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Cyprus: oasis of peace in a sea of instablity

Cyprus from space. Wikicommons/ Nasa image. Public domain. Some rights reserved.We cannot think about Cyprus without recognising the role that Turkey plays, the 1 November rerun general elections, and without remembering all those hurt and killed in the bombing of the peace rally outside the main station in Ankara on Saturday. Apparently the bombs were aimed at the HDP and the Kurdish block in the demonstration. It was a day before a ceasefire was expected to strengthen the democratic forces in Turkey. People trying to help were attacked by police as if they and not the bombers themselves were the enemy. But see here. 

The HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtas accused the AKP government of direct complicity in the bomb attack. Speaking of the events in Ankara he said:

“Here are the corpses of the victims still lying on the streets, while the injured are transported to the hospitals. And in the middle of this situation the police are shooting at the crowds of people with gas grenades, and the ambulances are not able to leave the place. In the middle of Ankara a massacre is taking place, but they are not allowing the ambulances to move, and there is only police there. It appears they want many more people to die. Now the President will soon appear and call on us all to be restrained, while at the same time police forces who are under his command attack the injured at the scene with gas grenades. We are dealing here with a Mafioso, murderous and mass murderous state mentality.”

The Nobel Prize winning author, Orhan Pamuk, links increasing Turkish instability to the failure of Erdogan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) to win a parliamentary majority on 7 June.  The resumption of the war against the Kurdish movement followed Erdogan’s inability to convince the Kurdish voters to back his ambition for a presidential rather than a parliamentary republic.  Asked if he feared a return to civil war, Pamuk replied:

"Certainly I fear that. Especially in the 1970s the streets of my city (Istanbul) witnessed a real conflict between people of the left and those of the right. Anyone over 35 has terrible memories of that period and never wants to go back there. I am worried (for Turkey) because I know that in the end Erdogan wants to govern alone at all costs. He does not want to share power."

On Friday after he and his colleagues had held up banners reading "Free media cannot be silenced," Bülent Keneş, the editor-in-chief of Turkey's leading English daily, Today's Zaman, was arrested.  Hundreds of people, intellectuals, journalists and citizens, have appeared in court charged with violating Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code, used against people who are accused of insulting President Erdogan. 
 
It seems Cyprus is an oasis of peace in a region of instability with the start of Russian attacks in Syria and the numbers of refugees forced to flee from the area. Both the Cypriot leaders in the peace negotiations and the British Parliament returned to work after the meetings at the United Nations and the British political conference season.  Meetings in the USA were undertaken by President Nicos Anastasiades, Foreign Minister Kasoulides, and Constantinos Petrides and their counterparts in the Turkish Cypriot administration, Mustafa Akinci and Emine Colak.  The Biden/Anastasiades meeting focused on energy and the reunification talks.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Mr Eide urged Greek and Turkish Prime Ministers, Alexis Tsipras and Ahmet Davutoglu, to do their best to facilitate a settlement in Cyprus and they have apparently agreed, saying, “let’s first solve Cyprus problem and then we visit Cyprus”. Tsipras spoke to Obama over the phone about his recent election victory, debt, refugees and Cyprus talks. Tsipras told the General Assembly that it is shameful that Cyprus still remains divided. John Kerry, US Secretary of State, welcomed continued progress in the Cyprus Peace Talks. Espen Barth Eide met with the all three Guarantor powers. He had a “very good conversation” on financing, security and the way forward, with UK Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond and also met with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his Turkish counterpart, Feridun Sinirlioğlu.    

The Republic of Cyprus celebrated its 55th anniversary on 1 October and Cyprus now has a new US Ambassador, Kathleen Doherty. Welcome! And a thank you to the positive work that her predecessor, John M Koenig, did and encouraged while on the island since summer 2012. 
 
After the peace talks yesterday, which lasted four hours after which conversation continued over dinner, Mustafa Akinci sent the message that the Cyprus talks need intensive work. UN Political Affairs have tweeted citing Espen Barth Eide as UN Special Advisor working to unlock Cyprus’ full potential. And the leaders have agreed to significantly intensify the pace of the negotiations. Conscious of the need to build on the current momentum, they had a constructive exchange on remaining divergences and instructed the negotiators on the way forward. The leaders welcomed the ad hoc bicommunal committee on EU preparations aimed at preparing the future Turkish Cypriot constituent state for the implementation of the EU Acquis upon entry into force of the settlement agreement.  Their next meeting will be on 30 October.    

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