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Cyprus’ reunification: What next after failed talks? | Europe News



Athens, Greece – Weeks after United Nations-led talks in April failed to resuscitate negotiations to reunify Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriot foreign minister has told Al Jazeera that the UN process is dead.

“There will not be negotiations so long as the Greek Cypriots are treated as if they are the Republic of Cyprus and so long as the Turkish Cypriots are treated as if we are nothing other than a mere community of that Republic,” Tahsin Ertugruloglu told Al Jazeera.

“Equal international status is a must.”

Turkish Cypriots declared Northern Cyprus a Turkish republic in 1983,  giving it the formal title of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), but the UN Security Council immediately denounced it as “invalid” and “incompatible with the 1960 Treaty” that established Cyprus’ independence from Britain.

As a result, only Turkey recognises it.

The internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus is where Greek Cypriots live.

UN resolutions have since called on the two sides to form a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.

Turkish-Cypriot President Ersin Tatar came to power last October pronouncing UN talks a failure and promising a two-state solution.

Yet federation was originally an idea of the Turkish Cypriots, who declared a federated state in 1975, months after a Greek coup attempt in Nicosia triggered a Turkish invasion.

Turkey still occupies the northern third of the island, saying it needs to protect its ethnic minority.

Inter-communal clashes had already segregated the two communities in 1964.

“We established the Turkish-Cypriot federated state with the expectation that the Greek Cypriots would establish their federated state,” said Ertugruloglu.

“But Greek Cypriots have no reason to accept this kind of a settlement because they are accepted by the world as the Republic of Cyprus on their own, and as such, they are able to enjoy the benefits of recognition by themselves … Why should they ever accept anything less than that?”

Greek-Cypriots have engaged in talks for a federal solution for 30 years. In 2004, the European Union admitted the entire island but suspended EU law in the north pending a settlement.

Ertugruloglu rejects the notion that the TRNC is part of the EU.

Half of its citizens, however, carry Cypriot passports.

“Individually Turkish-Cypriots may have secured for themselves passports and IDs from the Greek Cypriot side but that does not mean that [they] recognise the Greek-Cypriots as their state,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he will try to bring Greek and Turkish Cypriots to the table again in a few months. Ertugruloglu says he will attend.

“Depending on the result of that we are going to determine our way forward together with our motherland Turkey,” he said.

‘We are very close’

Four years ago, Guterres wrote in a report that an agreement was closer than ever.

“The essence of a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem is practically there. The parties had come close to reaching a strategic understanding on security and guarantees as well as on all other outstanding core elements of a comprehensive settlement,” Guterres wrote to the UN Security Council after the last round of substantive negotiations at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana in 2017.

A senior diplomat with deep knowledge of the talks said that “the open issues left over from Crans Montana … are trifling.”

“We are very close,” the diplomat told Al Jazeera, on condition of anonymity. “All that the Turkish side is doing is evasive because they want to avoid the solution.”

According to the diplomat, Turkey is holding the Cyprus agreement “hostage” to economic concessions from the European Council this month.

“Turkey will get some concession on immigration and perhaps even a conditional statement that full customs union will be examined when conditions allow, but they won’t get anything beyond that.”

The Turkish lira plummeted throughout 2020 and 2021, reflecting investors’ concerns about rising unemployment, slowing growth and political uncertainty, as a rift grew between Turkey and its Western allies.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has left open the possibility he may veto any unilateral EU concessions.

Guterres cannot sidestep his Security Council mandate to seek a federal formula, a reality former Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister and chief negotiator Ozdil Nami believes Tatar and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are aware of.

“Turkey and our current president know very well that there is no country other than Turkey who is willing to recognise the TRNC as an independent sovereign state on an island which, in its entirety, has been accepted as a member of the European Union,” Nami told Al Jazeera.

“I think they just wanted to put forward this extreme position of recognition of TRNC a priori, and then accept to negotiate and hope that someone, whether it is the Americans or the UN or UK, will try and find the middle ground.”

He believes there should be time limits for talks and consequences for the community that votes against the plan.

Where does the US stand?

Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected a UN plan that Turkish-Cypriots overwhelmingly accepted in 2004 but that plan had not been negotiated by the two sides.

Guterres told the Security Council the process has to change, from a bottom-up approach on agreeing the smaller issues first, to top-down process – agreeing on the most contentious.

“An early agreement at the strategic level would immediately provide each side with the needed reassurance that the overall settlement would contain those elements that are of key importance for each community and thus provide impetus for completion of the remaining technical details,” he wrote in his report.

Essentially, this is a reference to the key issue of security, where non-Cypriot actors have a say.

Under the terms of independence, Britain, Turkey and Greece have the right to intervene unilaterally on the island. It was under this Treaty of Guarantee that Turkey invaded in 1974.

After it became an EU member in 2004, Cyprus said the guarantors were unnecessary and constitute a threat. It demands these treaties are repealed and the departure of foreign troops.

Turkey has signalled it is willing to modify but not abolish, its guarantee rights.

“Having no security link with Turkey whatsoever is seen as an extremely dangerous scenario for Turkish-Cypriots,” said Nami, because they constitute only a fifth of the population.

A strategic agreement on security was “beginning to emerge” at Crans Montana, Guterres said.

The key concessions would have to be made by Turkey, which holds the overwhelming military advantage.

“If Turkey – and Erdogan in particular – is offered the chance to be the champion of the peace process in the eastern Mediterranean, and Erdogan is once again taken as a legitimate, serious counterpart who does not have to wait by the phone for a call from Biden but as a close ally in the great architecture of redesigning the eastern Mediterranean… I think he will play ball,” Nami said.

Joe Biden’s administration has shown the US president is unwilling to appease Erdogan, however; it took him four months to call the Turkish president.

His Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has stressed US support for a federal solution.

“It is very important that the US … insists that any disputes that arise be resolved peacefully, diplomatically, not militarily and certainly not through provocative actions,” Blinken told Congress in March.

Last month, the US State Department said “cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus is at a historic high”.

Since 2018, Cyprus has begun joint military exercises and training with the US, sent its first security attaché to Washington and begun to receive US troops and ships.

Turkey, too, is expanding its military presence.

Next month Erdogan is reportedly to inaugurate a newly built airport for Turkish-built TB2 drones, which are capable of carrying bombs. Geopolitically, events do not seem to be moving towards restitution of Erdogan in the West but away from it.

Should Turkey withhold concessions on security and should a comprehensive agreement elude Cypriots, what may happen?

Nami is not optimistic.

“Either formal annexation [to Turkey] or a northern Cyprus which is de facto Turkey,” he said.

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New Zealand’s Hubbard selected as first transgender Olympian | LGBTQ News




Laurel Hubbard, 43, will compete in the super-heavyweight women’s event in Tokyo.

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics after being selected by New Zealand for the women’s event at the Tokyo Games, a decision set to test the ideal of fair competition in sport.

New Zealand Olympic Committee chief Kereyn Smith said 43-year-old Hubbard – who was assigned male at birth but transitioned to female in 2013 – had met all the qualification criteria for transgender athletes.

“We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play,” Smith said in a statement.

Hubbard will compete in the super-heavyweight 87-kg category after showing testosterone levels below the threshold required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The 43-year-old had competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before transitioning.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard, an intensely private person who rarely speaks to the media, said in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) on Monday.

Hubbard has been eligible to compete at Olympics since 2015, when the IOC issued guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.

Some scientists have said the guidelines do little to mitigate the biological advantages of people who have gone through puberty as males, including bone and muscle density.

Advocates for transgender inclusion argue the process of transition decreases that advantage considerably and that physical differences between athletes mean there is never a truly level playing field.

Save Women’s Sport Australasia, an advocacy group for women athletes, criticised Hubbard’s selection.

“It is flawed policy from the IOC that has allowed the selection of a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category,” the group said in a statement.

Weightlifting has been at the centre of the debate about the fairness of transgender athletes competing against women, and Hubbard’s presence in Tokyo could prove divisive.

Her gold medal wins at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, where she topped the podium ahead of Samoa’s Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers, triggered outrage in the host nation.

