Under the title “Erdogan to the TRNC: Equalize your population with the Greek Cypriots”, Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis newspaper (13.03.18, online, https://www.havadiskibris.com/erdogandan-kktcye-nufusunuzu-rumlarla-esitleyin/) reports that according to Dogan News Agency (DHA), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “suggested” to self-styled prime minister Erhurman and “deputy prime minster” Ozersay to increase the population in the occupied area of Cyprus in order to come to the same economic level with the Greek Cypriots. Citing information from diplomatic sources, DHA argued that during his recent meeting in Ankara with Erhurman and Ozersay, Erdogan pointed out to the importance of the breakaway regime’s economic development and alleged that “this is in parallel with the population”. Noting that the Greek Cypriot population is more than one million, Erdogan told Erhurman and Ozersay that “achieving a balance” with the population living in the government-controlled area “will be in the Turkish Cypriot people’s benefit”. The Turkish Cypriot side told Erdogan that many Turkish Cypriots live abroad and that steps could be taken for these people to invest and settle in the occupied area of the island. Ankara has reportedly supported this view, on condition that the population will be increased.
Furthermore, the natural gas explorations in the Mediterranean were discussed during the above-mentioned meeting. Erdogan gave the message that “the Turkish Cypriot people’s rights will be protected until the end” on this issue and alleged: “The Greek Cypriots will either wait for the solution or if they do not, they will add the Turkish Cypriots in the process. Any situation except than this cannot be accepted”. During the meeting it was said that Ankara is determined on this issue and that the “TRNC” shares the same view with Turkey.
It was also argued that Turkey “is seriously struggling” now in many fields and mainly in Syria and it was alleged that during this period some events took place in the occupied area of Cyprus because of articles against Turkey published by some “marginal groups”. Diplomatic sources, told DHA that both Erdogan and Prime Minister Yildirim expressed their views on these issues to the Turkish Cypriot delegation and that “Ankara’s sensitivities were understood”. The sources added: “There is an influence in Turkey by the fact that different voices are raised from the TRNC during such a period. Disappointment is justifiably experienced in Turkey. The TRNC government was recently established, the events did not take place during the new government’s period. I think that the new government will be sensitive on mutual sensitivities”.
During the meeting with Yildirim, economic issues were mainly discussed and the Turkish Cypriot delegation submitted a project to Ankara regarding the areas of Varosha in occupied Famagusta and the within the walls city of occupied Nicosia, which are mainly inhabited by families of Turkish settlers. According to this project, youth centers will be built for the children of these families and agreements will be made with “universities”. Moreover, the youth will be directed to all fields of education and sports. Ankara has reportedly reacted positively to this project.
During the visit, the sides agreed also to hold a dialogue more often and communicate directly.
Under the title “‘Open Deryneia’”, Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Duzen newspaper (13.03.18) reports that the reaction of “NGOs” in occupied Famagusta and the shopkeepers of the area was caused because the opening of the barricade in Deryneia area has not been possible yet, in spite of an agreement achieved on the issue between the two community leaders on 2015. The paper writes that the opening of the crossing point will contribute to the peace process in Cyprus and unite the city of Famagusta. The Initiative for Famagusta organization decided to hold a joint demonstration on Saturday 31 March demanding the opening of the crossing point.
The paper notes that reaction is caused due to the fact that in spite of the completion of all the works in the government-controlled area in Deryneia, the only work which is finished in the occupied part of the crossing point is the paving of the road with asphalt. According to information acquired by the paper from the regime’s “road department”, the project designing regarding infrastructure works such as the cabin to be built at the barricade, as well as transferring water and electricity is continuing, but there is no certain date for the beginning of the works.
In statements to Yeni Duzen, “NGO” representatives in occupied Famagusta said that the Deryneia barricade should open the soonest and the area should stop being a “dead-end street”. They said that efforts are being exerted for Deryneia crossing point to be kept hostage to the opening of the crossing point in occupied Apliki area and criticized a statement made by “foreign minister” of the breakaway regime, Kudret Ozersay, who argued that the crossing points in Deryneia and Apliki areas will open simultaneously. The paper tried to reach Ozersay and “interior minister”, Aysegul Baybars to take their views on the issue, but it was not possible to find them.
