The United Nations held six hours of "intensive" talks on Monday with the leaders of ethnically split Cyprus as it began a new attempt to break a deadlock in peace talks crucial to Turkey's bid to join the European Union.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened a two-day meeting with the partitioned island's rival leaders near New York City to discuss progress in talks started in 2008.
Alexander Downer, the UN special envoy to Cyprus who oversees peace talks, said Ban spent nearly six hours with the two leaders.
"I think the best way to describe the talks today is that they have been intensive right from the very beginning," he told reporters. "The secretary-general made clear his expectations this morning that he is looking for the leaders to make decisive moves. "
Mediators want a deal ending decades of separation between ethnic Greeks and Turks on the Mediterranean island before Greek Cypriots, who represent the whole island internationally, take over the EU presidency in July.
"It's hard to see how it (the process) can go on then ... so we really have to get it done before July 1," Downer said earlier this month. "This process will come to an end when either there is an agreement or if there is complete deadlock."
Ban met with Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Derviş Eroğlu at a private estate in the town of Manhasset on New York state's Long Island.
Cyprus, with a combined population of about one million, was torn apart in 1974. The conflict is a significant source of tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, and was thrown into sharper focus by a dispute over Mediterranean hydrocarbon riches recently discovered by Greek Cypriots and contested by Ankara.
French Senate Approves Bill Criminalizing 'Genocide' Denial
The French Senate has approved a bill criminalizing the rejection of Armenian genocide claims.
Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in 1915 and 1916 by the forces of Turkey's former Ottoman Empire. Turkey maintains that roughly 500,000 Armenians (and many Turks, too) died because of the chaotic disintegration of the empire.
France has already recognized the killings as a genocide, but the new bill goes further, punishing anyone who denies it with a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($57,000).
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused France and French President Nicolas Sarkozy of hypocrisy and pandering to the vote of France's estimated 400,000 voters of Armenian origin, three months ahead of a tough reelection battle.
"I hope the Senate will not make France a country contradicting its own values," Erdogan said. "This is a debate which is entirely against the freedom of thought. This is merely a step taken for the upcoming elections."
Around 15,000 Turks from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg rallied peacefully on the streets of Paris on Saturday to protest the law.
Turkey Condemns Adoption of Armenian Bill in French Senate
Turkey condemned the French Senate's adoption of a bill that criminalizes the denial of Armenian claims of genocide in 1915, when the Turkish Ottoman Empire collapsed.
Releasing a written statement late on Monday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said: "We strongly condemn this decision, which is problematic in every aspect and constitutes an example of irresponsibility, and declare that we will express our reaction against it in every platform."
"The law proposal presented by deputies of the governing Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP, aiming to penalize in France any challenge to genocide allegations regarding the events of 1915 was adopted by a vote in the General Assembly of the Senate on January 23.
"A similar law proposal was rejected earlier by the General Assembly of the Senate on May 4, 2011 by 196 votes against 74, in line with the opinion of the Commission of Laws of the Senate, which had concluded that the proposed law was in breach of the Constitution. Although the Commission of Laws of the Senate once again concluded that the latest proposal was in breach of the Constitution, the Senate adopted it. Since there has not been a change in the substance of the matter in the meantime, this development is a blatant indication of how such a sensitive issue can be exploited for domestic political purposes in France. This has been an entirely unfortunate step for French politics. Politicization of the understanding of justice and history through other people's past and damaging freedom of expression in a tactless manner are first and foremost a loss for France," the ministry said.
"It is obvious that the interpretation of historical events cannot be determined by the attitude of French politicians, who see in themselves the right to judge other nations on the basis of one-sided views and declare a judgment on a serious allegation of crime such as genocide, thereby ignoring the principles of international law. In fact, no Parliament has such a right or such a competence. The decision in question goes further and delivers a blow against the freedom of expression and scholarly research.
"At a period when we need positive examples for the dissemination of universal values throughout the world, it is disconcerting to see narrow political calculations producing such a result even in a country that plays a role in the advancement of such values and takes pride in the rule of law.
"It is further unfortunate that the historical and multi-dimensional relations between the Republic of Turkey and France have been sacrificed to considerations of political agenda, in spite of all our initiatives and warnings, as well as the opinions of prominent French institutions and jurists. It is quite clear where the responsibility for this lies," said the ministry.
"The circles which consider that Turkey has overreacted on this matter or think that its reaction will only remain in words neither comprehend the essence of the matter, nor understand Turkey and the Turkish people. We find it useful to remind all parties that, in case of the completion of the finalization process for the law, we will not hesitate to implement, as we deem appropriate, the measures that we have considered in advance. Similarly, it must be also known that we will continue to strongly use our right to defend ourselves on a legitimate basis against unfair allegations. No one should doubt our Government's principled approach in this issue.
"On the other hand, we share the calls for common sense of those who, during this process, have admitted the error being committed in French politics, appealed to return from this error and opposed to damaging relations with Turkey in such a tactless manner.
"It is clear that all avenues need to be explored for the finalization of the present process in a way that will avoid this being recorded as part of France's political, legal and moral mistakes. Turkey is determined to take every step required against this unjust action, which disregards basic human values and public conscience."
Deputy Prime Minister Braces for Busy Davos Agenda
Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan will speak at five different working groups and record two separate television programs as part of this year's World Economic Forum in Davos between Jan. 25 and 28, according to reports.
Babacan is also scheduled to meet with 20 upper-level managers during his time in Switzerland.
First on Babacan's agenda is the television program, "Reflections from the Arab Spring," to be aired live Jan. 26 on Al Arabiya TV. Later that day, he will speak at the meeting "Big changes in economic growth models," followed by an opening speech with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron at the "International cooperation in new health services" conference.
On Jan. 27, Babacan will make an address at the working group, "What 2012 will bring," before attending a live panel discussion on CNN titled, "Can developing countries capture global growth?" He will later be a speaker at the working group "Road maps to reform in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Central Asia."
On Jan. 28, his last day in Davos, Babacan is expected to speak at the working group "The 2012 global economic view," which will also be attended by the German and English finance ministers and the managing directors of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
PACE President Hands Over Post to French MP
Mevlut Cavusoglu, who served as the president of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, or PACE, for two years, handed over his post to French parliamentarian Jean Claude Mignon on Monday.
After a ceremony at PACE, Cavusoglu told the Anadolu Agency and TRT that he was glad to represent Turkey and Turkish nation during this process, adding that he was also proud of being the first Turk and Muslim president of PACE.