Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Duzen newspaper (17.04.18) reports that Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci has said that there has not been any change in the stance of the two sides since the Crans Montana Conference. In statements last night after his meeting with President Anastasiades at the residence of Elisabeth Spehar, UN Special Representative in Cyprus, Akinci noted: “During the meeting tonight we have found out where we stand. This was a necessary meeting and should have been held. It was important to have a clear view for the period to come”.
Arguing that a chance had been wasted after two years of negotiations and disappointment was created, Akinci alleged that “at the stage we have come now, absolutely nothing can be the same” and added:
“We have no intention and decision to be imprisoned in the same methods. […] The periods of let us talk from the point we remained in Crans Montana, let us go around the issues, let the negotiators debate for hours and then let the leaders meet, have ended. I have made earlier statements saying that the process from now on can be taken up with a strategic approach within the framework of a package which is not open-ended. Can this happen within the forthcoming period? The process to come will show whether UNSG Guterres will undertake an initiative. A new situation has not come up tonight in this meeting. The sides continue to be at the same point they were in Crans Montana. We have not been able to see any difference in the stance of the Greek Cypriot side.
Of course, we have brought onto the agenda the natural gas issue. We have warned on the issue of what could happen from now on. Since the natural gas issue is a common wealth which concerns both sides in Cyprus, either a committee should be established on this issue or these activities should be postponed or if these cannot happen, the Turkish Cypriot side may be obliged to undertake similar activities together with Turkey.
We have asked for a briefing from the Greek Cypriot side regarding the crossing points before going to this meeting. I have said that I wanted to know when the road on their side will be completed in the Apliki area. It was said that the contractor would hand it over on 15 September. It was said that Deryneia would be ready on 1 July. We wish for these dates to be the final ones. And let us manage to fulfil the uncomplete work in our side with the government and be able to open these two gates very nearly.
There are speculations that the UNSG might appoint a special representative. It is said that this might not be like Eide, a permanent adviser, but a temporary one. The situation is not clear yet.
I have said that a change of the mentality of the Greek Cypriot side is needed. I have been saying this for months. I did not say that it will happen but it should happen. Tonight I could not see any clue regarding a change of mentality”.
The paper writes that the only positive message from the meeting was the positive approach of the two leaders to the appointment of a special representative by the UNSG.
Under the title “The foundation for new negotiations was laid, but…” columnist Cuneyt Oruc in Turkish Cypriot daily Star Kibris newspaper (17.04.18) refers to the meeting held last night between Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and President Anastasiades at the residence of Elisabeth Spehar, UN Special Representative in Cyprus. Noting that “the leaders held on their positions, as it was expected before the meeting”, Oruc recalled Akinci’s statement that “we have not intention to be imprisoned in the same methods” and that the negotiations cannot continue in the same manner like in the past. He also claimed that even though President Anastasiades’ message regarding the opening of the crossing points in Apliki and Deryneia areas is positive for the Turkish Cypriot side, this is nothing more than a little hope.
Pointing out that Akinci’s statement on the hydrocarbons sent the message to the Greek Cypriots that “if you take these steps, we will not refrain from taking counter steps together with Turkey”, Oruc argues that the only positive message from the meeting was the positive approach exhibited by the leaders to a possible appointment of a UNSG special adviser for Cyprus. “This move could be assessed that the leaders gave a green light for the resumption of the negotiations”, he says.
Recalling the statements by Akinci that “nothing could be the same at the stage we have reached”, the columnist alleges that this contains important clues as to the conditions of the new period. He claims:
“The only issue on which the leaders agreed last night was the demand for the UN to appoint again an adviser for the island. This demand shows that both leaders are ready to sit again at possible negotiating table within the forthcoming days. However, it is obvious that there will be result from this table where they will sit unwillingly. And the words of Akinci that ‘nothing will be the same at the point we have come now’, represents hopelessness for this negotiating table”.
Illegal Bayrak (17.04.18 http://www.brtk.net/?english_posts=nami-speaks-on-cyprus-problem) broadcast that the self styled minister of economy and energy Ozdil Nami has underlined the need for the United Nations to exert pressure on the Greek Cypriot side to accept a timetable in the Cyprus negotiations process.
Speaking on BRT, Nami also drew attention to the need for interdependence between the two sides on the island.
Touching on the informal meeting held between the two leaders last night, Nami claimed: “I was not expecting anything to come out of this meeting. As long as we don’t hear the words “lets finish this” from Mr. Anastasiades’s mouth there is no meaning of holding such meetings”.
Alleging that such initiatives were only part of deliberate delaying tactics deployed by the Greek Cypriot side, Nami claimed that the time had come for the UN to exert pressure on the Greek Cypriot Administration to accept time frames in the talks.
