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Open Maraş open…
While the Maraş (Varosha) initiative is currently limited to ‘conducting an inventory’, government officials have been issuing contradictory statements. Officials have yet to announce which concrete steps will be taken to reopen the fenced-off city which according to UN Security Council resolutions needs to be handed over to UN administration and returned to its pre-1974 lawful owners. Özersay: “Work on conducting an inventory count will begin by next week. There have been reports that Maraş (Varosha) is being reopened under Turkish Cypriot administration. We have yet to announce what kind of a move we will take.” Tatar: “Maraş (Varosha) will become Las Vegas. The city will once again host international stars. We want to reopen the city for tourism purposes.”
- “He was pushed to the fore after being patted on the back” – Akıncı criticized Özersay for obeying others. Akıncı: “Those who have not been authorised by the people are pursuing different agendas…We shall not tolerate being pushed to the fore after being patted on the back. Culture of obedience is not in the fabric of this community.”
The country is occupied with Maraş
While the Greek Cypriot presidential palace said Maraş (Varosha) will lead to the permanent division of the island, Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said Turkey is aware of the move and added: “Maraş (Varosha) is located within our territory and it is protected by our army. No one from this moment onwards can push the Turkish Cypriots to a partnership republic.” There are both positive and negative reactions to the Council of Ministers’ surprise decision on Maraş (Varosha).
- We are trying to do our work – Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay spoke about his meeting with Anastasiades.
- We have unofficial meetings with TRNC, South Cyprus, Greece and the UK – Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke on the Cyprus Issue.
A real tremor
The crisis escalates! The row that started after Özersay met with Anastasiades without informing Akıncı escalated after Akıncı learned about the decision to open Maraş (Varosha) through the media. Akıncı lashed out at Özersay with a harsh statement posted on social media.
- Committee on Özgürgün to be sent to parliamentary assembly – Parliamentary Advisory Board decided to form a committee to evaluate whether or not Özgürgün’s political immunity should be lifted but failed to convene because National Unity Party (UBP) MPs were absent. If the said committee cannot produce a decision, the issue will be brought to the parliamentary assembly.
Government’s Maraş (Varosha) initiative brought together harsh debates. The method of the inventory to be conducted and steps to follow are not known. Mehmet Ali Talat told Havadis in his evaluation of the latest developments that bypassing Akıncı was wrong.
- IPC rescue operation – Following the Immovable Property Commission’s rejection of nearly 500 applications for properties in Maraş (Varosha), 25 Greek Cypriots applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) claiming that all ‘domestic remedies have been exhausted’. Now the ECHR is debating the IPC’s future.
There are 43 charges brought against him
According to a report sent to the parliament by the prosecutor’s office, a total of £250,000; $240,000, €90,000 and 2.7 million Turkish Lira was deposited in Hüseyin Özgürgün’s bank account between 2013-2017.
- “We couldn’t agree” – FM Özersay who spoke to Diyalog said that they had not been able to reach an agreement on the issue of Maraş (Varosha) during the four-party coalition’s term in office.
- Metehan (Ayios Dhometios) the busiest – Figures on crossing points announced.
A road has been built from Maraş to Anatolia
Embrace yourselves for a new influx of people and investors from Turkey. Ersin Tatar who announced that the decision to open the fenced-off city of Maraş (Varosha) was taken jointly with Turkey reminded that the city once hosted an array of stars like Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren. “The closed city of Maraş (Varosha) which is currently a ghost town will become Las Vegas again,” he said.
- Anastasiades made a statement following the fuss in the North – Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades said the no in-depth discussions had taken place on the Cyprus negotiations process during his social meeting with Özersay. He also said that no discussion aimed at undermining the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı had taken place at the dinner.
- Mustafa Akıncı: We shall not tolerate such attempts – Akıncı: “Any attempt to disrespect the office of the president is an attempt to disrespect the political will of the Turkish Cypriot community.”
Maraş (Varosha) continues to dominate the North’s agenda
Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
The Turkish Cypriot government’s decision to conduct a scientific inventory of properties in the fenced-off city of Maraş (Varosha) continued to make headlines in the North.
