Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika (30.12.19) reports that the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Cavusoglu stated that the “Greek Cypriot sector” as he called the Republic of Cyprus “must solve the issue of drillings in the Mediterranean with the TRNC”.
Cavusolglu, who was speaking at a summit of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) claimed that Turkey has sent two drilling ships against those circles which one-sidedly ignore the rights of the “TRNC” and added that while doing Turkey has changed the balances and broke those circles’ game.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kıbrıs (30.12.19) reports that so-called prime minister and chairman of the National Unity Party (UBP) Ersin Tatar claimed that the efforts for cooperation of the “Greek Cypriot Administration”, as he called the Republic of Cyprus, with East Libyan-based commander Khalifa Haftar is “unacceptable”.
According to Tatar, who issued a written statement, “the cooperation, with General Khalifa Haftar who is fighting against the government in Libya aims to usurp the rights of Turkey and the TRNC”.
He said that they follow with concern the contacts of Aguila Saleh Issa, the head of Libya’s parliament, in Cyprus and claimed that the visit was against Turkey and showed the need to “profoundly evaluate the TRNC's foreign policy along the Mediterranean”. He also added that the agreement signed between Turkey and Libya was crucial in order for the plans against Turkey in Easter Mediterranean to fail.
Turkish Cypriot daily Vatan (30.12.19) reports that Erhan Arikli, the leader of the Revival Party [Tr. Note: The Party of the Settlers], claimed that there are not leftists and rightists in the “TRNC”. “There are only those who want to demolish the TRNC and to build a federation”, he said.
He made these statements speaking during a round table event of the “American Keryneia University” which was about the forthcoming “presidential elections” and the developments in Eastern Mediterranean.
“In 1990 the number of UN member countries were 152; nowadays the number in 194 which means that 42 new states were established. Not a single federation state was established. On the contrary federations are demolished and nation states are established in their place. They ask from us to demolish our state and to establish a federal state with the Greek Cypriots with whom we share no other connection other than geography. That does not make any sense”, he stated.
He went on and added that a lot of power centers, mainly EU and USA want an Eastern Mediterranean without Turkey. “The first crossroad towards this direction is the establishment of a federal Cyprus without Turkey. If the president that will be elected in 2020 accepts the lifting of the Turkish guarantees for a federal Cyprus without Turkey, then these powers will score a victory”, he stated.
In a commentary under the title: “Turkey rushes to send troops to Libya amid Idlib tension”, columnist Serkan Demirtas, writes in Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (30.12.19-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/opinion/serkan-demirtas/turkey-rushes-to-send-troops- to-libya-amid-idlib-tension-150409) the following: “According to senior officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), a bill to seek parliamentary consent for the deployment of troops to Libya will be submitted to Parliament this week, much before the announced timing.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said that his government would submit the bill to Parliament once it re-opens on Jan. 7 so that necessary voting could take place, either on Jan. 8 or 9.
Today’s plan, however, suggests that the motion would be sent to Parliament on Dec. 30 so that it could be voted on Jan. 2. In accordance to this new timing, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu will visit the leaders of the opposition parties on Dec. 30 to inform them about the government’s Libya policy and why deploying troops to the war-torn country is necessary.
His tour will include Kemal Kılıcdaroglu, the chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Meral Aksener the chairwoman of İYİ (Good) Party as well as Devlet Bahçeli, the head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), but not the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Kılıçdaroğlu made it clear that his party would not vote in favor of sending troops to Libya. Aksener did also underline that she is not supporting the idea but has to consult with her party officials before announcing her party’s position on the vote. The HDP will stand against the motion as well while the MHP will likely stand with the AKP on sending troops to Libya. A simple majority is required for the motion and the AKP-MHP votes will suffice to get the parliamentary consent.
Although the details about a potential Turkish military deployment in Libya are not yet disclosed, it’s expected to pursue a non-combat mission although a bilateral agreement between Ankara and Tripoli on security and defense cooperation leaves room for a broader engagement. The deal permits Turkey to allocate air, ground and naval vehicles to Libya’s U.N.-backed National Government Accord (NGA) and to establish a Rapid Reaction Force as well as a joint security and defense office. The protection of the Tripoli government against General Khalifa Haftar’s forces seems to be the immediate concern of the Turkish mission.