“Both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side have demonstrated to the international community their strong desire to reach a settlement on the island. It’s very clear that it is the Greek Cypriot side which is running away from a solution. The UN must play its part and exert pressure on Anastasiades. They need to accept a timetable. We only want what is reasonable. The non-solution of the Cyprus problem will not be good for the region too” he alleged.
Nami also underlined the need “to establish a structure that would allow normalization of relations with South Cyprus and increase mutual economic interdependency between the two sides”.
In addition, Bayrak also broadcast that Nami will be going to Ankara on Friday to hold a series of contacts.
Nami will meet with the Turkish Minister of Customs and Trade Bulent Tufenkci and the Minister for Science, Industry and Technology Faruk Ozlu.
Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Bakis newspaper (17.04.18) reports that the Bi-communal Peace Initiative – United Cyprus called the two leaders to reach an agreement for the resumption of the Cyprus talks based on the UNSG`s framework without any preconditions and with the aim to reach an agreement for the reunification of Cyprus.
A delegation of the Bi-communal Peace Initiative had a meeting yesterday with Elizabeth Spehar, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Head of the UNFICYP Mission and handed over a Message addressed to the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, with the request to be conveyed to them during the informal dinner which was held last night. In their message to the leaders, they noted that there is an urgent need to return to the negotiating table.
On the same issue, the paper reports that Salih Sonustun, general secretary of the United Cyprus Party, in a written statement, made a call to the leaders to resume the Cyprus talks within the framework of Guterres’ documents.
Moreover, Turkish Cypriot daily Detay newspaper (17.04.18) reports that the “Turkish Cypriot public servants union” (KTAMS) called on the leaders prior their meeting last night to “act with consciousness of their historical responsibilities and to exhibit a strong will for solution”.
Guven Bengihan, “chairman of KTAMS”, in a written statement, said that after the failure of the talks in Crans-Montana despite achieving great progress, the meeting of the leaders carries a great importance for the resumption of the Cyprus tlaks.
Under the title “The Turkish Armed Forces took action: dispatched two submarines and 12 warships…”, Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris Postasi newspaper (17.04.18) reports that Turkey follows closely the developments of the energy corridor in the Eastern Mediterranean, where too many countries have been gathered with the excuse of Assad in Syria.
Turkey has been following step by step the activities carried out at its borders and has dispatched two submarines and at least 12 warships in response to Athens' increasing provocations and to USA, Britain and French fleets in the eastern Mediterranean. The 14 warships are monitoring 24 hours a day the region, according to the paper.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (17.04.18) reports that after an operation which took place by the so-called police in a house in the occupied part of Lefkosia, a military officer along with his spouse and two kids were arrested for allegedly having links with the Fethullatist Terror Organization (FETO).
The so-called police seized the car belonging to the military officer and some other evidences. According to information acquired by the paper, the four-person family will either appear in “court” today or they will be “extradited from the TRNC”.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (17.04.18) reports that so-called minister of transportation and communication Tolga Atakan, in statements yesterday during the meeting of the so-called assembly, stated that the total number of registered vehicles in the “TRNC” after 1974 has reached 326, 387, adding that there are also 109, 640 cars which are unregistered.
Also, according to Atakan, the numbers of junkyard vehicles is 17, 872.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (17.04.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-wants-nato-to-meet-expectations-130359) reports that NATO should stand by its member Turkey and “meet its expectations,” including demands for air defence protection on its southern borders, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.
“NATO should meet Turkey’s expectations as well. We expect [NATO] to meet our expectations regarding the issue of air defence,” Cavusoglu said on April 16 at a joint press conference in Ankara with visiting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
A Turkish diplomat familiar with the meeting earlier in the day told the Hurriyet Daily News that Cavusoglu was referring to the ongoing NATO protection mission on Turkey’s southern border with Syria. The official recalled that Spain and Italy have deployed air defense systems on the border and the mission is extended every year. Ankara expects the “regular” presence of these systems on the border, the diplomat added.
Cavusoglu, also vowed that Turkey would continue in NATO’s missions abroad, in an apparent reference to NATO’s demand for contribution to the alliance’s planned training mission in Iraq. “We expect important decisions to be taken at the upcoming NATO summit,” he said.
Stoltenberg was visiting Ankara ahead of a NATO leader’s summit in Brussels in July, and he said the Iraqi mission will be part of the upcoming summit.
“At the summit in July we plan to launch a NATO training mission in Iraq, helping local forces to stabilize their own country and prevent international terrorist threats like [ISIL] from coming back. I count on Turkey’s support in launching the mission and Turkey’s future contribution to the mission,” he said at the press conference.
He also stressed the “essential contributions” that Turkey has been making to NATO operations in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), saying Ankara is “a highly valued and key ally for many reasons.”
