Under the title: “A message from Ankara was sent”, Turkish Cypriot daily Star Kibris newspaper (09.03.18) reports that so-called prime minister Tufan Erhurman and the so-called foreign minister Kudret Ozersay met yesterday with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, within the framework of their routine weekly meetings and informed him about their “contacts” in Ankara.
Erhurman stated that they briefed Akinci about what they have discussed with Turkish officials in Ankara especially on the Cyprus problem and the hydrocarbon issue. “During our visit to Ankara we shared our vision and our goals. Discussions about the economic protocol will be launched the soonest possible”, Erhurman said.
Claiming that their goal on the Cyprus problem is to find a solution the soonest possible, Erhurman added that the “government’s goal is to fulfill its responsibilities, to determine a vision and carry out projects in the socio-economic field”. He further alleged that Turkey is ready to launch “discussions on the economic protocol” and claimed that the Turkish Republic sees very positively their goals.
Asked to reply to the question whether they hold discussions on the new vision on the Cyprus problem and the Cyprus negotiation talks, Erhurman said that the four-parties of the “coalition government” do not have a common approach regarding the negotiation process and for this reason, they told Akinci that they will be in coordination with the negotiation that he will be carrying out. “If a new vision regarding the Cyprus problem comes to the agenda, then this should be announced by the president”, Erhurman said.
Turkish Yeni Safak (08.03.18) reports that the “deputy prime minister and foreign minister” Kudret Ozersay said that they were open to dialogue on the hydrocarbon search around the island, but if this was not possible, they would do their own drilling just like the Greek Cypriots.
"We are open to dialogue on this. We are keeping the diplomacy channels open," Kudret Ozersay told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
Ozersay recalled that the Greek Cypriots issued permits to more than one company for drilling activities around the island.
"The TRNC will also engage in drilling and related activities to be carried out via a company that it will authorize in the near future," Ozersay said.
He said that “if the Greek Cypriots were not ready to share the natural gas resources, a new Cyprus talks process would lead them nowhere”.
Ozersay also said that the natural resources around the island of Cyprus belong to both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
"On this issue, the Greek Cypriots as well as the international actors have a controversial standing," he alleged.
Ozersay said that the Greek Cypriots recognized the rights of Turkish Cypriots on the resources but only after achieving a solution to the Cyprus problem.
"But it is time to decide: having talks for the sake of having talks is a not a good thing. Talks are a means to an end. For almost 50 years, we have had a negative experience that locked the Turkish Cypriot community in a process of negotiations," he argued.
He also said that the Turkish Cypriots repeatedly announced that they would not allow the Greek Cypriots to take unilateral steps on hydrocarbon activities.
"However, they are trying to create the problem that recently occurred in regard to the Italian ENI company now over other companies," Ozersay alleged.
"I believe we will soon enter a period when everyone will see that nothing can be done in the region without first having the consent of the Turkish Cypriot people:, he claimed.
Under the title “The government returned happy”, columnist Huseyin Ekmekci assesses in Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis newspaper (09.03.18) the contacts held in Ankara by “prime minister” Tufan Erhurman and “foreign minister” Kudret Ozersay with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The columnist reports that “everything was discussed” during these meetings and describes as “interesting at first sight” the fact that the “economy minister” was not included in the Turkish Cypriot delegation.
Ekmekci notes that “tensed meetings” were expected because of what happened during the “establishment of the government”, the attacks against “Afrika” newspaper and the stance of “deputy” Dogu Derya, who belongs to the Republican Turkish Party (CTP), the major “coalition partner”. “All three meetings were described as positive and productive”, he argues adding, however, that the Turkish Cypriot delegation was told that “Turkey does not deserve the insults, attacks and humiliations coming especially from the TRNC, a friend and brother country”. Turkey also told them that it “respects” the Turkish Cypriot “democracy”, but “so many insults coming from your house to our house are not good, are not correct, they harm our relations”.
