12 Injured In Cyprus Hotel Explosion

A grab taken from a video provided by a guest of the Acapulco hotel in Kyrenia (Girne) in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), north of the divided Cypriot capital Nicosia, shows fire and smoke billowing from the site of a military depot which exploded nearby, on September 11, 2019. Ali Akyuz / AFP

 

A string of nighttime explosions at a Turkish military base in northern Cyprus damaged a nearby seaside hotel and injured 12 people Thursday, prompting the evacuation of terrified tourists, officials said.

The blasts rang out at intervals over a three-hour period in the arms depot at the base in Catalkoy, west of the town of Kyrenia, sparking a fire.

The luxury Acapulco Hotel was damaged, with windows shattered and ceilings collapsed, and guests evacuated to a safe area.

Turkish Cypriot authorities said 12 people were injured, two of whom remained in hospital several hours later. A probe was launched to determine the cause of the blasts.

The Kyrenia area on the north coast lies within a breakaway state that Turkish Cypriot leaders declared in 1983 but which remains recognised only by Ankara.

The island has been divided on ethnic lines since Turkish troops occupied its northern third in 1974 following a Greek Cypriot coup.

Turkey continues to maintain a sizeable military presence in the north.

Officials in northern Cyprus said on July 1 that a suspected stray Russian missile had exploded just outside the divided island’s capital during an Israeli air raid in Syria, without causing casualties.

AFP

Flooding Kills Three In Cyprus

Divers search a swollen river in Kyrenia, North Cyprus, December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

 

At least three people were killed in flooding of the Kyrenia region of northern Cyprus as heavy rains lashed the Mediterranean island, local officials said Thursday.

Tufan Erhurman, prime minister of breakaway northern Cyprus, visited the Ciklos and Dogankoy areas where the three, including an 18-year-old woman, were killed in flash flooding that swept away cars.

“We regrettably lost three people… The search goes on for one other person,” Erhurman told reporters after the bodies were recovered from river beds.

Swathes of Cyprus, divided since Turkey invaded its northern third in 1974 after a coup in Nicosia backed by the junta then ruling Greece, have been hit by storms this week.

Greek Cypriot authorities in the south declared a “yellow alert” weather warning on Thursday after the torrential rains and hailstorms that have pounded the holiday island.

The storms have caused floods, power cuts and traffic chaos as well as damage to property and crops, but no serious injuries have been reported in the south.

The extreme weather is expected to ease by Sunday.

AFP

Erdogan Warns ‘Sea Bandits’ Over Cyprus Energy Exploration

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan/AFP

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday warned foreign oil companies over energy exploration off Cyprus, describing those who defy Ankara as “bandits of the sea” who would face a similar response as its foes in Syria.

Erdogan said in a speech marking the commissioning of a new Turkish warship that exploiting the resources of the eastern Mediterranean while excluding Ankara was unacceptable.

Drilling for hydrocarbon resources off EU member Cyprus is hugely sensitive as its northern third is occupied by Turkish forces who invaded in 1974 in response to a coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

The Turkish-populated northern part of the island then declared the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is recognised only by Ankara. UN-backed efforts to reunify the island have so far come to nothing.

“As we made the terrorists in Syria pay, we will not leave the scene to the bandits of the sea,” Erdogan said at the commissioning of the TCG Burgazada, the third home-built corvette combat ship launched by Turkey as part of its MILGEM project.

Turkey has in the last two years waged successful military campaigns in Syria against Kurdish militia and Islamic State jihadists which left parts of the country’s north under the control of pro-Ankara forces.

Foreign energy giants such as ExxonMobil of the US, Italy’s ENI and France’s Total have all said they are committed to energy drilling off Cyprus, in defiance of past warnings from Erdogan.

But Erdogan said: “Those who thought they could take steps in the Eastern Mediterranean or the Aegean in defiance of Turkey have now begun to understand what a big mistake they were making.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to usurp the natural resources of the eastern Mediterranean while excluding Turkey and the TRNC,” he added.

Analysts have warned that the situation is extremely combustible with the risk that one false move could lead to a major confrontation.

In February, a drillship contracted by ENI to explore off Cyprus abandoned its mission after Turkish warships blocked its path.

Cyprus last month invited Total, ENI and ExxonMobil to bid for unclaimed Block 7 in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone. Block 10 has already been licensed to ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum.

Texas-based Noble Energy in 2011 made the first discovery off Cyprus in the Aphrodite block estimated to contain around 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The discovery of nearby Egypt’s huge Zohr offshore reservoir in 2015 has stoked hopes that Cypriot waters hold further riches.

AFP

Police Arrest Israeli Organ Smuggling ‘Mastermind’

FILE PHOTO: Israeli border police hold a position during clashes with Palestinian protestors near the Qalandia checkpoint in the Israeli occupied West Bank on December 20, 2017. PHOTO: THOMAS COEX / AFP

The Israeli ringleader of a global gang of organ traffickers has been arrested in Cyprus, Kosovan police said on Saturday.

Moshe Harel is suspected of organising dozens of illegal kidney transplants at the Medicus clinic in the capital Pristina in 2008 and is the man being held, according to local media.

