Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders on Tuesday wrapped up two days of United Nations-mediated talks on reuniting their ethnically divided island, but a Greek Cypriot source said there had been no concrete results.
Hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu met near New York to discuss progress in talks started in 2008.
Both sides agree, on paper, to re-linking Cyprus under a federal umbrella, but differ on how it is to work. The UN is focusing on the electoral system in a future federated Cyprus, how to potentially settle property claims from thousands of people internally displaced, and future citizenship on an island whose demographics have shifted massively since division in 1974.
"There was not any result," the Greek Cypriot source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said after the latest talks ended at an estate in the Long Island town of Manhasset. "We haven't managed to achieve new convergences."
Turkish Cypriot officials could not immediately be reached for comment and UN officials had no immediate comment.
UN chief Ban is due to make a statement on the talks on Wednesday morning.
"I believe the Secretary-General will ask the two communities to continue their efforts in Cyprus," the Greek Cypriot source said, adding that it was also possible Ban would call for a further meeting outside of the Mediterranean island.
Cyprus, with a combined population of about one million, was torn apart in a Turkish intervention triggered by a Greek-inspired coup. 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.
Turkey has seen its aspirations to join the European Union frustrated by the Cyprus stalemate and Greek Cypriots, who say Ankara cannot join the bloc until the division is resolved. Mediators want a deal to reunite the island before Greek Cypriots, who represent the whole of Cyprus internationally, take over the EU presidency in July.
Alexander Downer, the UN special envoy to Cyprus who oversees peace talks, has said it is "hard to see" how the negotiating process can go on while Cyprus is in the EU chair.
Turkey says it will freeze ties with the EU when Greek Cypriots assume the presidency.
The United Nations would eventually like to have an international conference to resolve the Cyprus issue, but the Greek Cypriots say they will not agree to this until all internal issues have been resolved.
Turkey's Parliament Speaker Rejects Israeli MP's Invitation
Turkey's Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek declined an invitation from his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin due to the strain in bilateral relations between the two countries.
Rivlin sent a letter to Çiçek on Nov. 29, inviting him to Israel. Rivlin stressed the importance of the visit for the sake of bilateral relations, the Daily News learned.
Çiçek replied to the letter nearly two months later, saying: "The invitation will be considered when the bilateral relations become more favorable. I am sure you know our expectations to enable our relations [to be] normalized."
'Genocide' Law Targets No State, Sarkozy Tells Erdogan
French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a formal letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saying a law approved earlier by the French Senate did not target any one particular state.
Turkey had expressed fury after the French Senate passed a bill criminalizing denials of the 1915 events as genocide, in spite of threats from Ankara to punish Paris with "permanent" sanctions if the bill was passed.
Sarkozy urged Turkey to take into account its "common interests" with France in his letter.
Turkey Defies French Vote, Eyes Court Action
Turkey has launched an all-out diplomatic push in Paris to convince 60 French senators to ask the Constitutional Council to scrap the legislation in a frantic bid to avert the "genocide" denial bill, while keeping the threat of sanctions low-key so as not to blow up the effort.
The fact that 86 senators voted against the bill, which was endorsed by the Senate on Monday, encouraged Ankara to delay announcing its heavy sanctions against France.
"We want to ease the hands of these senators. That's why sanctions have not been announced," sources said.
All Turkish diplomats in Paris, both those at the embassy and Turkish representatives at international organizations, were instructed to start lobbying senators immediately after the Senate approved the bill.
The application has to be submitted as early as possible, and before French President Nicolas Sarkozy approves the law, in a move to effectuate the punishments stipulated by the law.
Sarkozy, who has 15 days to approve the law, "would prefer not to delay his approval so that he would block the annulment of the law," sources said.
In Ankara, top state officials slammed the French Senate vote but remained tight-lipped on what could be the Turkish retaliation against Paris.
"No doubt, the measures the government will decide on will be strictly implemented," President Abdullah Gül told reporters. "I hope at least 60 senators who believe that the law is unlawful will take it to the Constitutional Council in line with the law commission report. Otherwise, the Turkish-French relationship will enter a different track."
At the Stage of Patience
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey was still "at the stage of patience" and retained hope the bill could be blocked. The government has an "action plan" ready and sanctions against France will be announced stage-by-stage if the law ultimately takes effect, he added.
Erdoğan said the law was "entirely null and void for Turkey" and echoed the "footsteps of fascism" in Europe.
"The votes in the French Parliament and the proposal that has been adopted are an open demonstration of discrimination and racism and amount to a massacre of free thought," he said.
Erdoğan said Sarkozy's grandfather was a Jew born in Salonika, then part of the Ottoman Empire, where his ancestors had fled from persecution in Spain.
Anger Against Sarkozy
"Regardless of how much enmity he has against Turkey, [Sarkozy] is someone whose roots are linked to the Ottoman Empire, and whose history intersects with that of Turkey. No matter how racist the approach he adopts, he cannot get rid of his past and overshadow the Ottomans' tolerance. We will not give this petty racist mindset the honor of hassling Turkey. We will act with the common sense and dignity of a great country," Erdoğan said.
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek warned that deterioration in Turkish-French relations had become "inevitable" as he slammed the adoption of the bill as "a worrying development with respect to political reason and freedom of thought in France."
Opposition leaders called for a tough reprisal and lent support to government plans to sanction France.