The move is seen as the first step to reopening the ghost city which has remained sealed off and under the control of the Turkish military since 1974.
In an interview to the DHA (Demirören) news agency on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ersin Tatar revealed his plans to transform the closed city to its former glory.
“Maraş (Varosha) which is currently a ghost town will become Las Vegas again,” he said.
Tatar reminded that Maraş (Varosha) had once hosted an array of international stars ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Sophia Loren.
“As and when the city is reopened, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will become a tourism brand,” he added.
Tatar said that the process to rehabilitate Maraş would be a long one as there were many aspects that needed to be considered and addressed.
“Property in Maraş (Varosha) will be re-evaluated. We shall be protecting the rights of the Evkaf administration which is believed to have properties in the area dating back to Ottoman times. Former residents will also be allowed to return and live there. Once the new terminal at Ercan (Tymbou) is completed, we shall have more flights and tourists coming in from Turkey,” he said.
He also said that the fenced-off city will be opened under Turkish Cypriot administration.
“We are giving the world a message. That is there are two peoples and two states in Cyprus. No one should expect a federal settlement in Cyprus any longer. The TRNC will continue on its path. We have our guarantor country Turkey backing us up. The Turkish Cypriots have made its choice. They have chosen Turkey,” he added.
Speaking to HaberKıbrıs Web TV on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay said that work on creating an inventory of properties in Maraş (Varosha) will begin as early as Monday. He said that several names which will make up the team of experts responsible for conducting the inventory have already been determined.
“There are several academics from the universities which are already writing and researching the issue. We shall be making use of their knowledge and experiences,” he added.
Özersay also said he believed that the step taken on Maraş will be met with a positive reaction from the South.
“There have been some reports stating that the city will be opened under Turkish Cypriot administration. We have yet to announce what kind of a move we will make. We need to determine whom the properties in the city belong to before we can make any decision. For example, an accurate assessment of Evkaf owned property has not been made. We’re not saying that the pre-1974 residents don’t have any rights. We shall be respecting their rights in any decision we take,” he said.
Özeray also underlined the need to conduct a survey and feasibility study regarding the physical condition of the buildings in the area.
“We also need to determine which buildings are still habitable, the condition of the city’s basic infrastructure,” Özersay said.
Commenting on possible political ramifications, Özersay said he did not believe there would be serious political consequences as the move will bring the Turkish Cypriot side closer to the framework drawn by international law.
“When we look at the UN resolutions, the actual emphasis is on the return of former residents, he said, adding that the move will in a way allow this to happen.
In a separate statement to Diyalog TV on Wednesday, Özersay said that the previous four-party government had been in disagreement over the issue, resulting in the delay of the move.
He said that there were no legal obstacles to conducting an inventory but that the government may be faced with various difficulties when implementing the policy on Maraş (Varosha).
Özersay also said that the resettlement of former residents will ease the work of the TRNC Immovable Property Commission (IPC) which is currently experiencing difficulties processing Greek Cypriot applications regarding property in Maraş (Varosha).
The Republican Turkish Party (CTP) said on Wednesday that the move to open the closed city of Maraş (Varosha) will not only create difficulties regarding the ongoing cases at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) but will also hamper efforts to reach a comprehensive solution in Cyprus.
In a written statement, the CTP said that the process must be conducted carefully and with great detail, minimizing harm to the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
The Rebirth Party (YDP) welcomed the move in a statement issued by YDP leader Erhan Arıklı on Wednesday.
Arıklı said that his party applauded the government’s move.
He added that his party supported the opening of the closed city on the condition that the rights of Evkaf administration over Maraş (Varosha) were defended in the international arena and that the former residents were allowed to return under a special status supervised by the UN.
He claimed that the move was not in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
“All that needs to be done is a small amendment on the IPC law that will open the way of applications regarding Maraş (Varosha). As a result, the opening of the city will be in accordance with ECHR rulings,” he said.
Researcher Mete Hatay on Wednesday described the Maraş (Varosha) initiative as an important development.
In his evaluation of the issue to Havadis, Hatay emphasized that Greek Cypriot property owners and the civil society organizations must be included in the process.
