Cyprus To Revoke Passports Of EU-Sanctioned Russians

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades attends a roundtable summit session on the final day of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on April 27, 2019. Aleksey Nikolskyi / Sputnik / AFP

 

Cyprus will revoke the citizenships of four more Russians sanctioned by the European Union over the war in Ukraine, Cypriot officials said Wednesday.

A cabinet decision brings to eight the total number of Russians who have had to give up passports granted under a disgraced investment scheme on the EU-member island.

“These are four new people who have been identified in the updated list of sanctions imposed by the European Commission,” Niovi Parisinou, a government spokesperson, said in a statement.

“With today’s decision, the total number of persons for whom it was decided to deprive their Cypriot citizenship is eight, out of the 1,091 names on whom EU sanctions have been imposed.”

She said the decision also included dependents of the sanctioned individuals who received passports.

The names of the individuals involved were not disclosed, nor was the number of dependents.

It follows a decision earlier this month to denaturalise another four Russians and their 17 dependents.

The EU’s list includes high-ranking Kremlin officials, oligarchs and other prominent Russians active in the energy, media and arms industries.

Cyprus granted citizenship to hundreds of wealthy Russians and their families from 2007 to 2020.

They were among nearly 7,000 people who received citizenship for a minimum €2 million (about $2.17 million) investment in the country.

In November 2020, the Mediterranean island dropped the passport scheme amid corruption claims.

Broadcaster Al Jazeera aired a documentary showing reporters posing as fixers for a Chinese businessman seeking a Cypriot passport despite having a criminal record.

A public inquiry found that 53 percent of the 6,779 passports granted were given illegally, amid an absence of due diligence measures or insufficient background checks.

The passport scheme generated over €8 billion throughout its 13-year lifespan.

AFP

Cyprus Probes Dumping Of Dead Zoo Animals In Landfill

File photo of a landfill used to illustrate the story. PHOTO: Zinyange Auntony / AFP

 

Cypriot authorities are investigating complaints that carcasses of kangaroos and other animals from a zoo were unceremoniously dumped at a landfill site in bin liners.

The Animal Party Cyprus said Monday that police and local authorities have launched a probe into the allegation of protected animals being disposed of in municipal plastic bags.

It said the owls, kangaroos, and a wallaby were from a zoo in the southern port city of Limassol.

The animal protection body posted pictures of the dead animals on its Facebook page.

“The dumping of innocent dead animals from Limassol Zoo in the garbage is a great scandal,” the animal party said in a statement.

“It’s not enough that they are trapped in cages with endless sadness; you (the zoo) leave them without expected care, they die, and the worst thing is that you throw them away as disposable objects.”

Activists said police have promised an “in-depth investigation” into the “criminal act”.

READ ALSO: Ghana Ends Mandatory Face Mask-Wearing, Reopens Borders After Two Years

The dead animals were allegedly dumped at a rubbish tip in the Limassol area.

After the pictures were published from the landfill, Limassol municipality said the mayor gave orders for an “immediate and thorough investigation” into the case.

“There is no excuse because what has been done cannot be described as ignorance of the law,” said the animal party.

AFP

UN Searches For Toddler Lost In Cyprus’ Buffer Zone

In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

 

UN peacekeepers in Cyprus searched Tuesday for a three-year-old girl lost in the buffer zone dividing the Mediterranean island, after she was separated from her parents and sister while they were trying to cross.

The family had reportedly attempted to cross over from the north to the south through the UN-patrolled buffer zone, but lost their children in the dark.

The girl’s twin sister was found cold, wet and scared by a United Nations patrol before dawn on Tuesday.

The parents, reportedly from Pakistan, told authorities in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) that they had lost their children in the buffer zone near Athienou, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) southeast of the divided capital Nicosia.

“We are supporting the local police services searching for a missing girl child inside the buffer zone, near Athienou,” said Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus.

Cyprus has been split since 1974 when Turkish forces occupied the northern part of the island in response to a Greek-sponsored military coup.

The buffer zone, a ceasefire line some 180 kilometres (112 miles) long and up to eight kilometres (five miles) wide, is fortified in places with wire fences.

Cyprus police said they were informed of the incident by the UN, which reported that the parents are also looking for their second child.

The rescued girl was intially taken to a police station in Athienou, before social services took her into care pending further investigation.