The columnist notes also the following: “The mutual ‘sensitivities’ were stressed. The sides relied sincerely to each other on all issues. A full harmony was exhibited on the Cyprus problem. In fact, when the ‘Akinci-Turkey’ relations were compared, it was observed that the government was closer to Turkey’s views than Akinci. […]”
He reports that the economy was mainly discussed during the meeting with Yildirim and Akdag and notes that Yildirim promised to secure resources for all future projects. Referring to the 2015-2018 “protocol” for economic cooperation Turkey told the Turkish Cypriot delegation that this was “an agreement between states” and actually asked for the “new government” to implement it by remaining faithful to its [predecessors’] signature. The columnist also says that Erhurman told Turkey that the “protocol” needs some amendments, something for which Ankara showed understanding. He concludes by noting:
“In brief, actually Turkey does not want problems. [It says] make projects. Let us provide resources. Do not see Turkey as occupier. Provide support in the struggle with terrorism. Increase the prosperity level. Act quickly. Remain faithful to your signature. […]”
In its front page “Havadis” refers to the issue under the title “The government returned ‘strong’” and writes that the two “governments” agreed on taking quick steps especially in three fields: economy, the struggle against drugs and the projects in the field of health. It reports that Yildirim authorized Akdag and the Turkish “embassy” in the occupied part of Nicosia to quickly approve the projects especially in the field of health regarding the new health system and the new hospitals. Akdag has proposed to hold meetings once a month or every two months with Turkish Cypriot “officials”, notes the paper adding that this proposal was accepted. High ranking circles close to Yildirim’s office told the paper that Erhurman and Ozersay gave the impression of a “group with which one could discuss and which gives satisfactory answers”. “They can produce work”, the source said.
Meanwhile, referring to the same issue in Turkish Cypriot daily Star Kibris newspaper (09.03.18), Cuneyt Oruc reports that in spite of the statements that Erhurman and Ozersay received full support from Ankara, Yildirim’s statements especially on the issue of the “voices which accuse Turkey” in the occupied area of Cyprus were a complaint submitted to the Turkish Cypriot “officials” and adds that this issue was also raised during their meeting with President Erdogan. “Moreover, in the only picture given to the press from Erdogan-Erhurman meeting, it was evident that their faces were not laughing very much”, argues the columnist adding: “In the backstage the allegation is put forward that Erdogan asked Erhurman some questions regarding statements against Turkey and the stance of the government and especially the CTP. The fact that no joint statements were made after the meeting is noted as Erdogan’s dissatisfaction. […]”
Noting that as soon as Erhurman returned to the occupied area of the island briefed Akinci on his contacts in Ankara, Oruc expresses the view that there was nothing that Akinci did not know on the Cyprus problem and the natural gas issue and wonders why Erhurman was in a rush to brief Akinci since his contacts in Ankara were so well. “The fact that the press conference planned for today will not be held by showing the cabinet’s meeting as an excuse, give the impression that Ankara’s messages were not so positive”, argues Oruc adding: “A difficult period is expecting the four-party coalition government. If the good steps they are taking are important, the stance which they will exhibit in front of the statements against Turkey is equally important”.
Turkish Cypriot daily Star Kibris newspaper (09.03.18) reports that the Deputy Chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in Turkey Ozturk Yilmaz, claimed that “Turkey did not promoted the recognition of the TRNC, did not appoint a special representative and also did not took steps for the opening of Maras [fenced off city of Varoshia] for settlement”.
Speaking during a press conference yesterday in the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM), Yilmaz added: “While you are not doing all these, the foreigners are carrying out oil exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and occupy all areas. All areas surrounding Turkey and the TRNC are subject of oil and natural research activities. International firms are heading towards the island and carry out gas drillings”.
Referring to the Cyprus problem, Yildiz claimed that CHP is the only party until today which has a clear approach on the Cyprus problem. Alleging that the negotiation process collapsed last year due to the mistakes and the intransigent attitude of the “Greek Cypriot administration”, as he called the Republic of Cyprus, Yildiz further claimed that it would not be easy to reach to a solution on the Cyprus problem through negotiations.
Accusing Turkey of not having a plan B on the Cyprus problem, Yildiz continued and alleged also the following: “In the forthcoming days, voices will be heart towards the direction of the resumption of the talks from the point they were left. And after this, the negotiations will start from the point they were left. The Cyprus problem will continue and Turkey’s and the TRNC’s berth will become narrow. After all, this is the goal of the Greek Cypriot administration and Greece. The plan continues exactly in the way they want”.
Referring to the “fenced off city of Varoshia”, Yildiz stated that “the international community presents Maras in the agenda as a ‘ghost city’, it becomes subject to laughter and generally a perception was created that it is abandoned due to the Turkish invasion and force”.
Turkish daily Sabah (09.03.18 https://www.dailysabah.com/energy/2018/03/08/us-navy-denies-reports-of-bolstering-east-med-presence-to-guard-exxon-mobil-exploration-off-cyprus) reports that the U.S. Navy denied Thursday reports on bolstering its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean theatre through the Sixth Fleet to guard Exxon Mobil's oil and gas exploration for the Republic of Cyprus.
A number of unconfirmed sources reported on Tuesday that ExxonMobil's vessel will be protected by Iwo Jima amphibious ships of the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet. On Feb. 11. Turkish warships stopped the Saipem 12000 rig belonging to the Italian energy firm ENI as it headed toward an area southeast of Cyprus.