Security sources have made sure that the army has the capacity to do its best in Libya once the political decision is taken although there is not much news on the level of preparedness of the troops and the transport of the logistics. Differently from the Syrian theater, the geographical distance will make the Turkish deployment and operations in Libya much more difficult and expensive as it requires a permanent logistical supply mechanism through the Mediterranean.
Having said all about the impending Libya mission, there are some other concerns for the Turkish army stemming from the Idlib province of Syria. On Dec. 29, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and all the top commanders of the Turkish army paid a visit to Hatay, a border city across Idlib and inspected the troops.
A long statement by Akar that denounced the latest attacks by the Syrian regime forces against the radical jihadist groups in the Idlib province was blaming Russia as these acts were in violation of the Sochi deal between Ankara and Moscow. The minister reiterated Turkey’s calls on Russia to use its influence on Syria for giving an end to these attacks that already created a fresh refugee flow towards the Turkish borders.
Despite pressure from Syria and Russia, Akar confirmed once again that Turkey will not abandon its military positions inside Idlib and will be sticking to its commitments underlined by the Sochi deal.
All these developments come before a scheduled meeting between Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 8 in Istanbul for the inauguration of the TurkStream pipeline. For many in Ankara, escalation in Idlib is not totally irrelevant to the developments in Libya where Turkey and Russia support the opposite camps.
At a moment when Haftar forces are preparing for what they call a decisive attack to capture Tripoli and the Syrian regime has intensified its attacks in Idlib, it will remain to be seen to what extent Turkey’s military and diplomatic offensive would protect the Tripoli government and avoid a new humanitarian tragedy just on the other side of its borders”.
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (30.12.19-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/solution-is-possible-with-cooperation-before-a-settlement-turkish-cypriot-fm-says-150398) reports that so-called foreign minister Kudret Ozersay has said that before the settlement (in Cyprus) there should be cooperation between the parties on the island and the region.
In an interview on private broadcaster Kıbrıs Genç Tv on Dec. 27, Ozersay alleged that there is no need to wait for a comprehensive settlement in order to achieve concrete progress.
Supporting that their vision regarding the Cyprus problem coincides with the statements of the last two reports of the United Nations and the findings of European Union authorities, he claimed further the following: “It is a mistake to make our entire lives and developments in the Eastern Mediterranean fixated to the solution in Cyprus. We need to open new doors. While the search for a comprehensive settlement continues in Cyprus, we need to build cooperation that will help increase the confidence between the two sides, prepare the Greek Cypriot side to share (power) and eliminate the risk of conflict,” Ozersay argued.
“This may be more difficult for critical issues such as natural gas, but it is not impossible,” he noted.
Claiming that everything is related to the Eastern Mediterranean and maritime jurisdictions are associated with the solution, Özersay alleged that Turkish Cypriots could not live today.
Responding to a question regarding the possibility of the annexation of the “TRNC” to Turkey, Özersay said he didn't find this alternative right. “Turkish Cypriots fought and lost their lives, including my father. These people didn't fight for someone else to rule us. We have been fighting at the negotiating table for 50 years because we do not want Greek Cypriots to rule us,” he said.
“Turkey is our ally and our strategic partner, but this and the historical depth of our relationship do not require us to say "let Turkey rule us" eventually, he added.
Responding to the questions about his possible “presidential candidacy”, he said that he would run for “election” only to win.
Ankara Anatolia news agency (29.12.19-https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/turkey-proved-power-on-table-ground-says-top-official/1687029) reports that Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has said that 2019 was the year for Turkey when the country proved its power both on the table and the ground with three crucial moves.
Appearing on a local TV channel for a live broadcast on Sunday, Kalin said the momentous moves were Turkey’s anti-terror operation in Syria, the drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and the recent military and maritime deal with Libya.
Kalin commented on Turkey’s foreign policy and global political developments that left their mark in 2019.