Many irregular migrants cross from the breakaway northern part of the island into the government-controlled Republic of Cyprus, which has the European Union’s highest proportion of asylum seekers per capita.

Cyprus Church To Suspend Unvaccinated Priests

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for administration at a vaccination clinic. Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

The leader of the Cyprus Orthodox Church has warned he would suspend a dozen unvaccinated priests from Tuesday if they continue to defy church rules on COVID-19.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II told state broadcaster CyBC on Sunday he would send the priests home, as they refused to get vaccinated while also advocating against coronavirus jabs.

He said that 27 of 123 priests in his diocese remained unvaccinated, including 15 who have exemptions for medical reasons.

The remaining 12 would be suspended for three months as of Tuesday, and if they continued to defy the archbishop, the suspension would be extended to six months and could lead to defrocking, Chrysostomos said.

He said it was “unprecedented” to have priests and even theologians disobey their chief bishop.

Chrysostomos, a cancer survivor, said some priests defied him due to his frail health.

He argued that the priests and theologians refuse to get jabbed, act out of “selfish motives”, and influence churchgoers.

Despite vaccination remaining optional in Cyprus, the archbishop issued strong guidelines to priests and theologians to get vaccinated.

He backed the government’s campaign to vaccinate the population from the start, being one of the first people to get jabbed in December 2020.

Last year, Chrysostomos warned he would not tolerate employees who refuse to get vaccinated and priests who don’t wear masks and incite their congregation to reject the jab.

Covid-19 infections have declined in recent weeks after peaking at 5,457 on January 4.

January also recorded 93 deaths, the highest since the pandemic.

The Republic of Cyprus has officially recorded 253,350 coronavirus cases and 731 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Around 74.7 percent of the country’s one million population has received a first jab, while 71.1 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry.

6.6-Magnitude Quake Hits Cyprus

(FILES) This file photo taken on May 30, 2020 shows a view of Chrysochous Bay from a house in Polis Chrysochous, on the western edge of Cyprus. – A 6.6-magnitude quake hit off the west coast of Cyprus early on January 11, 2022, the US Geological Survey said but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. (Photo by Amir MAKAR / AFP)

 

A 6.6-magnitude quake hit off the west coast of Cyprus early Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, but there were no reports of casualties or structural damage.

The strong and relatively shallow quake at 0107 GMT was centred 48 kilometres (30 miles) west-northwest of the town of Polis on the Mediterranean island, the USGS said.

The tremor was felt across Cyprus and around the region with reports from as far away as Turkey, Israel and Lebanon, according to the USGS.

It shook buildings in the capital Nicosia, 130 kilometres away, where some residents went out into the streets.

“It was frightening. The whole building was shaking endlessly,” one Nicosia resident told AFP. “I thought it would never end.”

Cyprus police told AFP there were no reports of injuries or serious structural damage from the quake, but it woke people across the island.

“It was a very strong earthquake,” said Marinos Lambrou, the mayor of Pegeia, a coastal town close to the epicentre. “We are not used to such earthquakes.

“The residents were scared, everyone woke up and they were frightened. We hope that there will be no aftershocks. Fortunately there was no damage, the situation is safe and we didn’t register any wounded.”

Further away, in Limassol, Carol Bailey, a 61-year-old French teacher, said: “We were in bed and it woke us up — it really went on for a long time.”

She said friends who live farther west told her it shook their building and set the lights swinging, while the inside of their fireplace “was making a noise like a horror film”.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Millions More Locked Down As China Battles Omicron Spread

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre measured the tremor at 6.5 magnitude at a depth of 51 kilometres.

Cyprus lies in a secondary earthquake-prone zone, but tremors of such magnitude are uncommon.

The biggest quake in recent years was a magnitude 6.8 in 1996, which killed two people in Paphos, on the island’s west coast.

In 1953, a 6.3-magnitude quake killed 40 people and destroyed hundreds of homes, mostly in the Paphos region.

Cyprus Mulls New COVID-19 Measures As Per Capita Rate Tops World

Parents queue at a vaccination center alongside their children set to receive the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the Cypriot capital Nicosia, on January 2, 2022, as the country begins the inoculation of children between the ages of five and eleven, amid a sharp surge in coronavirus cases. (Photo by Iakovos Hatzistavrou / AFP)

 

Cypriot authorities were meeting Tuesday to consider new restrictions to rein in a Covid infection rate that is now the highest in the world per capita.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades was to meet with scientific advisers to discuss measures that could include a delayed start to the new school term and restrictions on church gatherings as the island prepares to mark Epiphany, a key date in the Greek Orthodox religious calendar, on Thursday.

