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Greek-Turkish reunification talks in Cyprus still on hold November 20, 2009

Posted by Yilan in Turkey.
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The Greek part of Cyprus rejected a proposal submitted by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an for a five-party conference, to be held under United Nations supervision, over the future of the divided island. According to the Cyprus Press Ministry, Greek Cypriotic President Dimitris Christofias rejected the proposal on the grounds that it would only repeat the 2004 experience, when UN-chaired discussions were aimed at pressing the Greek side to accept an imposed solution within a very short time frame and without further amendments. The proposal had been turned down in a referendum by the Greek Cypriot community, as it failed to recognize the right of Greek citizens to return to the properties from which they had been evicted during the 1974 events.

Christofias is reported to have firmly rejected the idea of a quintet summit, arguing that the involvement of all five sides – the island’s Greek and Turkish-speaking communities alongside Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom – would downgrade Greek Cyprus. The 1960 accords that led to Cyprus’ independence from British colonial rule recognized a guarantor’s role for the UK, which still operates important military bases on the island.

Momentum for a resumption of talks over the reunification of Cyprus had built up following an offer made by the United Kingdom to the United Nations, to make available nearly 50 percent of the territory of the UK Sovereign Base Areas on the island in the event of a solution leading to the reunification of Cyprus. There are two British bases on Cyprus, considered a British sovereign enclave: Akrotiri, which hosts the only RAF station on the Mediterranean, is located in Greek Cyprus and Dhekelia is on the Turkish side. According to the terms of the offer, the Greek and Turkish leadership would decide the proportion of territory transferred out of British control by themselves.

The issue however lost momentum under the impact of upcoming election scheduled to be in held in the Turkish community next April. The Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat favours reunification of the island and a European Union membership for a reunified Cyprus, while the opposition disagrees with that position.

Talat: Differences continue with Greek Cypriots in property topic November 17, 2009

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President Mehmet Ali Talat of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) said that differences in principle continued with Greek Cypriot administration in discussions over property issue.

Talat, who met with Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias on Tuesday within the scope of negotiations to find a solution for Cyprus question, told reporters that they took up property issue today, and decided experts to continue working about the issue.

Talat said that he would hold another meeting with Christofias on November 20, and they would assess the negotiations they had been held so far.

Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders launched Cyprus talks in September 2008 in an effort to find a solution to the Cyprus issue. The first round of the talks was completed on August 6, 2009. And the second round started on September 10.

NATO: Greece, Turkey rift harms Afghan security November 17, 2009

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European nations must help resolve disputes between Greece and Turkey that are holding up a deal for improved security cooperation in Afghanistan, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday. “We need to find pragmatic solutions for that,” Fogh Rasmussen said. Frustrated in its attempts to join the EU, Turkey does not allow formal relations between NATO and the EU, making it impossible for NATO to provide protection for EU trainers in Afghanistan. NATO member Turkey also does not recognize the Greek Cypriot-led government on the divided island of Cyprus, a member of the EU. Turkey retains 35,000 troops in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north. NATO has deployed about 71,000 troops in Afghanistan, nearly half of them Americans, while most of the others come from European allies including Turkey. And the EU has deployed a police training mission whose goal is to professionalize and eliminate corruption within the 90,000-strong Afghan National Police. NATO and EU commanders have complained about the lack of formal ties between the two organizations due to the Turkish veto, although they say that the military and police missions collaborate well on an ad hoc basis. In August, the new NATO chief traveled to Athens and Ankara to urge their governments to end the political deadlock because it was having an adverse effect on allied operations in Afghanistan. “It is really one of my priorities to improve the relations between NATO and the EU. We desperately need that,” said Fogh Rasmussen, who was attending a rare joint meeting of all European Union foreign and defense ministers. He said that both NATO and the EU urgently needed a formal security arrangement that would regulate their cooperation in Afghanistan. “It would be natural to conclude such a security agreement. But we can’t under present circumstances,” he said.

TRNC shows robust optimism November 16, 2009

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As we know the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) Kuzey Kýbrýs Türk Cumhuriyeti commonly called Northern Cyprus or North Cyprus is a de facto independent republic located in the north of Cyprus. The TRNC declared its independence in 1983, nine years after a Greek Cypriot coup attempting to annex the island to Greece triggered armed action by Turkey. The Turkish Army maintains a large force in the TRNC with the approval of the Turkish Cypriot population. The history of the TRNC begins with the gaining of independence of a united Cyprus from British rule in August 1960. The agreement involved Cyprus being governed under a constitution which apportioned Cabinet posts, parliamentary seats and civil service jobs on an agreed ratio between the two communities. Within three years, tensions between the two communities in administrative affairs began to show. In particular, disputes over separate municipalities and taxation created a deadlock in government. In 1963 President Makarios proposed unilateral changes to the constitution via thirteen amendments, which some observers viewed as an unconstitutional attempt to tilt the balance of power in the Republic. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots rejected the proposed amendments as an attempt to settle constitutional disputes in favor of the Greek Cypriots.