Addressing Operation Peace Spring, Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northern Syria, Kalin said it proved that no regional or international actor could set a game in Syria without including Turkey -- which borders Syria and currently hosts over 3.6 million Syrian people living in the country under the status of people under temporary protection.
He said that the Ankara administration struck two deals with Washington and Moscow following Turkey’s military campaign in northern Syria, making its presence felt in the international community.
The Syria operation, launched on Oct. 9 east of the Euphrates River, aims to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
The operation has been paused following two deals with Russia and the U.S. to allow terrorists to withdraw from the region.
Kalin later discussed the Eastern Mediterranean, saying: "We have taken a crucial step regarding the Eastern Mediterranean [region] with seismic drilling activities."
He recalled that Ankara defied the notion seeking to confine Turkey to the Gulf of Antalya when it said: “we are also in the field.”
On the deals with Libya, Kalin said: "The recent two agreements we have made [with Libya], our suggestions, perspective and political stance regarding the Libya crisis, 2019 was a year when Turkey was powerful both on the table and the ground."
Kalin stressed that a new civil war in Libya was inevitable if the international community did not stop the warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar.
"There might be a [coming] bloodier war there. The process resembles the situation in Syria three years ago. Anyone who sees a strategic gap enters there. Finally, Russia wants to be included in the process there," he said.
On the possible deployment of Turkish troops in Libya, Kalin said the Parliament would discuss this issue as the GNA carried its demand.
"After evaluating all conditions, our president will make a final decision. Meanwhile, we will continue to support the GNA in political and technical aspects," he said.
Kalin went on saying that there have been various official and unofficial comments on Turkey's maritime deal with Libya.
"In fact, Egypt is really pleased with the maritime jurisdiction agreement reached with Libya as well. Egyptian officials said this. Their [maritime] area was expanded."
He said Cairo was aware of the fact that there cannot be a regional plan in the Eastern Mediterranean without Turkey.
Kalin went on saying that Turkey sought to collaborate with Tunisia to ensure the conflict resolution in Libya, emphasizing the country also took side with the legitimate government of Libya, adding Turkey also planned to get in contact with Algeria.
Kalin underlined that Turkey's political moves regarding Libya were based on the demands of the country's legitimate government and Turkey did not aim to occupy the country, and argued that people did not question the presence of Russia, Italy, the U.K. and France.
Responding to a question on possible U.S. sanctions on Turkey, Kalin said the Trump administration was disturbed by this move but the Congress adopted this policy.
He went on arguing that the sanction bill was not just about Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile system and said the planned sanctions were the result of Turkey’s independent moves, such as Operation Peace Spring, clear stance in the Eastern Mediterranean, and support for the GNA in Libya.
He said Turkey would not be directly affected by possible sanctions even if they were ratified and the country would continue to find alternatives in the fields of economy and defense industry.
On Russia, Kalin argued that the rise of Moscow as a superpower continued with Kremlin's moves in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria as well as latest developments in Libya.
As for the Western criticism on Turkey about getting closer with Russia, Kalin said this was a natural result of the isolation policies imposed on Turkey which are visible in Syria, Iraq and Eastern Mediterranean as well as other regions.
He said that the sanctions threats were one of the factors accelerating the close relation process of Turkey and Russia.
Lastly, according to Kalin, the alliance within NATO was questioned in 2019 when the global uncertainty in politics peaked. He observed that this trend would probably continue in the coming year.
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (29.12.19-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/ankara-warns-of-syria-like-crisis-in-libya-top-diplomat-says-150389) reports that Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on Dec. 28 against attempts to create a situation in Libya similar to that in civil war-torn Syria.
“They want to turn [the situation in] Libya to [the one in] Syria. If today Libya was like Syria, then the turn would come to the other countries in the region,” Cavusoglu told the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) consultation meeting in Antalya, on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.
"We need to do whatever is needed to prevent Libya from being divided and sliding into a chaos, and we do it," Cavusoglu said, stressing that the maritime deal signed with Libya is important.