Opposition Gives Full Support
Main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said his Republican People's Party, or CHP, would give the government a "blank check" for sanctions, but warned that the measures should be resolute and long-lasting, unlike previous spats between Turkey and countries that have recognized the Armenian "genocide" allegations.
Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, Chairman Devlet Bahçeli described the denial bill as "arrogance" and said it "must not be left unanswered."
The French vote also received reactions from Azerbaijan and the Organization of Islamic Conference, or OIC.
"Azerbaijan condemns once again the step taken by the French Senate and calls [on] France to stop turning historical events into political games," said the Azeri Foreign Ministry statement.
Government to Pay Record Compensation for Uludere
The government has allocated an unprecedented compensation of 123,000 Turkish Liras for the families of each of the 34 people who were mistakenly killed last month in an air raid aimed at Kurdish militants near Uludere on the Iraqi border.
The payments were announced Tuesday by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who explained that the families of the victims were entitled to 23,150 liras each by law, in addition to an extra sum of 100,000 liras added from Prime Ministry funds. This represents the highest compensation paid so far to victims of the anti-terror fight.
Erdoğan gave assurances that the payment of this compensation would not mean the slackening of the investigation into how the intelligence blunder occurred on Dec. 28.
The victims, mostly teenagers, were smugglers from impoverished families bringing in small goods from Iraq. Erdoğan also said the government was taking measures to prevent the repetition of similar incidents and was considering the opening of a border-crossing point near the village of Gülyazı, where the victims lived.
In a related development, the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, Turkey's main Kurdish political organization, said it had asked the U.N. high commissioner for human rights to conduct an independent inquiry into the bombing and would also lodge a complaint with the International Criminal Court, or ICC. Turkey has refused to sign the ICC treaty and recognize the court's jurisdiction.
BDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş accused Erdoğan of being insincere in his pledges to investigate the botched raid and claimed it was the prime minister himself who gave the order for the bombing.
Demirtaş also slammed government efforts to force the closure of Roj TV on grounds it was the mouthpiece of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, arguing it should instead be allowed to broadcast from Turkey.
He urged for an end to the solitary confinement of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and called for "the initiation of a negotiation process before the public eye."
Turkey Warns Iraq Against Fomenting Sectarian Unrest
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Iraqi authorities on Tuesday that Turkey will not remain silent if they start a sectarian conflict in neighboring Iraq.
"(Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri) al-Maliki should know that. If you start a conflict in Iraq in the form of sectarian clashes, it will be impossible for us to remain silent," Erdogan said in remarks to his lawmakers in Parliament. "Those who stand by with folded arms watching brothers massacre each other are accomplices to murder."
The Turkish leader heavily criticized Maliki for his accusation that Turkey was intervening in Iraq's affairs.
"I consider Maliki's attitude ... as very ugly and very unfortunate," Erdogan said. "We expect the Iraqi government to leave aside sectarian discrimination and express a responsible attitude to prevent sectarian conflicts."
In Baghdad, an adviser to Maliki refused to comment and stressed the matter was "extremely sensitive" and that the government must examine the affair closely before responding.
Sunni lawmaker Haider al-Mulla, member of the secular Iraqiya party, said Maliki had been warned to "not engage in confessional politics as it would complicate matters ... and open the way to regional interference."
Mulla said he hoped neighboring countries would keep an "equal distance" from Iraq's sectarian components "as it is not in the interests of Sunnis to be backed by Turkey or of Shiites to be backed by Iran."
Mulla warned that both countries move according to their own interests "and Iraq will pay the price."
At the weekend, Iraq said that Turkey, Iran and unnamed Arab countries were trying to "intervene" in Baghdad's month-long political crisis and not respecting its sovereignty.
Baghdad's claim that Ankara was intervening in Iraqi affairs was already an issue when Erdogan telephoned Maliki on January 10.
Maliki has since criticized Ankara for its remarks, and the two countries have summoned each other's ambassadors to express their displeasure.
Iraq has been mired in a political crisis since United States forces withdrew from the country on December 18, pitting the Shiite-led government against the main Sunni-backed political bloc.
Turkish Eximbank to Provide $250 Million Loan to Libya
Delivering a speech at the opening of the Turkey-Libya Business Forum in Tripoli, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan said that he believed Libya would improve democracy and upgrade economic living standards in a very short period of time.
Turkey and Turkish businessmen were resolute to keep supporting Libya and Libyan people, he said, adding that he had a meeting with Libya's health minister before the forum, stating that hospital constructions in Libya should be completed as soon as possible.
Libyan economy was expected to grow 13.2 percent in 2012 and 11.5 percent in 2013, he noted.
Libyan Economy Minister Ahmed Al Kochli said that Turkey and Libya had deep-rooted relations, stating that they made this revolution with support of Turkey.
The economy ministry was going through a restructuring process, he said.
"We will attach a great importance to private companies and preserve rights of foreign companies. We need experiences of foreign companies in infrastructure and superstructure projects," he said.
Turkey Concerned Over Syria's Rejection of Arab League Plan
Turkey has said it is concerned over the situation in Syria following its rejection of an Arab League peace plan stipulating that President Bashar al-Assad surrender power and stressed that the Arab League plan was the final warning for the Syrian regime.
A statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said Syria's rejection of the Sunday decision of the Arab League has increased Turkey's concerns with respect to the situation in Syria.
Syria has rejected the Arab League's wide-ranging new plan to end the country's 10-month crisis, saying the league's call for a national unity government in two months is a clear violation of Syrian sovereignty.