In 1963, the Greek Cypriot wing of the government created the Akritas plan which outlined a policy that would remove Turkish Cypriots from the government and ultimately lead to union with Greece. The plan stated that if the Turkish Cypriots objected then they should be “violently subjugated before foreign powers could intervene”. On December 21, 1963, a Turkish Cypriot crowd clashed with the plainclothes special constables of Yorgadjis. Almost immediately, intercommunal violence broke out with a major Greek Cypriot paramilitary attack upon Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia and Larnaca. Seven hundred Turkish hostages, including women and children, were taken from the northern suburbs of Nicosia. Nikos Sampson, a nationalist and future coup leader, led a group of Greek Cypriot irregulars into the mixed suburb of Omorphita and attacked the Turkish Cypriot population. By 1964, 193 Turkish Cypriots and 133 Greek Cypriots had been killed, with a further 209 Turks and 41 Greeks missing and presumed dead. Turkish Cypriot members of the government had by now withdrawn, creating an essentially Greek Cypriot administration in control of all institutions of the state. Widespread looting of Turkish Cypriot villages prompted 20,000 refugees to retreat into armed enclaves, where they remained for the next 11 years, relying on food and medical supplies from Turkey to survive. Turkish Cypriots formed paramilitary groups to defend the enclaves, leading to a gradual division of the island’s communities into two hostile camps. The violence had also seen thousands of Turkish Cypriots attempt to escape the violence by emigrating to Britain, Australia and Turkey. On July 15, 1974, the Greek military junta of 1967-1974 backed a Greek Cypriot military coup d’état in Cyprus. President Makarios was removed from office and Nikos Sampson took his place.

Turkey said that, under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, the coup was sufficient reason for military action to protect the Turkish Cypriot populace. Following Turkey’s military intervention, the coup failed and Makarios returned to Cyprus. Turkish forces proceeded to take over the northern third of the island (about 37% of Cyprus’s total area). In 1975 the “Turkish Federative State of Cyprus” (Kýbrýs Türk Federe Devleti) was declared as a first step towards a future federated Cypriot state, but was rejected by the Republic of Cyprus. After eight years of failed negotiations with the leadership of the Greek Cypriot community, the north declared its independence on November 15, 1983 under the name of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Politics of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus takes place in a framework of representative democratic republic, whereby the President is head of state and the Prime Minister head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Assembly of the Republic. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. In wake of the April 2004 referendum on the United Nations Annan Plan, and the support of the Turkish Cypriot community for the plan, the European Union made pledges towards ending the isolation of northern Cyprus. These included measures for trade and 259 million euro in aid.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference gave the TRNC the status of a constituent state, making the “Turkish Cypriot State” an observer member of the organization. A number of high profile formal meetings have also taken place between President Mehmet Ali Talat and various foreign leaders and politicians including the former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the then British foreign minister, Jack Straw and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has an indigenous Turkish Cypriot Security Force (TCSF), which is primarily made up of conscripted Turkish Cypriot males between the ages of 18 and 40.

In addition, the mainland Turkish Armed Forces maintain a Cyprus Turkish Peace Force (CTPF). The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is divided into five districts. The winter in Northern Cyprus is cold and rainy, particularly between December and February, with 60% of annual rainfall. These rains produce winter torrents that fill most of the rivers, which typically dry up as the year progresses. Snow may fall on the Kyrenia Range, but seldom elsewhere in spite of low night temperatures. The short spring is characterized by unstable weather, occasional heavy storms and the “meltem”, or westerly wind. Summer is hot and dry.

The education system in Northern Cyprus consists of pre-school education, primary education, secondary education and higher education. Five years of primary education is mandatory. There are six universities in Northern Cyprus, including Near East University, Girne American University, Middle East Technical University, European University of Lefke, Cyprus International University, and Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU). Despite the constraints imposed by the lack of international recognition, the TRNC economy turned in an impressive performance in the last few years. Between 2002 and 2007, Gross National Product per capita more than tripled (in current US dollars) from US $ 4,409 to 14,047. The number of tourists visiting the TRNC during January-August 2006 was 380,000, up from 286,901 during January-August 2003. According to a census carried out in the beginning of 2006 by the Turkish Cypriot administration, the TRNC has a population of 265,100 of which majority is composed of indigenous Turkish Cypriots. The TRNC is almost entirely Turkish speaking. English, however, is widely spoken as a second language. Many of the older Turkish Cypriots speak and understand Greek. The republic wants to ensure safeguards for the Turkish Cypriots which was the spirit of original constitution of the united island. Over the years the leadership of TRNC tried to reach an agreement with the Greek Cypriots but the desire has not been fulfilled. The Turkish Cypriots are determined to safeguard their independence and working for their progress. Turkey fully supports TRNC in its efforts to reach an honourable settlement with Greek Cypriots and has been cooperating with it in all vital fields. Greek Cypriots and Greece cannot ignore the aspirations of the Turkish Cypriots any more.

Turks head to Drama to trace their roots November 15, 2009

Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses.
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DRAMA MAKEDONYA The northeastern Greek town of Drama has been experiencing a tourism boom as Turkish citizens head to the region to trace their historical roots, report local and national Greek newspapers. Prior to 1912,  the Drama region’s population consisted of  24,640 Turks 19,600 Macedonians and 4,600 Greeks. The majority of the returning Turkish citizens’ ancestors left their homeland when Macedonia was occupied by Greece as a result of the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. “I came from Istanbul just to take some soil from Drama,” said visitor Husammetin Dalyan. “It was my father’s dream to come here and to take some soil.” The area surrounding Drama is the site of many Ottoman legends. Among these, it was said to be the birthplace of Hasan, known as the “Robin Hood” of the Ottoman Empire, who robbed the rich to give money to the poor. According to locals, many tourists from Turkey explore the area in search of the bridge that Hasan used as his hideout. The majority of tourists, however, characterize their trip as a “pilgrimage to their homeland” in which they seek to unravel family secrets or verify long-held myths. Today, the population of the municipality of Drama is more than 55,000, and members of the local community embrace this unique return of their compatriots. Greeks and Turks participate together in the daily activities on offer there. Municipality officials readily acknowledge the increasing interest of Turkish citizens in Drama and have even re-formulated the official Web site, http://www.drama.gr, translating it into both Greek and Turkish, making it the first official Greek Web site to publish information in Turkish.