Like other European countries, the Mediterranean island has been hit by a surge in cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

According to Agence France-Presse figures, Cyprus recorded the world’s highest Covid infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants over the past seven days.

It was top with 2,505 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Denmark (2,117), Ireland (1,946), Greece (1,762) and France (1,680).

Last week, Cyprus registered five consecutive daily record highs culminating in a New Year’s Eve spike of 5,048 in a population of around one million. Monday’s caseload of 5,024 neared that record.

READ ALSO: Brazil Cruises Suspended Over COVID-19 Outbreaks

The cabinet is expected to announce any new measures on Wednesday.

Further restrictions could be imposed on nightclubs and entertainment venues as well as home visits.

So far, the government has been reluctant to contemplate a fourth national lockdown.

But on Tuesday, Cyprus tightened entry requirements at its airports in a new blow for its tourism dependent economy.

Everyone arriving in the Republic of Cyprus must present a negative PCR test carried out no more than 48 hours before departure.

Passengers are already required to undergo a PCR test at the airport on arrival, at their own expense.

Companies are required to ensure 40 percent of their staff work remotely while venues can only have seated customers and no dancing.

Access to nightclubs, venues and wedding receptions requires vaccinated patrons to present a negative Covid-19 test carried out within 24 hours, though those with a booster shot are exempt.

All hospital visits have been banned, and sports stadiums are restricted to 50 percent capacity, down from 75 percent.

Last week, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas told reporters that Omicron was now the dominant strain in the community, accounting for 80 percent of cases.

The Republic of Cyprus has officially registered 177,721 coronavirus cases and 641 deaths since the start of the pandemic in 2020, including two fatalities on Monday.

Mask-wearing is mandatory for everyone aged six and over in public areas, both outdoor and indoor.

Double-vaccinated employees must undergo weekly tests, and unvaccinated individuals are banned from hospitality venues and nightclubs.

Pope On Cyprus Visit Urges European Unity Amid Migrant Influx

Pope Francis arrives at the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Old Nicosia on his first stop following his arrival in Cyprus on December 2, 2021. – The pontiff, 84, is the second Catholic pontiff to set foot on the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus, which has a Greek Orthodox majority, after Benedict XVI visited in 2010.  (Photo by JOSEPH EID / AFP)

 

Pope Francis on Thursday urged unity as Europe faces an influx of refugees and migrants, speaking on the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, a major destination for people fleeing war and poverty.

“We need to welcome and integrate one another and to walk together as brothers and sisters, all of us,” said the pontiff, 84, at the start of a five-day trip that takes him to Greece from Saturday.

The pope was set to underscore his message by taking 50 migrants now in Cyprus to Italy, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said, although the Vatican has yet to confirm the initiative.

Francis — on his 35th international trip since becoming pope in 2013 — is the second Catholic pontiff to visit Cyprus after Benedict XVI went in 2010.

Speaking in a Maronite church in Nicosia, the pope said “the presence of many of our migrant brothers and sisters” had made Cyprus “a true point of encounter between different ethnicities and cultures”.

The island’s experience served as a reminder to Europe that “we need to work together to build a future worthy of humanity, to overcome divisions, to break down walls, to dream and work for unity,” he said.

Later, in a meeting with Anastasiades, he cautioned against nationalist “walls of fear” in Europe and stressed the continent “needs reconciliation and unity”.

Cyprus, a country of one million people, is home to about 25,000 Catholics, including Maronites whose ancestors arrived from Syria and Lebanon and overseas workers from the Philippines, South Asia and African countries.

“We’re such a small minority so it’s great to feel that you belong to a greater family, the Catholic family,” said Eliana Maltezou, 38, holding her one-year-old son and waving a Cypriot flag.

– ‘Vulnerable and marginalised’ –

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish forces invaded and occupied its northern third in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek junta in power at the time.

Only Ankara recognises the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and tensions simmer between the two sides.

The division saw about 200,000 people, including many Maronites from the north, displaced from their homes.

Monica Despoti, 55, whose Maronite village Asomatos is in the north, said the pope’s visit meant “we’re very, very happy and we also have a hope that with his help we can go back to our motherland”.