Highlighting the constant conflicts in the Islamic world, Cavusoglu criticized the lack of unity in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), saying it is not strong enough to solve the problems in this regard.
On Dec. 28's deadly terrorist attack in Somalia, Cavusoglu said: "We have never left our Somalian brothers alone so far and we will never [leave them]."
(…)Meanwhile, Omer Celik an AKP spokesman, also addressed the possible deployment of Turkish troops in Libya during a local party meeting in the southern Adana province.
"We are not seeking soil in Libya. We hold ourselves responsible for the peace and security of the friendly and brotherly Libyan people. We have historical responsibilities," he said.
“You cannot guard your national interest confining yourself to your national borders. You have to safeguard your friends and allies,” Celik added.
Separately, Celik expressed sorrow over the terror attack in Somalia, which he called “an important and friendly country.”
“Turkey always stand by Somalia, the Somali nation will never be left alone … [especially] in its fight against terrorism,” Celik said.
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (29.12.19-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-to-stay-at-posts-in-idlib-syria-defense-chief-150386) reports that Turkey will definitely stay at its observation posts monitoring a cease-fire in northwestern Syria, and its soldiers there have orders to respond to any acts of hostility, said Turkey's Defense Chief Hulusi Akar on Dec. 28.
"In no way will we evacuate 12 observation points heroically carrying out their mission of ensuring the cease-fire; we are not going to leave," Akar told army commanders in Hatay, a southern Turkish province bordering Syria.
His remarks came in the wake of attacks by the Assad regime, Russian, and Iranian-backed forces which have sent some 47,000 people fleeing Idlib, Syria -- where the observation posts are located -- towards Turkey's borders.
Akar said the troops at these observation points have been ordered to respond without hesitation if they are attacked or harassed.
(…)Turning to the possibility of Turkey sending troops to Libya under a new security pact if the country's Government of National Accord (GNA) requests it, Akar said: “Our army is ready to protect Turkey's rights and interests whether at home or abroad.”
Ankara Anatolia news agency (29.12.19-https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/turkish-president-german-chancellor-discuss-syria-libya/1687074) reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss Syria and Libya, an official statement said on Sunday.
According to the statement issued by Turkey’s Directorate of Communications, the two leaders also addressed the bilateral relations and regional developments.
The phone talk came after Ankara and Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) signed on Nov. 27 two separate pacts, one on military cooperation and the other on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish daily Hurriyet (29.12.19) reports that Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Donmez, speaking in AKP’s provincial heads meeting, evaluated the latest developments in energy sector and reiterated that Turkey would continue in energy activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. “We hear unreasonable objections from different centers which are trying to create fait accompli in the region by excluding Turkey. Those who pursue these dreams should know very well that nobody can exclude us from the Mediterranean .[…] We will continue defending not only our country’s but also the Turkish Cypriots’ rights in the region until the end. As our President said before, we are determined to do all necessary in order to defend the rights and interests of our country and also of our Turkish Cypriot brothers who live in the TRNC. Moreover, we have singed also an agreement with Libya. With this, our contribution to the stability and peace in the region will be very important. As Turkey, we will never withdraw from our rights nor will we defraud anyone’s rights. In this framework, our Fatih and Yavuz drillships continue their activities nonstop. Our aim is clear and we will not give up”, Donmez said.
Turkish daily Milliyet (29.12.19) under the title “Opening to Algeria” reports that the Turkish Naval Forces, which continues naval training activities both in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the west, will be visiting Algeria between January 7-10 with two frigates in order to attend Commander Oruc Ries commemoration ceremony.
According to the paper, Turkey which is preparing to pass a motion to Parliament for approval to send troops to Libya will at the same time carry out naval training with Algerian Naval Forces within the framework of its cooperation with neighboring countries including Tunisia.
The paper adds that within the framework of their task in Algeria, the two frigates called TCG GÖKSU TCG GÖKOVA will support NATO Guard Operation. Also, the Turkish Naval Forces which points out that they would not allow any fait accompli in the Eastern Mediteranean, are planning to carry out 6 naval training activities in December with the participation of naval forces from NATO, the US and Italy.
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