Egyptian-Cypriot-Greece summit discusses Turkey’s provocations

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Kyriacos Mitsotakis and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi are seen during a news conference after a trilateral summit between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus October 21, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 October 2020

Egyptian-Cypriot-Greece summit discusses Turkey’s provocations

  • El-Sisi underlined the need to enhance the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Greece and Cyprus

CAIRO: A tripartite summit was held on Wednesday in the Cypriot capital Nicosia between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades, along with Greek Prime Minister Kyriacos Mitsotakis.

The summit, the eighth between the leaders of the three countries, focused on discussing means of cooperation and coordination regarding issues of concern. 

Bassam Rady, the spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, said: “The tripartite summit was held to evaluate the development of cooperation among the three countries in various fields, and to follow-up on joint projects currently implemented as part of the trilateral cooperation mechanism.”

Rady added that the summit also sought to “exchange visions on means of facing the challenges in the Middle East region.”

El-Sisi underlined the need to enhance the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Greece and Cyprus, saying: “We have decided to counter acts of provocation and violations in the Middle East.”

He indirectly accused Turkey of committing violations, transferring mercenaries to conflict zones, and blackmailing Europe with the issue of immigration.“We have signed the founding charter of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum,” he added.

Regarding the Syrian crisis, the president said: “We reject any foreign existence on Syrian territories.”

Meanwhile, the Cypriot president stressed that Turkey was causing more tension in the area, jeopardizing regional stability, interfering in the Syrian crisis, and sending mercenaries to Libya and the Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

Anastasiades said: “We underlined the need to take strong measures against those who support militant and terrorist groups in the region.” He pointed out that the trilateral relations were not against any state, but rather aimed to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East. 

He also called on Turkey to respect international laws and not to violate Cypriot sovereignty.

“We discussed means of enhancing tripartite cooperation in various fields especially energy,” he said. “We welcome the establishment of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum,” he added, whilst reiterating the need to stop the flow of illegal immigration via the Mediterranean.

The Cypriot president also described Turkey’s hunt for gas in Greek waters in the Eastern Mediterranean as “illegal.”

Meanwhile Mitsotakis said that the practices of the Turkish leadership were unfair to its people. “We don’t want to exclude Turkey but its practices lead to that action,” he warned.

This is the eighth such tripartite summit between since 2014. It coincides with Greece’s calls on the EU to consider suspending the Customs Union Agreement with Turkey.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias delivered a letter to the European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyito, to consider the measure as a response to Turkey’s repeated violations of the agreement, in addition to its unilateral measures of gas and oil excavations in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish president denies country has a ‘Kurdish issue’

Updated 26 November 2020

Turkish president denies country has a ‘Kurdish issue’

  • Erdogan defended the removal of 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors from their posts
  • Erdogan's lack of sensitivity to the Kurdish issue could inflame tensions with Kurds in Syria and Iraq: analyst

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied the country has a “Kurdish issue,” even as he doubled down on his anti-Kurdish stance and accused a politician of being a “terrorist who has blood on his hands.”

Erdogan was addressing members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Nov. 25 when he made the remarks.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) launched an insurgency against the state in 1984, and is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and US. Erdogan accuses the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of links to the PKK, which it denies.

Erdogan told AKP members that Selahattin Demirtas, the HDP’s former co-chair who challenged him in the 2015 presidential elections, was a “terrorist who has blood on his hands.”

Demirtas has been behind bars since Nov. 4, 2016, despite court orders calling for his release and faces hundreds of years in prison over charges related to the outlawed PKK.

The president defended the removal of 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors from their posts in the country's Kurdish-majority southeast region since local elections in March 2019.

He also said the AKP would design and implement democratization reforms with its nationalistic coalition partner, which is known for its anti-Kurdish credentials.  

His words are likely to disrupt the peace efforts that Turkey has been making with its Kurdish community for years, although they have been baby steps. They could also hint at a tougher policy shift against Kurds in Syria and Iraq.

According to Oxford University Middle East analyst Samuel Ramani, Erdogan’s comments should be read as a reaction to Tuesday’s resignation of top presidential aide Bulent Arinc, who urged for Demirtas to be released and insisted that the Kurds were repressed within Turkey.

“This gained widespread coverage in the Kurdish media, including in Iraqi Kurdistan's outlet Rudaw which has international viewership,” he told Arab News. “Erdogan wanted to stop speculation on this issue.”

Ramani said that Erdogan's lack of sensitivity to the Kurdish issue could inflame tensions with Kurds in Syria and Iraq.

“It is also an oblique warning to US President-elect Joe Biden not to try to interfere in Turkish politics by raising the treatment of Kurds within Turkey.”

But Erdogan’s comments would matter little in the long run, he added.

“Much more will depend on whether Turkey mounts another Operation Peace Spring-style offensive in northern Syria, which is a growing possibility. If that occurs during the Trump to Biden transition period, the incoming Biden administration could be more critical of Turkey and convert its rhetoric on solidarity with the Kurds into action.”

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a key partner for the US in its fight against Daesh. During a campaign speech in Oct. 2019, Biden criticized the US decision to withdraw from Syria as a “complete failure” that would leave Syrian Kurds open to aggression from Turkey.

“It’s more insidious than the betrayal of our brave Kurdish partners, it’s more dangerous than taking the boot off the neck of ISIS,” Biden said at the time.

UK-based analyst Bill Park said that Erdogan was increasingly influenced by his coalition partners, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

“He might also believe that both the PKK and the HDP have been so weakened that he doesn't have to take them into consideration,” he told Arab News. “The Western world will not respond dramatically to this announcement but they are tired of Erdogan. There is little hope that Turkey's relations with the US or the EU can be much improved. The Syrian Kurdish PYD militia are seeking an accommodation with Damascus, while the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the largest party in Iraqi Kurdistan, is indifferent to the fate of Turkey's Kurds and has problems of its own.”

The HDP, meanwhile, is skeptical about Erdogan’s reform pledges and sees them as “politicking.”

“This reform narrative is not sincere,” said HDP lawmaker Meral Danis Bestas, according to a Reuters news agency report. “This is a party which has been in power for 18 years and which has until now totally trampled on the law. It has one aim: To win back the support which has been lost.”

Turkey’s next election is scheduled for 2023, unless there is a snap election in a year.