Okan Dagli, representative of the Famagusta Initiative, said that the breakaway regime has not implemented its duty in Deryneia and Apliki crossing points and added: “In spite of the fact that we have not completed our duty, the blame game started saying ‘why the Greek Cypriots did not do their bit in Apliki’. However, it is not said why the Turkish Cypriots and the Turkish side did not complete their part in Deryneia and Apliki”. He noted that the breakaway regime finished only a 2,8 kilometer long road with EU financing in Deryneia and renewed the wires after a demand by the occupation army, but no infrastructure work was conducted in the area. He said that the Greek Cypriots are ready for the opening of the crossing point in Deryneia. “In this situation, it is not good to mislead by putting Apliki forward. If they sincerely said ‘we do not want to open crossing points’, we would understand it. Has any other crossing point been put forward as precondition for the opening of any crossing point until today in Nicosia, in Zodia?”, he added.
Serdar Atai, chairman of the within the walls area of occupied Famagusta, said that Famagusta has been held hostage for 44 years with the fenced off city of Varosha and effort is exerted now for the creation of a similar situation with the Apliki crossing point. Atai wondered who would be harmed if Deryneia crossing point opened in the beginning of this summer and the crossing point in Apliki opened in the end of the year.
Under the front-page title: “Vakif foundation’s properties are given as a bribe to religious orders”, Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis newspaper (13.03.18) reports that Vakif foundation’s (EVKAF) property which is located in the area within the walls of the occupied part of Lefkosia “is given as a bribe” from the “administration of the Vakif Foundation to religious orders, organizations and schools which were founded in Turkey and opened branches and offices in the TRNC”.
Issuing a written statement on the issue, the “trade union platform” condemned the fact that “properties which belong to the people are given as a bribe to several organizations, associations and religious orders”, underlining that Vakif foundation’s property should be used for the general welfare of the Turkish Cypriot community and not to be transferred to specific ideological circles for exploitation of religion.
Meanwhile, the “chairman” of the “Turkish Cypriot teacher’s trade union”, Emel Tel, called on the so-called government to conduct an investigation for the Vakif administration, which threatens the Turkish Cypriot community’s secularism. “We will not allow the Vakif foundation to erase the history of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriots and we will not remain silent on this”, Tel added.
Tel also condemned the fact that a new mosque was constructed in the occupied Lyssi village and alleged that it was with the approval of the “Vakif foundation” that a playground has been constructed inside the courtyard of the mosque”.
Turkish Cypriot daily Vatan newspaper (13.03.18) reports that the “2018 budget” of the breakaway regime which reaches 5 billion, 815 million Turkish Lira was submitted in the “assembly”.
The self-styled minister of finance Serdar Denktas speaking on the issue stated that one of their main problems is the fact that expenses regarding personnel, social security and current expenses represents 76,73% of the budget. He also stated that during the period 2018-2020 they are expecting growth to reach 5,2%.
Serdar further stated that 21,25% of the income provided in the budget consists of financial aid or loans from Turkey. In the 2018 budget financial aid of 635 million Turkish Lira and 595 million Turkish Lira loans are expected from Turkey.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (13.03.18) reports that 75-year old Swedish tourist Olsson Hans Goran fell off a cliff in Saint Hilarion castle during a tour yesterday afternoon and lost his life
Members of the “civil defense” found the tourist’s body after research with a drone. The so-called police has launched an investigation regarding the case. The paper claims that the accident took place because Goran entered an area which was not open for tourists.
According to Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (12.03.18, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-fm-cavusoglu-visits-russia-to-talk-syria-in-joint-strategic-planning-group-128646), Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is visiting Russia to participate in a meeting of the Joint Strategic Planning Group, which is a sub-organ of the Turkish-Russian High-Level Cooperation Council. The countries’ leading diplomats are expected to focus on the Syria issue during the talks.
Cavusoglu is set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on March 14. In addition to discussing Syria, the Ministers will make preparations for an upcoming high-level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council meeting, which is scheduled for April 3.
Under the framework of the council, the two countries’ bilateral relations are discussed once a year with the attendance of the two countries’ Presidents and Ministers, hosted by Ankara and Moscow in turns.
During his visit to Moscow on March 14-16, Cavusoglu will pay a visit to the Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition (MITT), deliver a speech on “Turkish foreign policy” at the MGIMO University and meet with chief editors of prominent Russian media.