The majority-Greek speaking south accuses the north of sending migrants across the UN-patrolled Green Line and also says it receives the highest number of first-time asylum seekers of any EU member country.

The pope, who has long called for better protection for migrants, in remarks ahead of the trip described the Mediterranean Sea as a “huge cemetery” for migrants who drowned.

At the church, the pope listened as Nyein Nyein Loo, of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition, spoke about the Christian community’s charitable work for migrants.

“Much of our work consists in defending the basic human rights of those in need and of migrant workers,” she said, detailing that many face “harsh and unfair treatment, including unpaid wages, excessively long working hours, verbal and physical abuse and other forms of discrimination”.

Before his departure from Rome, Francis met refugees from Syria, Congo, Somalia and Afghanistan who had come via the Greek island of Lesbos and now live in Italy.

On the plane, a journalist gave him framed fabric pieces of migrant tents from the French port of Calais with the message: “To all the exiled people who died on the Franco-British border.”

“It’s terrible,” the pope replied, visibly moved.

– ‘Terrible laceration’ –

According to Cypriot authorities, negotiations are underway with the Vatican to organise the transfer to Rome of several migrant families now in Cyprus.

That would repeat a gesture Francis made on Lesbos in 2016 when he returned to the Vatican with three Syrian Muslim families who had fled bombing in their homeland.

On Thursday evening, Francis visited Anastasiades for talks focused on the island’s painful division.

Francis said “the greatest wound suffered by this land has been the terrible laceration it has endured in recent decades. I think of the deep suffering of all those people unable to return to their homes and their places of worship.

“The way of peace, which reconciles conflicts and regenerates the beauty of fraternity, has a single word as its signpost. That word is dialogue.”

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, meanwhile, accused the south of seeking to use the trip to score “political goals against Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.

It was a “source of sorrow for us that Pope Francis will visit Greek Cyprus only,” he said.

“There are two peoples in Cyprus. Not only Christian Greeks but also Muslim Turks live in Cyprus. This is one of the basic realities of Cyprus.”

Four Dead In Cyprus’ Worst Forest Fire In Decades

Trees burn in a forest on the slopes of the Throodos mountain chain, as a giant fire rages on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, during the night of July 3, 2021. – A huge forest blaze in Cyprus has killed four people, destroyed homes and forced evacuations of villages as Greece and other countries deployed fire-fighting planes to the Mediterranean island. (Photo by Georgios Lefkou Papapetrou / AFP)

 

A huge forest blaze in Cyprus killed four people, destroyed homes and forced evacuations of villages, police said Sunday, as Greece, Israel and other countries deployed fire-fighting planes to the Mediterranean island.

The Egyptian government said the four dead were agricultural workers from the North African country, while Nicosia vowed in a tweet to “stand by the victims’ families in the face of this tragedy, offering every support”.

Fanned by strong winds, the fire broke out Saturday afternoon and swept through the southern foothills of the Troodos mountains as the country grapples with a blistering heatwave.

“Everything was a nightmare and pure hell here, the village was surrounded by fire,” said Akis Giorgiou, 45, from the hamlet of Arakapas, who had spent a terrifying night there and was relieved on Sunday that his home was spared from the flames.

At least 25 buildings were damaged or destroyed, nine of them in Arakapas, said a local police official.

“It is a tragedy,” President Nicos Anastasiades said about the blaze on Twitter, describing it as “the largest fire since 1974”, the year when the island was divided after Turkey occupied its northern third.

READ ALSO: Saudi Suspends UAE Flights Due To COVID-19 Variant

The blaze had caused loss of life and destroyed property and forest lands, Anastasiades said, adding that “the government will provide immediate assistance” to the victims and their families.

More than 50 square kilometres (20 square miles) of forest and farmland had been destroyed.

Thick gnarled trunks of ancient olive trees, emblematic of the holiday island, were reduced to smouldering stumps.

Firefighters brought the main fire under control on Sunday, authorities said, while warning that strengthening winds could yet propel a resurgence.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said the four Egyptians’ charred bodies were found outside the village of Odos in Larnaca district.

Their burnt-out vehicle was found at the bottom of a ravine and the four bodies some 600 metres (yards) away. A policeman at the scene told AFP that they appeared to have fled the vehicle on foot but run in the direction of the wind-fanned flames, in a doomed attempt to escape.

