU. Training, consultancy, experience transfer, planning and material support for the establishment of a Rapid Reaction Force covering police and military responsibilities in Libya are among the fields the two parties will cooperate in. If requested, establishing a joint Office of Defense and Security Cooperation in each other’s soils with enough personnel and experts will also be possible. This item can be regarded as the legal basis of Turkey’s potential deployment of troops to Libya.
Allocation of naval, air and ground vehicles as well as weapons, executing joint counter-terror operations, cooperation in the field of intelligence, maritime law and exchange of military personnel constitute other areas of cooperation envisaged by the bilateral agreement.
The agreement document gives the impression that the expenses that will come out of the implementation of this deal will be covered by Turkey.
It is expected that the MoU will soon be ratified at the Parliament so that it could enter into force as soon as possible.
The rush for this has reasons. From the Turkish strategic perspective, it’s of vital importance that the GNA under the leadership of Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj survives and keeps its power in Libya as the U.N.-backed authority. At a time when the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of General Khalifa Haftar has intensified its military campaign against the Tripoli-based al-Sarraj forces with the backing of its international sponsors, including Russians and some major Arab powers, Turkey sees that it has no time to lose.
Turkey’s support for Libya’s GNA has three important objectives: First, the GNA under the leadership of al-Sarraj is Turkey’s sole ally in the entire Mediterranean basin. The importance of Turkey’s political and military investment into Libya could be better understood when thinking of the growing alliance between Greece, Greek Cyprus [Translator’s note: RoC], Egypt and Israel at the expense of ignoring the rights of the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey itself. A defeat of the GNA against the Haftar forces would be a defeat of Turkey as well.
Related to this, the fate of the delimitation of maritime jurisdiction agreement is also very much dependent on the continued presence of the GNA in power. Therefore, the security and defense cooperation deal functions in fact as the guardian of Turkey’s rights in the Mediterranean Sea.
The third is about the historic relationship between the two countries and the projected bilateral economic and energy partnership. Turkish businesspersons have been in Libya for a long time and even at very difficult times and it’s only natural for Turkey to play its role in line with its own interest.
According to the statements from the Turkish authorities, Turkey seems to have the intention to deploy troops to Libya when requested from the Tripoli government. Many in Ankara suggest that this deployment would be limited to provide training and consultancy services to the GNA without any combat mission. However, even this move would be seen as a violation of existing U.N. Security Council resolutions on the arms embargo. Plus, physical involvement in the Libyan civil war would make Turkey become a party of the military conflict and put it under the spotlights of the international community, unlike many others who are playing their cards behind the scenes”.
Turkish daily Sabah (16.12.19-https://www.dailysabah.com/economy/2019/12/16/turkey-eu-to-discuss-customs-union-update-this-week) reports that the protracted negotiations for the modernization of the 24-year-old Turkey-European Union customs union are expected to enter a new round on Dec. 19.
Over the last number of years, Turkish and European officials have been carrying out talks focused on revising the 24-year-old customs union agreed upon between both parties. Although talks have been stalled and rocked by political tensions over the last three years, business circles and officials from both sides still endeavor to maintain dialogue. Thanks to this persistence, the latest round of negotiations is scheduled to take place on Thursday, Dec. 19.
Turkey is the only non-European Union country with a customs union agreement with the bloc. The deal was penned with the European Economic Community (EEC), forerunner to the EU, in 1966. In its Dec. 21, 2016, assessment, the EU Commission proposed revamping the deal, which currently only covers a limited range of industrial products and excludes agriculture, public procurement and services. With the inclusion of these sectors with third-party countries, bilateral trade between Turkey and the EU is expected to reach $300 billion, a stalk increase from its current level of $165 billion.
The updated Customs Union is expected to expand Turkey's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2% by 2030, and bring about a 24.5% increase over the normal rate of increase in total exports and a 23% increase over imports. With the public procurement tenders available as a result of an expanded version of the deal, Turkey aims to secure access to bids in European countries and participate actively in the decision-making processes. Talks are ongoing, however, and will cover a wide range of issues, including the trade of agricultural produce and entrance of second-hand automobiles to the country.
Turkish daily Sabah (17.12.19https://www.dailysabah.com/investigations/2019/12/16/main-opposition-chps-urla-mayor-arrested-over-feto-links) reports that the district mayor of Urla in western İzmir province, main opposition Republican People's Party's (CHP) İbrahim Burak Oğuz, was arrested on Monday evening over alleged links to high-ranking Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) members.
According to the findings of the investigation, Oğuz contacted FETÖ's so-called "secret imams" and communicated with them over the phone.
The mayor was transferred to a court on duty, where he was arrested.
Meanwhile, Ankara Anatolia news agency (17.12.19-https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/turkey-171-feto-terror-group-linked-suspects-arrested/1675690) reports that the Turkish police arrested 171 suspects on Monday over links to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup attempt, security sources said.
The arrests on charges of using ByLock, the terror group’s encrypted smartphone messaging app, came after prosecutors in the capital Ankara issued arrest warrants for 260 suspects, including seven suspects currently abroad, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media. Police continue the hunt for the remaining suspects.
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