According to Turkish daily Sabah newspaper (13.03.18, https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2018/03/12/turkey-says-concerned-about-pkk-attacks-in-germany-sends-diplomatic-note-to-berlin), Turkey is greatly concerned about the latest PKK attacks in Germany, and expects the German government to do its utmost to ensure the safety of the Turkish community, government spokesperson Bekir Bozdag said late Monday.
"We are calling on the German government to be more sensitive about the safety of its Turkish citizens and other Muslims living in the country, and bring terrorists to justice," he said.
The official also added that the Turkish government has sent a diplomatic note to Germany over the recently escalating PKK aggression in the country and would closely monitor developments in the country.
According to Ankara Anatolia news agency (13.03.18), Turkish Armed Forces announced on Tuesday that the Afrin city centre, in northwestern Syria, has been surrounded since Monday as part of the Turkish-led Operation Olive Branch.
In a written statement, the Turkish General Staff said the centre of Afrin has been surrounded since Monday as a result of the ongoing operations in the region and "critically important areas" have been seized.
A total of 3,393 terrorists have been "neutralized" since the start of the operation, the army said in a statement on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (12.03.18, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/3-347-militants-neutralized-in-afrin-operation-military-128597) reported that Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar said on March 12 that Turkey’s ongoing military operation in the northern Syrian province of Afrin not only targets the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) but also the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“It is not only the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] that is being removed from the area but also ISIL,” Akar said, speaking in Doha, where he was attending the Doha International Maritimes and Defence Exhibition (DIMDEX).
“ISIL terrorists have been changing their clothes to disguise themselves and join the front with the PKK,” Akar said.
According to Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (13.03.18, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-parliament-approves-key-changes-in-electoral-regulations-during-nightlong-session-128656), a substantial law that gives the green light to political parties to form pre-election alliances and overhauls electoral regulations on the eve of 2019 polls has been approved in Parliament after a marathon nightlong session, which included a physical fight between ruling and opposition lawmakers.
The 26-article law was approved by a majority vote led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The two parties have already announced an agreement to form what they have dubbed the “People’s Alliance”. The law also brings about important amendments to the election law. The opposition argues these changes will raise questions over poll safety.
The AKP and MHP agreed late on March 12 to let the General Assembly work until the whole package is approved despite strong reactions from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
CHP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Ozgur Ozel told reporters at a press conference at 2.20 a.m. that “they were witnessing a shameful moment in the history of democracy”. Recalling an earlier agreement in Parliament that suggested allowing a detailed discussion on the draft law during the week, Ozel stressed that the AKP-MHP had broken the agreement, calling the two parties “political pickpockets”.
Meanwhile, Turkish news portal Ahaval News (12.03.18, https://ahvalnews.com/turkish-parliament/turkish-opposition-mp-censored-during-afrin-speech-parliament) reported that a Deputy for Turkey’s opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was censored in Parliament as she condemned the Turkish military offensive against Kurdish forces in the northwest Syrian enclave of Afrin, Turkish news site Gazete Duvar reported on Monday.
Huda Kaya, a respected opposition MP for the pro-Kurdish HDP was shouted down by Deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party as she spoke during discussions of a proposal for research into rising civilian casualties caused by “Operation Olive Branch”. Her speech was eventually cut short when her microphone was abruptly turned off.
“Shall we leave (Afrin) to the terrorists? You’ve been defending terrorists since the morning”, shouted one AKP MP as Kaya called for “humanity and conscience” to resolve the Afrin situation peacefully.
“The war in Afrin did not start because of security problems in Turkey, friends”, said Kaya during her speech. “It was started because the AKP wishes to win back the power it has lost through blood and politics of hate”.
Kaya went on to say that Afrin before the launch of Operation Olive Branch had become a refuge for displaced peoples of the region who had been forced to flee the Islamic State (ISIS).
“Now you are trying to deliver that town’s people to be slaughtered by ISIS, by the Free Syrian Army (FSA),” said Kaya, referring to allegations that Turkey’s allies, the Free Syrian Army, included former members of ISIS and other extremist organisations in its ranks.
Kaya’s microphone was cut at that point by Deputy Speaker of the Grand National Assembly Ayse Nur Bahcekapili. “You cannot describe … our soldiers who are taking action and giving their lives to protect this nation, and the whole of the Turkish Republic, saying ‘you are involved in a dirty war and killing civilians’,” said Bahcekapili, who vowed she would never allow Kaya to speak from the rostrum again.
TURKISH AFFAIRS SECTION