“The suspect, whose initials are MH, was arrested a few days ago in Cyprus following an international arrest warrant” from Pristina, Kosovan police spokesman Baki Kelani told AFP.

Harel has been hunted by the authorities for almost a decade for exploiting victims, often recruited from poor areas in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, by promising 15,000 euros ($18,000) for their organs.

Recipients, mainly Israelis, would pay up to 100,000 euros for the transplant.

The organ trafficking network came to light in 2008 after a Turkish man collapsed at Pristina airport after having a kidney removed.

Police raided the Medicus clinic, which shut following the scandal.

In 2013, an EU-led court in Kosovo sentenced five Kosovan doctors to up to eight years in prison for organ trafficking in the country.

Donors, whose organs were illegally removed, were left without proper medical care and treated “like waste,” prosecutors said at the time of the trial.

The Supreme Court of Kosovo annulled the verdict in 2016 and ordered a new trial, which is ongoing.

The indictment named Harel as the trafficking network’s mastermind, while Turkish doctor Yusuf Ercin Sonmez — labelled by Kosovo media as the “Turkish Frankenstein” and still on the run — was suspected of performing the transplants at the clinic.

AFP

Turkey ‘Will Not Negotiate Cyprus Issue Forever’ – Foreign Minister

Turkey will not negotiate ‘Cyprus issue’ forever, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday as leaders continued talks aimed at reuniting the island after more than 40 years of division.

Speaking to Turkish media in Switzerland, Cavusoglu said the talks should concentrate on finding a solution, adding that the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the divided island is “a dream”.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met in the Swiss alpine resort of Crans-Montana, joined by United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide and the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey, for the second day of negotiations on Thursday.

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974, triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Turkey supports a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in northern Cyprus.

Reuters

UK Launches First Syria Air Strikes

UK Launches First Syria Air StrikesHours after British Members of Parliament (MP) voted in favour of UK action in Syria, RAF Tornado jets have carried out their first air strikes against so-called Islamic state in Syria.

According to BBC, MPs backed the British military action by 397 votes to 223 after a 10-hour debate in the House of Commons.

Shortly after the vote, four tornado jets took off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

An official of the Ministry of Defence, Michael Fallon, says the sorties have returned from the “first offensive operation over Syria and have conducted strikes”.

He added that the ministry would be assessing the damage done by the bombing later, stating that the aim was to strike “a very real blow on the oil and revenue on which Daesh depends”.

Two Boats land At UK Base Akrotiri

Boats land at Akrotiri The UK’s Ministry of Defence says two boats carrying 140 migrants, including children, have landed at the RAF base at Akrotiri in Cyprus.

It is believed to be the first time during the current Mediterranean migrant crisis that people have arrived on UK sovereign territory.

The base, on the south coast, has been used to launch British air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq.

Unlike a number of Greek or Italian islands in the Mediterranean, European Union member Cyprus has not seen an influx of refugees.

Almost 600,000 migrants are estimated to have arrived in Europe so far this year.

EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker has called for an extraordinary summit of several EU and Balkan leaders on Sunday to discuss the migrant crisis.

In a statement on Wednesday, he said there was “a need for much greater co-operation, more extensive consultation and immediate operational action”.

A number of Iraqi Kurds landed at RAF Akrotiri in 1998 and still live in a second British base on Cyprus, Dhekelia, in former military accommodation.

They have tried to apply for asylum in the UK, but have been repeatedly turned down by the government.

Due to an historic agreement whereby refugees who landed at the British base were  handed over to Cypriot authorities, he said  it is unlikely they would be eligible to claim UK asylum, despite landing on what is considered British soil.

RAF Akrotiri is one of two British sovereign territories in Cyprus, which was a colony until 1960.

The huge military facility had been used to bomb Islamic State targets in northern Iraq since September 2014.

Hazard Injured, To Miss Belgium’s Euro Qualifier

HazardThe Belgian national team manager, Marc Wilmots, has confirmed that Chelsea’s in-form midfielder, Eden Hazard, would miss Belgium’s Friday night Euro 2016 qualifier against Andorra.

This is a precaution ahead of the team’s Monday night duel against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Zenica.

Hazard’s exclusion from the home game against Andorra is to get him 100% fit for a supposedly tougher match away to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Coach Wilmots, via his twitter had announced; “As a precaution, @hazardeden10 will not play against Andorra because of a bruised toe. Trying to get him 100 per cent for #bosbel.”

Harzard had picked up a knock in Chelsea’s 2-0 Premier League win over Arsenal at the weekend but still joined the national team in preparation for the double qualifiers.

News on FIFA.com also revealed that Coach Wilmot has certified Hazard’s club and international team-mate, Thibaut Courtois, fit after the head injury which ended his weekend involvement against the Gunners.

Belgium are placed in Group B alongside Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Wales and Israel for qualification towards the UEFA Euro 2016.

Cyprus Banks Remain Closed To Avert Run On Deposits

Banks in Cyprus will remain closed until Thursday, and even then subject to capital controls to prevent a run on deposits, after a European Union bailout that the country’s president assured his people was in their best interests.