In areas where the fire had been tamed, charred tree trunks were visible on hillsides, while grey ash had replaced yellowed scrub as far as the eye could see in non-forested areas.

A 67-year-old farmer was arrested and remanded in custody on suspicion of starting the blaze. He was seen by an eyewitness leaving the village of Arakapas in his car at the same time the fire started there on Saturday, police said.

He could face charges of recklessly causing the deaths of the four Egyptians, police added.

– Extended heatwave –

Anastasiades visited a crisis management centre in the village of Vavatsinia, located a few kilometres east of the blaze, on Sunday morning, before heading to areas ravaged by the flames, according to the CNA news agency.

He said the blaze appeared largely contained but could resurge.

“The high temperatures and the wind are our biggest dangers,” he said.

“The whole situation is under partial control. What worries us is the possible increase of the winds.”

Firefighters were seen along the road leading to Vavatsinia and several helicopters hovered above the fire as a thick grey smoke obscured the sky.

An AFP correspondent in the village of Ora reported seeing several burned out homes.

Janez Lenarcic, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, said on Saturday its “aerial firefighting capacity” had been mobilised, with Italy and Greece sending planes to help.

Israel deployed a C-130 Hercules and two “Air Tractor” firefighting aircraft.

Israel’s firefighting authority said the planes were due to land in Larnaca, where they would join the Italian and Greek teams and also Spanish and British crews.

Britain, which has military bases on Cyprus, deployed two search and rescue helicopters and was helping refuel Cypriot aircraft.

Cyprus has experienced extended heatwaves and periods of drought in recent years.

In the past few days, the temperature has topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) inland and there has been very little rain since mid-April.

AFP

Clashes At Cyprus Protest Over Official Graft, Coronavirus Measures

A protester gestures during a demonstration against government corruption and state-imposed COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions in the centre of Cyprus’ capital Nicosia on February 13, 2021. – Cypriot police used water cannon and tear gas to break up a rare protest in the capital, as hundreds demonstrated against government corruption and coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by Christina ASSI / AFP)

 

 

Cyprus riot police used water cannon and tear gas in rare clashes with protesters as hundreds demonstrated on Saturday against government corruption and coronavirus restrictions.

Protesters had gathered at a park in central Nicosia where they were surrounded by dozens of police in riot gear.

Several groups including left-wing and anti-fascist activists and trade unions had used social media to call for the protest, citing “state authoritarianism” and corruption — notably over a controversial “golden passport” scheme that was scrapped last year.

Organisers and protesters also voiced anger over the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has battered the Cypriot economy and triggered stringent lockdown restrictions.

 

A man and woman tend to a demonstrator lying on the ground during a protest against government corruption and state-imposed COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions in the centre of Cyprus’ capital Nicosia on February 13, 2021 (Photo by Iakovos Hatzistavrou / AFP)

 

Olivia Patsalou, a 37-year-old who is looking for work, said she was mainly protesting over the passport affair and “extreme” coronavirus restrictions that were making it harder for her to find a job.

She said she had hoped for “a peaceful demonstration to show our dissatisfaction with the government, with how it’s handled every scandal and how it’s handled the coronavirus situation”.

Some protesters beat drums or shouted in the face of the police, who moved in from several streets to block the demonstrators.

Those present at the start of the protest included people with young children and at least two people in wheelchairs, as well as young men and women in black hoodies and balaclavas.

 

Riot policemen detain a demonstrator during a protest against government corruption and state-imposed COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions in the centre of Cyprus’ capital Nicosia on February 13, 2021. (Photo by Iakovos Hatzistavrou / AFP)

 

“I wasn’t expecting (the police) to be so eager to exert force and violence,” said Patsalou.

One woman was seen lying on the ground suffering from the effects of tear gas, and a man in a wheelchair had to seek refuge in a block of flats.

Another protester was later treated by paramedics after being knocked to the ground by water cannon.

Police told AFP that eight people were arrested in the protest, which was held in defiance of coronavirus restrictions.

The Kathimerini local news website said people were fined for breaking Covid-19 restrictions.

Most protesters were wearing masks, an AFP journalist said.