Answering to an inquiry by the Daily Sabah, a spokesperson for the fleet said there is "no truth to the allegation that the U.S. 6th Fleet is in the Eastern Mediterranean to protect ExxonMobil." The official added that the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 26th Marine Expeditionary Units are currently conducting a regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
Stressing that the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) along with other units, including the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the command staff, Amphibious Squadron 4 arrived off the coast of Israel on March 6, the spokesperson said that the fleet has been deployed to "participate in exercise Juniper Cobra 2018."
Whereas other ships cited in the reports, the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and embarked Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), entered the Black Sea on March 7, 2018 to participate in Romanian-led amphibious exercise Spring Storm 2018, the statement added.
Turkish security sources, speaking to Daily Sabah, also dismissed speculation that the U.S. 6th Fleet is protecting ExxonMobil. Asserting that such rumors have been made up by media in Greece and Greek Cyprus, the security sources said that it is "a misleading perception." The sources also drew attention to the planned schedule of the U.S. Navy in this regard.
The U.S. official underlined that the U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, "conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and inter-agency partners, to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa. "There have been allegations in the Turkish and international media that the drilling vessels belonging to ExxonMobil energy company, which were heading toward the eastern Mediterranean for oil and gas exploration, will be protected by the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet.
Illegal Bayrak television (09.03. 18 http://www.brtk.net/?english_posts=itb-berlin-continues) broadcast that the self-styled minister of tourism and culture Fikri Ataoglu visited the stand of the breakaway regime at the ITB Berlin Travel Exhibiton and met with tour operators and travel agency representatives to discuss steps that will be taken this year to further develop the tourism industry.
Ataoglu also “signed an international protocol” with Health Tourism President Ahmet Savasan aimed at providing health insurance to visiting tourists so that they may be treated at the Near East Hospital if the need arises”.
Speaking during the event, he said that they were working to increase the satisfaction of tourists visiting the “country” and added that tourists will be able to visit the “TRNC” without having to worry about health issues.
Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Duzen newspaper (09.03.18) reports about the big number of vehicles in the breakaway regime and writes that while the population is 230,747, the active vehicles in the occupied area of Cyprus are 198,185.
According to information by the “traffic department”, there was an increase of 107,846 vehicles between 1974 to 2018.
The paper further reports that 2,615 vehicles were sold during the last 13 months. In addition, Mercedes was the bestselling car for 2017 in the breakaway regime.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (09.03.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-afrin-operation-to-be-completed-by-may-fm-cavusoglu-128431) reports that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on March 8 that the government wants the country’s ongoing operation in the northern Syrian district of Afrin to “be completed by May.”
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl, Cavusoglu told reporters in Vienna that Turkey wants the operation to end as quickly as possible so that Afrin can “embrace stability and civilians can return.”
Meanwhile, state-run Anadolu Agency reported that the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured the town of Jinderes in the Afrin district from People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants on March 8.
While heavy street fighting between the FSA and militants continues, armed drones of the Turkish military are targeting militants trying to escape from the area, the agency reported.
The move came after Turkish Armed Forces and the FSA captured Jinderes Hill on March 7.
Anadolu Agency reported that sources said the YPG had planted mines around Jinderes and set up traps in the town center using improvised explosives. The exact number of YPG militants in the town is unknown, they added.
Since the launch of “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20, the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have captured 157 locations, including five town centers, 122 villages, 30 strategic areas, and one YPG base.
Jinderes is the fifth town center in the Afrin region to have been captured.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on March 8 that the areas in Afrin that the YPG considers crucial are “falling one by one.”
Once Turkey’s operation is over, “probably 200,000 Syrians” will return to Afrin, Erdogan said at an event to mark March 8 International Women’s Day, organized by the Family Ministry.
“We are not in Afrin to invade. We are only there to clean these areas of terrorists,” he said, referring to the YPG militants. “Once the job is done we will go back to our own positions and return those places to their real owners.”
Erdogan also put the number of militants “neutralized” since the beginning of the Afrin operation as 3,089. The Turkish military had put the number of “neutralized” militants as 3,055 militants earlier in the day.
The Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (09.03.18http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-planning-military-operation-in-iraq-against-pkk-with-baghdad-128432) reports that Turkey and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad will carry out a joint operation against outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in northern Iraq, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.
Cavusoglu’s comments came as Turkey pushed ahead with a cross-border military operation in northern Syria’s Afrin region against People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants, who Ankara considers terrorists for their links to the outlawed PKK.
Speaking to reporters on his flight from Germany to Austria, Cavusoglu said the joint cross-border operation with Iraq may start after Iraq holds parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2018, signaling Turkish troops may move to northern Iraq following the ongoing operation.
“Even if the Afrin operation has not yet been completed, we have the capacity to carry out both operations simultaneously,” Cavusoglu said.
The PKK has camps in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, from which it frequently carries out attacks into Turkey.
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