He noted that when efforts to reach a solution enter a deadlock, the anomalies on both sides of the island start to be questioned. At such times, the sides cannot hide behind the solution processes, therefore, they will be more eager to do something. “The Maraş (Varosha) initiative must be seen in this regard,” Hatay added.
He said the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) will soon be forced to return the (Greek Cypriot) properties due to lack of funds for compensation payments. The military zone status of Maraş (Varosha) must be changed before the IPC can take any decision on any property in the fenced-off city.
Hatay, in response to a question whether the decision on Maraş (Varosha) can be implemented or not, said it can only be implemented in four stages. The first step is conducting the inventory study. The second step would be for the IPC to accept applications regarding Maraş (Varosha). The third step will be the evaluation process at the IPC to confirm and verify the property with the owner. The final and fourth phase will be the return of the property. Hatay stressed, “I believe reopening for settlement will require a new process.”
Also evaluating the issue to Havadis, former President Mehmet Ali Talat said it was possible to reopen Maraş (Varosha) for settlement but added there are still many unanswered questions on the initiative. “It is not yet known whether Maraş (Varosha) will be opened under Turkish Cypriot administration, under an autonomous status; or whether the fenced-off city will be handed over to the United Nations. It is also not known whether the properties will be returned to its lawful owners,” Talat added.
Talat stressed bypassing Akıncı was wrong.
>> Maraş (Varosha) will be restored to its former glory.
>> TRNC will become a tourism brand once the city is opened.
>> Process of rehabilitating Maraş (Varosha) will be long with issues that need to be considered & addressed.
>> Property in Maraş (Varosha) to be re-evaluated. Rights of Evkaf administration to be protected. Former residents also to be allowed to return and resettle.
>> More tourists to arrive with completion of the new terminal at Ercan (Tymbou)
>> Maraş (Varosha) will be opened under TC administration.
>> Move to open the city will give the world the message that there are two peoples & two states in Cyprus.
>> No one should expect a federal settlement in Cyprus any longer. The TRNC will continue on its path. TCs have chosen to move ahead with Turkey.
>> Process of creating inventory will begin next week. Team of experts will include academics who have worked on Maraş.
>> Positive response expected from South on Maraş initiative.
>> Despite reports, next move not yet announced.
>> Inventory needed before next move can be decided. Rights of former residents and Evkaf to be respected when the decision on next move is to be taken.
>> Survey of the physical condition of buildings and infrastructure needed.
>> Move will not have serious political consequences. It will bring the TC side closer to the framework drawn by international law.
>> Four-party government was in disagreement over the issue, resulting in the delay of the move.
>> No legal obstacles to conducting an inventory but government may face difficulties when implementing the policy on Maraş (Varosha).
>> Allowing former residents will ease work of the IPC currently experiencing difficulties processing GC property applications for Maraş (Varosha).
>> Move will create difficulties in ECHR cases and efforts for a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.
>> Process must be conducted carefully and with great detail, minimizing harm to the rights of TCs.
>> YDP applauds and supports government’s move on condition rights of Evkaf are defended in the international arena.
>> Former residents should be allowed to return under special status supervised by the UN.
>> Move not in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
>> Move will open way of IPC applications with a minor amendment. Thus opening Maraş will be in accordance with ECHR rulings.
>> Opening Maraş (Varosha) for resettlement possible but many questions remain on the initiative.
>> It is unknown under which status the city will be opened.
>> Bypassing Akıncı wrong.
The row between Akıncı and Özersay escalates
Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Governance & Power Sharing
The spat between President Mustafa Akıncı and Foreign Minister Özersay escalated into a full-blown war of words on Wednesday following comments made by Özersay about his recent meeting with the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades.
Earlier on Wednesday Presidential spokesman Barış Burcu lashed out at Özersay, accusing him of exceeding his authority and capacity as foreign minister.
Speaking on Kıbrıs TV, Burcu reminded that Akıncı was the only representative and leader of the Turkish Cypriot community (TCC) recognised by the international community.
He said that Akıncı was also tasked with the duty to negotiate a settlement on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot community.
Burcu stated that the President and the Foreign Minister were not of equal status and that any attempt to create such a perception would be false and misleading.