“Turkey does a lot for alliance, despite facing serious security challenges. No other NATO ally has suffered as many terrorist attacks as Turkey. You are the ally most exposed to instability in this region,” Stoltenberg said.
“Minister Cavusoglu briefed me on ‘Operation Olive Branch’ and I am grateful for Turkey’s continued transparency on this,” he added, referring to the Turkish military’s recent operation into the northern Syrian district of Afrin.
Meanwhile, Cavusoglu also criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent comments in which he said Ankara’s support of recent missile strikes on Syria showed it had “separated” from Russia.
“Ankara and Moscow may think differently but Turkey’s ties with Russia are too strong to be broken by France’s President. We have strong ties with Russia,” he said.
Cavusoglu claimed Macron wanted to be part of the trilateral summit between Turkey, Russia and Iran held in Ankara in early April over Syria.
Ankara asked other participant countries, while Russia welcomed Iran preferred to host France in a separate meeting and Macron did not attend the trilateral summit, Cavusoglu said.
He stressed that Turkey’s relations with Russia were “not an alternative” to its ties with NATO, France and the United States.
He added that Turkey was cooperating with Russia and Iran to try and deescalate the ongoing conflict in Syria despite a long-standing disagreement with them over their support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
According to Hurriyet Daily News (17.04.18) NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on April 16 said the U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria were a "clear message" to al-Assad, Russia and Iran.
Speaking to Turkish broadcaster NTV, Stoltenberg accused Russia of preventing the United Nations' efforts to carry out an independent investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the country.
"This operation has given a clear message to the al-Assad regime and his supporters Russia and Iran. It has shown them that the international public did not watch what happened there silently," Stoltenberg said, adding that he also welcomes Turkey's support for the operation.
He stressed that the operation aimed to "reduce the capacity of the use of chemical weapons."
"There were efforts for an independent investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria but Russia prevented it," Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg arrived in the Turkish capital Ankara on April 16 for official talks in the wake of the U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria.
As for Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 anti-ballistic missile systems, Stoltenberg said this was a "national decision" for Ankara to take.
"That's a national decision for a NATO country. What matters for the NATO is whether it will be integrated into the NATO air defense system," Stoltenberg said.
After he was welcomed by a military ceremony at the Defense Ministry, Stoltenberg met with Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli. No further details were given about the meeting.
The NATO chief is also set to meet on April 16 with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during his visit, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The U.S., the U.K. and France early on April 14 launched airstrikes on reported al-Assad regime chemical weapons facilities in Syria.
The strikes followed the regime's alleged chemical attack in Douma, which killed 78 civilians and injured hundreds of others.
Turkish daily Sabah newspaper (17.04.18 https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2018/04/16/erdogan-merkel-discuss-syria-strikes-chemical-attack-in-douma) reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday discussed the U.S.-led strikes against Syria and the alleged chemical attack in Douma in eastern Ghouta during a phone call.
According to presidential sources, the two leaders emphasized the importance of protecting the territorial integrity of Syria and taking concrete steps toward a political solution for the seven-year crisis.
Neither Turkey nor Germany joined Saturday's strikes on Syria by their allies U.S., France and Britain but welcomed the move as "appropriate."
Erdogan also held separate phone conversations with British Prime Minister Theresa May, France's Emmanuel Macron and Russia's Vladimir Putin and cautioned against further escalating tensions in the region.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (17.04.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-warns-greece-over-provocation-in-aegean-130370) reports that Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has urged the Greek government to refrain from “provocative moves” in the disputed areas of the Aegean Sea after the Turkish coast guard removed a Greek flag planted on an islet near the district of Didim, southwestern Turkey on April 15.
“There was an attempt to plant a Greek flag on an uninhabited rocky islet across from [the Turkish resort of] Didim. Our coast guard teams did what was necessary and removed the flag,” he told reporters in Istanbul on April 16.
“Our advice to Greece is to stay within the boundaries of good neighborly relations and to avoid provocations that would escalate tension. No one should think that we would give any concessions over our sovereign rights. We are determined to give necessary responses against de facto interventions,” said Yildirim.
The Turkish Prime Minister also said the event of the Greek citizen trying to plant the flag was similar to events in February over the Kardak islets, in which a Turkish patrol boat rammed into a patrol boat belonging to the Greek coast guard in the Aegean Sea.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also warned Greece, calling the Greek minister “wayward” in a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Ankara on April 16.
“The other side should refrain from such moves. They should not take steps that will strain the relations and lead to a crisis in the Aegean for no reason. When they do so, they get a response. Populism brings no benefits to Greece. As two NATO allies, we should focus on a positive agenda,” he said.
“He loves populism. He is from the far right party. He is the leader of the party. His waywardness should not disturb the relations of the two countries,” Cavusoglu said, referring to the Greek Minister.