Samoa’s weightlifting boss said Hubbard’s selection for Tokyo would be like letting athletes “dope” and feared it could cost the small Pacific nation a medal.

Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen said last month allowing Hubbard to compete at Tokyo was unfair for women and “like a bad joke”.

Australia’s weightlifting federation sought to block Hubbard from competing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast but organisers rejected the move.

Hubbard was forced to withdraw after injuring herself during competition, and thought her career was over.

“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end,” Hubbard said on Monday, thanking New Zealanders.

“But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha (love) carried me through the darkness.”

Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand President Richie Patterson said Hubbard had worked hard to come back from the potentially career-ending injury.

“Laurel has shown grit and perseverance in her return from a significant injury and overcoming the challenges in building back confidence on the competition platform,” he said.

Hubbard is currently ranked 16th in the world in the super heavyweight category.

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Apple Daily could shut ‘in days’ after Hong Kong asset freeze | Freedom of the Press News




Company adviser says action under security law means it cannot access some $50 million in funds to pay staff and vendors.

Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities used the national security law imposed by China to freeze the company’s assets as it arrested the paper’s editor and four other directors, an adviser to jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.

Mark Simon, speaking by phone from the United States, said the company was no longer able to access its funds and would be holding a board meeting on Monday to discuss how to move forward.

“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month,” Simon told the news agency. “It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days.”

His comments signal closure is imminent even after Apple Daily said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left the newspaper with cash for “a few weeks” for normal operations.”

The news comes two days after editor Ryan Law, 47, and chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail after being charged under the security law with collusion with foreign forces.

Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief Ryan Law arrives back at the detention centre after he was remanded in custody on Saturday [Lam Yik/Reuters]

Three other senior executives were also arrested last Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices in a case that has drawn condemnation from Western nations, human rights groups and the chief United Nations spokesperson for human rights.

The three have been released on bail.

Simon told Reuters it had become impossible to conduct banking operations.

“Vendors tried to put money into our accounts and were rejected. We can’t bank. Some vendors tried to do that as a favour. We just wanted to find out and it was rejected,” he said.

Speaking earlier to US news channel CNN, Simon said the company had about $50 million available, but was unable to access the funds.

The publisher has come under increasing pressure since its owner Jimmy Lai was arrested under the national security law last August, which marked the first time the company’s headquarters was raided. Lai, 73, is now jailed and facing trial under the national security law. In May, the authorities also froze some assets belonging to the longtime critic of Beijing has also had some of his assets frozen.

Three companies related to Apple Daily are also being prosecuted for collusion with a foreign country and authorities have frozen HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of their assets.

China imposed the national security law on Hong Kong last June saying it was necessary to restore “stability” to a territory that had been rocked by mass protests in 2019, some of which turned violent.

The broadly-worded law criminalises acts such as subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign forces and secession with possible life imprisonment, but critics have said it is being used to suppress legitimate political debate with dozens of pro-democracy politicians and activists among the more than 100 arrested since it was brought into force.

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Birmingham Classic: Ons Jabeur beats Daria Kasatkina to win first title




Tunisian second seed Ons Jabeur defeated Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in straight sets to win her first singles title at the Birmingham Classic.

World number 24 Jabeur triumphed 7-5 6-4 against the fourth seed to become the first Arab woman to win a WTA title.

In Berlin, Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova stunned Swiss fifth seed Belinda Bencic to win her first title.

The 22-year-old world number 106 battled back from a set down to win 1-6 6-1 6-3 in her first final.

Victories for Jabeur and Samsonova mean there have now been 10 first-time singles winners on the women’s Tour this year.

Jabeur broke Kasatkina’s serve three times to prevail in the first set, before successive breaks at the start of the second put the 26-year-old in control at 4-0.

Two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Kasatkina recovered to 4-3, but Jabeur held on to win a singles final at the third attempt.

It was a breakthrough week for Samsonova in Germany, during which she also defeated seventh seed Victoria Azarenka of Belaurus in the semi-final.

World number 12 Bencic won the first five games as she dominated the opening set, but Samsonova matched that feat in the second before completing her comeback with breaks in the first and ninth games in the deciding set.

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