After returning from fraught negotiations in Brussels, President Nicos Anastasiades said late on Monday the 10-billion euro ($13 billion) rescue plan agreed there in the early hours of the morning was “painful” but essential to avoid economic meltdown.

He agreed to close down the second-largest bank, Cyprus Popular, and inflict heavy losses on big depositors, many of them Russian, after Cyprus’s outsize financial sector ran into trouble when its investments in neighboring Greece went sour.

European leaders said a chaotic national bankruptcy that might have forced Cyprus from the euro and upset Europe’s economy was averted – though investors in other European banks are alarmed by the precedent of losses for depositors in Cyprus.

“The agreement we reached is difficult but, under the circumstances, the best that we could achieve,” Anastasiades said in a televised address to the nation on Monday evening.

“We leave behind the uncertainty and anxiety that we all lived through over the last few months and we look forward now to the future with optimism,” he told compatriots who face an immediate, deep recession and years of hardship unlikely to be milder than those experienced by Irish, Greeks and Portuguese.

Many Cypriots say they felt anything but reassured by the bailout deal, however, and are expected to besiege banks as soon as they reopen after a shutdown that began over a week ago.

Reversing a previous decision to start reopening at least some banks on Tuesday, the central bank said late on Monday that they would all now stay shut until Thursday to ensure the “smooth functioning of the whole banking system”.

Little is known about the restrictions on transactions that Anastasiades said the central bank would impose, but he told Cypriots: “I want to assure you that this will be a very temporary measure that will gradually be relaxed.”

Capital controls, preventing people moving funds out of the country, are at odds with the European Union’s ideals of a common market but the government may fear an ebb tide of panic that would cause even more disruption to the local economy.

Without an agreement by the end of Monday, Cyprus had faced certain banking collapse and risked becoming the first country to be pushed out of the European single currency – a fate that Germany and other northern creditors seemed willing to inflict on a nation that accounts for just a tiny fraction of the euro economy and whose banks they felt had overreached themselves.

Backed by euro zone finance ministers, the plan will wind down the largely state-owned Cyprus Popular Bank, known as Laiki, and shift deposits under 100,000 euros to the Bank of Cyprus to create a “good bank”, leaving problems behind in, effectively, a “bad bank”.

Deposits above 100,000 euros in both banks, which are not guaranteed by the state under EU law, will be frozen and used to resolve Laiki’s debts and recapitalize the Bank of Cyprus, the island’s biggest, through a deposit/equity conversion.

PRECEDENT SET

The raid on uninsured Laiki depositors is expected to raise 4.2 billion euros of the 5.8 billion euros the EU and IMF had told Cyprus to raise as a contribution to the bailout, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said.

Cyprus government spokesman Christos Stylianides said losses for uninsured depositors would be “under or around 30 percent”.

Laiki will effectively be shuttered, with thousands of job losses. Officials said senior bondholders in Laiki would be wiped out and those in Bank of Cyprus would have to make a contribution – setting a precedent for the euro zone.

Comments by Dijsselbloem on the need for lenders to banks to accept the potential risks of their failure had a knock-on effect in the euro zone, raising the cost of insuring holdings of bonds issued by other banks, notably in Italy and Spain.

Global equity markets and the euro retreated on his comment that the Cyprus bailout could be a template for solving other problems, by shifting more risk to depositors and stakeholders:

“What we’ve done last night is what I call pushing back the risks,” Dijsselbloem, who heads the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, told Reuters and the Financial Times.

A first attempt at a deal 10 days ago had collapsed when the Cypriot parliament rejected a proposed levy on all deposits, large and small. That proposal outraged ordinary Cypriots, leading to queues at bank cash machines.

The central bank has imposed a 100-euro daily limit on withdrawals from ATMs at the two biggest banks to avert a run.

PUBLIC SCEPTICAL

Russia signaled it would back the bailout even though it would impose big losses on Russian depositors, who by some estimates may hold a third of all deposits in Cypriot banks.

President Vladimir Putin ordered officials to restructure a loan Moscow granted to Cyprus in 2011 – having rejected Nicosia’s request for easier terms in crisis talks last week.

Among Cypriots sipping coffee in warm sunshine, there was a mood of wariness about the deal: “How long will it last?” asked Georgia Xenophontos, 23, a hotel receptionist in Nicosia.

“Why should anyone believe anything this government says?”

In the morning, a public holiday, residents of the capital lined the streets to watch a parade by soldiers and students to mark Greek Independence Day, waving the Greek and Cypriot flags.

“On this day I’m proud to be Greek, but at the same time I feel humiliated,” said Marios Charalambous, 56, a print-shop owner. “I’m worried what will happen when the banks reopen.”

Cyprus’ tottering banks held 68 billion euros in deposits, including 38 billion in accounts of more than 100,000 euros – enormous sums for an nation of 860,000 people that could never sustain such a big financial system on its own.

The U.S. Treasury, noting the importance to the United States of financial stability in Europe, its largest trading partner, said it was now up to Cypriots to rebuild their economy: “It is critical to lay the foundation for a return to financial stability and growth in Cyprus,” the Treasury said.