Turkey and Greece have long been at odds over multiple sources of tension stemming from the Aegean Sea. There is not a border agreement between the two countries and they often come face to face over a score of disputes islets. The gravest tension occurred in 1996 over the uninhabited Kardak islets, where the two countries came to the brink of hot conflict.
Meanwhile, Greek government had no knowledge of the incident, according to spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos.
“Based on the latest briefings from the Defense Ministry and the Hellenic Navy General Staff, there is no confirmation of any incident of violation of Greek territory,” Tzanakopoulos told reporters on April 16.
“Nonetheless, we will continue to investigate the matter in a calm and very serious fashion,” he added, describing Yildirim’s remarks as “provocative and reprehensible.”
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (17.04.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/imprisoned-american-pastor-andrew-brunson-rejects-terror-charges-in-turkey-trial-130365) reports that an American pastor denied allegations of links to a group accused of orchestrating a failed military coup in Turkey during his trial on April 16 in a case that has compounded strains in the United States’ relations with Turkey.
Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of helping the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO), who is widely believed to have orchestrated the failed coup attempt that left more than 250 people killed.
“I have never done anything against Turkey. I love Turkey. I have been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want the truth to come out,” Brunson told the court in the Aliaga town of the Aegean province of İzmir.
Brunson has been the pastor of the İzmir Resurrection Church, serving a small Protestant congregation in Turkey’s third largest city.
“I do not accept the charges mentioned in the indictment. I have never been involved in any illegal activities,” said Brunson, wearing a white shirt and black suit, giving his defense in Turkish. Brunson’s wife, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, and the U.S. envoy for religious freedom, Sam Brownback, were present in the courtroom.
Brunson’s trial is one of several legal cases roiling U.S.-Turkey relations. The two countries are also at odds over U.S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, which Turkey considers terrorist organizations.
Meanwhile, the relationship between the United States and Turkey is likely to come under pressure as long as the U.S. pastor remains in jail, a U.S. official responsible for international religious freedom said on April 16.
“The United States cares deeply about our relationship with Turkey,” Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, told reporters during a recess at the trial.
“That relationship is going to have difficulty moving forward as long as Andrew Brunson is incarcerated,” he added.
Brunson’s lawyer said the pastor, detained 18 months ago, was in custody because of his religious beliefs. Turkey is a majority Muslim country though constitutionally secular.
“There is evidence that shows Brunson was detained due to his faith,” İsmail Cem Halavurt said on the eve of the trial. Halavurt said Brunson’s religious role had been “classified as aiding terror organizations.”
The İzmir prosecutor’s office said sufficient evidence had been obtained to charge Brunson with aiding armed terrorist organizations and obtaining confidential government information for political and military espionage.
A copy of Brunson’s indictment accuses him of working both with Gulen’s network and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Brunson also denied aiding any PKK suspects and dismissed suggestions he had preached in favor of Kurdish independence as “lies.”
On April 15, Halavurt said he believed Brunson would ultimately be acquitted and there was no reason for his continued detention during trial. “Our prior expectation from the hearing is ending the arrest,” he said. “We want Brunson to be freed immediately,” said Halavurt.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (17.04.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/erdogan-urges-new-foundation-for-world-peace-130384) reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again taken aim at the West over Islamophobia, suggesting it is “using anti-Islamic sentiments to reinforce its own ideology and lifestyle.”
“There are efforts to degrade and defame Islam, which is the only religion that offers genuine solutions to the modern world’s problems. The West tries to put certain labels on Islam through certain ‘project’ terrorist groups. Those are terrorist groups that have emerged lately,” Erdogan said in a speech on April 16 at the World Muslim Minorities’ Summit in Istanbul.
Muslims have faced “multi-sided, multi-layered attacks since the 9/11 terror attacks,” he stated.
“Terrorist acts by herds of killers such as DAESH, Boko Haram, al-Shabbab, and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization [FETO] have hurt Muslims and also give opportunities to anti-Islamic circles,” Erdogan said.
“The innocence of Muslims slaughtered by those organizations is overlooked and our religion and the believers of Islam are held responsible for those atrocities,” he added.
Members of the Turkish Parliament’s subcommittee to investigate “Islamophobia” in Western countries had met with representatives of Turkish non-governmental organizations in Berlin earlier this month.
Omer Serdar, the head of Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, expressed his disturbance over the association of Muslims with terror.
“Recent developments, especially the rise in terror groups that define themselves with Islam, have contributed to this association,” Serdar said, adding that many people in Europe have a fear of refugees coming from the Middle East.
“We are not looking for a scapegoat. Let’s reveal the aftermath of these [Islamophobic] events together … There are 25 million Muslims living in Europe,” he also said.
TURKISH AFFAIRS SECTION
(CS / AM)