 

A mask-clad demonstrator argues with a riot policeman over another protester lying on the ground, during a protest against government corruption and state-imposed COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions in the centre of Cyprus’ capital Nicosia on February 13, 2021.  (Photo by Iakovos Hatzistavrou / AFP)

 

‘They want us to shut up’

Cyprus in January unveiled a series of measures to tackle corruption, several months after Al Jazeera aired a documentary exposing alleged abuses in the controversial “golden passports” scheme for foreign investors, sparking widespread public anger.

The Mediterranean island scrapped the scheme last year and two senior politicians resigned, although they denied any wrongdoing.

The scandal came on top of the economic pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected over 35,000 people and killed over 230 across the divided island.

The Republic of Cyprus has begun cautiously easing its national lockdown following a decline in the spread infections that peaked after Christmas.

 

Demonstrator scuffle with riot policemen during a protest against government corruption and state-imposed COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions in the centre of Cyprus’ capital Nicosia on February 13, 2021. (Photo by Iakovos Hatzistavrou / AFP)

 

Andreas, a lawyer and part of the organisers’ legal team who declined to provide his surname, told AFP that people from across the political spectrum were taking part in the demonstration.

“The government has lost legitimacy after the passport scandal and they are using the pandemic as a reason to stop protests,” he said.

“We think that the right to protest is the basis of our democracy, and the epidemiological situation allows people to protest” safely, the 26-year-old added.

But, he said, “they want us to shut up”.

Cyprus Leader Ready To Attend UN Meet On Ending Deadlock

A handout picture provided by the Cypriot government’s Press and Information Office (PIO) on January 11, 2021, shows UN Special Envoy Jane Holl Lute (R) meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades (L) and ministers at the presidential palace in the capital Nicosia. (Photo by Stavros IOANNIDES / PIO / AFP)

 

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades told a UN envoy Monday he is ready to attend an informal conference involving Britain, Greece and Turkey to end a deadlock in peace talks, officials said.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied its northern third in response to a coup orchestrated by the military junta then in power in Athens aimed at annexing the island to Greece.

There have been no official UN-sponsored negotiations on the island’s future since a conference in Switzerland –- also involving Britain, Greece, and Turkey –- collapsed in July 2017.

UN envoy Jane Holl Lute, on her second visit to Cyprus since December, held talks on Monday with Anastasiades before crossing the UN-patrolled ceasefire line to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.

READ ALSO: Pakistan Suspends Power Plant Staff After Nationwide Blackout

“During the meeting, the President of the Republic expressed his readiness to participate in the informal five-party meeting,” Cyprus government spokesperson Kyriacos Koushios said.

“He also expressed his expectation that the… meeting will lead to a substantial resumption of talks, with the aim of reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem,” he told reporters.

Lute had told Anastasiades that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres intended to convene a five-party conference in February.

Guterres is hoping to get the three governments more involved to build momentum.

In a report to the UN Security Council this month, Guterres said the parties had expressed a willingness to attend an informal conference under his auspices.

“I intend to invite the sides and the guarantor powers to this informal meeting as soon as practicable in 2021,” Guterres said.

Guterres also acknowledged “scepticism” on the prospects of peace talks resuming has risen on both sides of the divided island.

In November, rival Cypriot leaders held a “break-the-ice” meeting at which they promised to back a UN-led peace push involving the outside powers.

It was their first and only meeting since the Ankara-backed Tatar was elected leader of the breakaway north in October.

Tatar was elected on a hardline platform of seeking a two-state solution for Cyprus, rather than a bi-communal federation.

The two men have acknowledged their positions on the way forward are “far apart”.

Britain, Greece and Turkey act as guarantors of the island’s sovereignty under the treaty that gave Cyprus independence from British rule in 1960.

Cyprus To Shut Hospitality, Malls For Holiday Season To Curb COVID-19 Spike

A handout picture provided by the Cypriot government’s Press and Information Office (PIO) on December 9, 2020 shows Cyprus’ Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou (C) giving a press conference at the Amphitheatre of Shacolas Educational Centre for Clinical Medicine in the capital Nicosia, announcing new measures tackling the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Stavros IOANNIDES / AFP / PIO

 

Cyprus announced Wednesday it would close hospitality venues and shopping malls and ban church attendance over the Christmas holidays to curb a spike in coronavirus cases.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou announced the tighter restrictions following an emergency cabinet meeting.

Rapid antigen tests throughout Cyprus had shown that “the virus is everywhere, in all cities, villages, districts”.