“Only the leaders of the two communities have the authority to sign and approve an agreement regarding a solution to the Cyprus Problem. It would be wrong for the president and the foreign minister to be perceived as equals when conducting negotiations or representing the Turkish Cypriot community,” he said.
Burcu also recalled that Foreign Minister Özersay and his vision for a solution had failed to win in the last presidential elections in 2015.
He accused Özersay of pursuing a campaign of self-promotion through the post of the foreign minister which under normal circumstances should be in full harmony with the President’s office.
“The foreign minister for some time has been carrying out secretive meetings and activities without consulting or informing the President. I would like to ask him whose vision is he is trying to sell or promote by carrying out these secretive contacts,” Burcu said.
He reminded that the President remained committed to the promise he made to the 60 per cent of Turkish Cypriots who voted for him to work towards a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution model in Cyprus.
Speaking to HaberKıbrıs Web TV earlier in the day, Özersay downplayed the importance of his meeting with Anastasiades, stating that it was of a social nature. He said the Prime Minister would have informed the president had the need emerge during his recent meeting with Akıncı. Özersay added that he is simply doing his job as the foreign minister and that the country’s precious time and agenda should not be wasted with such matters.
Özersay also repeated his view that a federal solution under the current conditions was not possible.
He said that everyone, including Anastasiades, had a right to discuss new ideas regarding a solution.
“We are addressing issues that have long become part of the status quo. We’ve tried to reach a comprehensive solution for years without success,” he said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Akıncı issued posted his own statement on social media, indirectly targetting Özersay.
Akıncı reminded that he had been serving as President for the past five years, working hard to fulfil his election promise to achieve a settlement and peace in Cyprus.
Hinting at Özersay and Ankara, Akıncı said that neither he nor the Turkish Cypriot community will allow being patronized by those who have a different vision for a settlement.
“This is not something we will accept. Even if we were to choose to keep quiet, our people will not be silenced. No matter from whom or where it comes from, any disrespectful act against the office of the presidency is regarded as being disrespectful the Turkish Cypriot community’s will. Turkish Cypriots are proud of their democratic secular and tolerant nature. A culture of obedience does not exist in the fabric of this community,” he said.
The Republican Turkish Party (CTP) on Wednesday tried to defuse the tension between Akıncı and Özersay by underlining the importance of dialogue rather than a ‘lack of communication’ between officials.
In a written statement, the CTP pointed out that such tensions among the country’s top brass were not right at a time when regional tensions were running high. The CTP said that any new initiatives, including Maraş (Varosha), should only be undertaken as long as they remain within UN parameters. The statement also recalled that the Cyprus talks are conducted between the leaders of the two communities under the auspices of the United Nations. “In this regard, the importance of the presidency cannot be disregarded”, the CTP noted. It concluded by urging all political actors to maintain a dialogue with the presidency to exchange ideas and to work together.
The leader of the Social Democratic Party (TDP) Cemal Özyiğit on Wednesday said Özersay’s vision and agenda were different from that of Akıncı’s. In a post on social media, he said Özersay’s actions were not only in contradiction with state tradition but were also unacceptable for the Turkish Cypriot community.
Özyiğit expressed hope that Özersay, without further delay, will abandon such actions which could result in humiliating the Turkish Cypriot community in the context of the Cyprus problem
“The most annoying development is the attempt by Turkey and the Greek Cypriot leadership to bypass Akıncı, disregarding the rights and the political will of the Turkish Cypriot community in the process,” Özyiğit concluded.
>> Akıncı is the only internationally recognised representative of the TCC & is the only person with authority to negotiate for a settlement on behalf of the TCC.
>> Wrong to perceive the president & the foreign minister as equals when conducting negotiations or representing the TCC.
>> Özersay acting outside his capacity as FM.
>> Özersay pursuing a campaign of self-promotion through the post of Foreign Minister.
>> Akıncı remained committed to honouring his promise to 60% of TCs who voted for him for a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution in Cyprus.
>> Dinner with Anastasiades was a social meeting.
>> Country’s agenda and time should not be wasted with such matters.