He said bars, restaurants, cafes, and other hospitality venues must close, as will shopping malls, while church services will go ahead without attendees and after-school tutorial centres are also banned.

The new measures will be enforced from December 11 to 31.

High schools will resort to remote learning from December 14, Ioannou told a press conference.

“With these measures, we are trying to prevent a deterioration of the situation before the epidemiological picture becomes irreversible,” he said.

Cyprus on November 30 imposed a nationwide eight-hour night-time curfew from 9 pm while hospitality venues were ordered to shut at 7 pm.

These measures were to expire on December 13 if the Covid-19 situation improved but Cyprus registered a high of 419 daily cases on Tuesday and five deaths, making it the deadliest day on record.

In the nine days since the government introduced new measures, 2,903 cases were reported, while another 20 hospital patients lost their lives to Covid-19.

At the end of September, Cyprus had only 1,755 cases, but the number of infections has since shot up to over 13,000.

“In recent days there has been a deterioration in epidemiological indicators, the worst since the pandemic broke out,” said Ioannou.

The minister agreed there was “fatigue” among the public over the rules and restrictions, which was harming their effectiveness.

Cyprus had largely kept a lid on the pandemic by introducing an early lockdown in March that was gradually eased from early May.

Health authorities blame the spike on Cypriots flouting hygiene rules, including on mask-wearing and social distancing.

Face masks are mandatory indoors and outdoors, except at home, while household gatherings are limited to 10 people, as are weddings and funerals.

The Cyprus Covid-19 case tally is now at 13,286 and 68 deaths.

-AFP

Cyprus Olive Farmer Vows Change To Face Climate Challenge

A caretaker at an olive grove prunes the branches of an olive tree, in the village of Akaki in central Cyprus on November 12, 2020. (Photo by Amir MAKAR / AFP)

 

Standing in her olive grove in Cyprus, Elena Sampson sighs at the sight of hundreds of barren trees and vows to tackle climate change after another scorching year.

The first of several heatwaves in 2020 descended in May, the flowering season for her 2,500 olive and citrus trees in Akaki, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) outside the Mediterranean island’s capital Nicosia.

“This year the heatwave struck at the exact time that the olive trees were flowering, and it was not just a heatwave of a couple of days,” said the 38-year-old Greek Cypriot.

“We were watering, watering, but we didn’t manage to save the blossoms,” Sampson said. “This year, maybe 40 (of her 1,200 olive) trees had olives — Nothing! Nothing!”

Harvested for millennia on Cyprus, olives are at the heart of the local culture and trees now cover 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) of its land, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

More than 19,000 tonnes of olive oil were produced in 2018.

But olive oil and other sectors of Cypriot agriculture face the threat of climate change, Adriana Bruggeman, an associate professor at the Cyprus Institute, told AFP.

“Not only droughts, but also increasing temperatures and heatwaves affect the flowering, fruit set and ripening of crops,” she said.

Although olive trees are generally resistant to drought, they do need water during the flowering season in the spring.

But Bruggeman warned that some semi-arid areas of Cyprus now face the threat of becoming fully arid by 2050 because of global warming.

Official figures show average annual rainfall has fallen to 470 millimetres (18.5 inches) since 1971, down from 540 mm (21 inches) between 1902 and 1970.

On top of that, heatwaves are growing more common and have squeezed the duration of springtime.

This year alone, the mercury soared above 42 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on May 17 and the island experienced its highest ever recorded average daily temperatures for July, August and September.

– Change is ‘doable’ –

“We know that climate change will make the region hotter and drier… We need to adapt to this change and make our agricultural and semi-natural ecosystems more resilient,” said Bruggeman.

Sampson is ready for alternative methods and new ways.

“If you have healthy soil, you have less run-off, less erosion, more water retention, which means we can try to fight droughts,” said Sampson, who took over the family farm two years ago.

A 2016 study based on a worst case scenario by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that 43 percent of Cyprus’ territory is in “critical’ danger of desertification.

Sampson, who largely avoids tilling her land — a practice that leads to soil erosion and carbon loss — says she will install drip-irrigation and plant other crops between the olive trees. Also, she will no longer use pesticides.

“I think it’s doable to make that change, I want to be part of that change,” she said.

Bruggeman likewise noted that “improved practices, such as no-till systems, rotation with legumes and application of organic fertilisers could improve productivity”.

AFP