>> Federal solution under current conditions not possible.
>> Everyone including Anastasiades has a right to discuss new ideas.
>> Attempts to patronize TC leadership and community by those with a different vision for Cyprus will not be tolerated.
>> Any act of disrespect against the office of the president is an act of disrespect against TCC and political will of TCs.
>> TCs are proud of their democratic secular and tolerant nature. A culture of obedience does not exist in the fabric of TCC.
>> Dialogue rather than ‘lack of communication’ between officials important.
>> Tensions between country’s top brass should be avoided in light of regional developments.
>> New initiatives including Maraş (Varosha) should be undertaken as long as they remain within UN parameters.
>> Cyprus talks are carried out by leaders of two communities under the auspices of UN. Therefore, the presidency is an important institution in the North.
>> Özersay has a different vision and agenda from Akıncı. His actions are in contradiction with state tradition.
>> Özersay’s attitude might result in humiliation of TCC in the context of the Cyprus problem.
>> Attempt by Turkey and the Greek Cypriot leadership to bypass Akıncı disregarding the rights and the political will of the TCC annoying development.
Turkey wants to guarantee the Turkish Cypriots’ rights
Energy, Regional/International Relations
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Wednesday that Ankara’s number one aim in the Eastern Mediterranean was to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriots.
“There is only one thing we want. To guarantee that the rights of Turkish Cypriots are accepted by Greek Cypriot administration, Greece, the EU and everyone,” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) in Turkey’s capital Ankara.
Çavuşoğlu said that political solutions will emerge in the Eastern Mediterranean when people “learn to share in compliance with the law.”
“[Later] we won’t have any trouble sharing the wealth [in the region],” said Çavuşoğlu.
He praised efforts of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean to find a solution in the Eastern Mediterranean.
On the negotiations process, Çavuşoğlu confirmed that unofficial meetings were being held with the TRNC, the Greek Cypriot side, Greece and the UK to discuss what was to be negotiated in any future talks.
“We do not see the natural resources around Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean as a cause for conflict. Just the opposite we want to strengthen the prosperity and stability of Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean through sharing these resources,” he concluded.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay on Wednesday said Turkey will defend the rights of the Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean region which is being slowly encircled. Speaking at a meeting at ‘Birlik Vakfı’ (Unity Foundation), Oktay noted some of the permanent members of the UN Security Council want to exploit the Eastern Mediterranean to the fullest extent of their capacity. ‘This is the struggle we are now waging’, Oktay concluded.
Solidarity with refugees from the religious leaders
Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs, Havadis
The religious leaders of Cyprus have expressed their solidarity with refugees around the world who are forced to abandon their homes, their land and their environment. The Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP) issued a written statement on Wednesday to mark World Refugee Day.
“The Religious Leaders of Cyprus call on the faith communities in Cyprus to stand with refugees by taking big and small steps in solidarity with them,” the statement said, adding they urged the decision makers to address the underlying causes of refugees and uphold the human right to asylum.
Prof. Dr Talip Atalay, head of the Religious Affairs Office in the North, highlighted “it is a religious obligation in addition to being a humanitarian requirement, to embrace all refugees and to provide them with care.
The statement was signed by Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus; Talip Atalay head of the Religious Affairs Office in the North and Mufti of Cyprus; Father Jerzy Kraj of the Latin Catholic Church of Cyprus; Archbishop Khoren Doghramajian of the Armenian Church of Cyprus; Archbishop Youssef Soueif of the Maronite Church of Cyprus.
CMP to carry out excavations in 33 locations in 30 military areas
Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs, Havadis
Gülden Plümer Küçük, Turkish Cypriot member of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) said the Committee has been granted permission to carry out excavations in 33 locations over 30 military zones in the North. She added there is no time limitation on the excavations and the Committee will decide on the time and the order of the excavations.
Küçük noted there are currently seven excavation teams working in six locations in the north and one in the south in civilian areas and added the excavation planning in military zones will be decided by CMP.
Reminding that CMP had been granted access to 30 sites in military zones in 2015 with ten excavations per year, Küçük said the excavation teams completed their work in those areas and CMP applied for a new set of permits in 2018.
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