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Greek American community weighs in on Cyprus talks, and the removal of Turkish troops

A letter from the Greek American community on the Cyprus talks.

Alex Christoforou

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The Annan Plan in 2004 failed to unify Cyprus because of the thorny issue of Turkish troop removal and security guarantees failed to provide a proper security umbrella, without the need of Turkish intervention hanging over the heads of Cypriots.

The latest talks taking place in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, are entering their second week, and the make or break chapter of security and guarantees is expected to be negotiated by both sides.

Cyprus Mail reports

Ahead of Monday night’s main session on security and guarantees in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, all sides have submitted their written positions with strict commitment not to leak any documents.

However at least earlier in the day, both Greece and Turkey seemed to be playing hardball and sticking to their known positions.

Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Kotzias accused “some” of trying to “put the cart before the horse” while Turkish deputy prime minister and government spokesman, Numan Kurtulmus, said that without the Turkish Cypriot community being guaranteed, Turkey would not retreat on the issue of security and guarantees.

The Greek American community has issued this statement on the talks as they enter a make or break stage…

On the eve of the Conference on Cyprus, we feel compelled to express our views on the Cyprus negotiations on behalf of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), the Federation of Cypriot American Organizations (FCAO), the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), the American Hellenic Council (AHC), the Hellenic Federation of New Jersey, and the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH). Our community has worked with successive US Administrations on behalf of a workable and lasting solution on Cyprus. In 2004, when we warned that the flawed Annan Plan was headed in the wrong direction, some officials defamed us as “rejectionists,” “hard liners,” or as “not having a bottom line.” Yet history proved us right and the officials predicting a landslide victory in 2004 wrong. At this key moment in Cyprus’ history, we have decided that it is time for us to speak out, warn against false steps, and describe an agreement that we may be able to support.

We have not only advocated for an end to the Turkish occupation of Cyprus, but for a new and better Cyprus. We have: invested in Cyprus; led business delegations interested in a reunified Cyprus; pushed for better bilateral relations between Cyprus and the United States. We have prepared for reunification with our Turkish Cypriot brethren by supporting bi-communal programs, by opening lines of communications with Turkish Cypriot business and opinion leaders, by encouraging policies like the issuance of Republic of Cyprus passports to Turkish Cypriots. We are informed by Cyprus’ tragic past, but not enslaved by it. Our point of reference is the Cyprus of the future, not the Cyprus of 1974.

When we expressed our support for the February 2014 Joint Declaration that began this round of negotiations, we were full of hope. We dared to believe that the world was finally invested in a reunited and truly independent Cyprus, that the days when Cyprus was sacrificed at the altar of a larger political agenda had passed us. These hopes have been dashed over and over again.

Cypriots are prepared to make difficult, and in many cases painful, compromises on issues like territory, power sharing, and property. We acknowledge that Cypriot led negotiations over these issues have progressed further than ever before. At the same time, we regret that the issue that ultimately damned the 2004 Annan Plan – that of security – has not witnessed tangible progress.

We support the proposition that all Cypriots have the fundamental right to feel secure in their country. Indeed, the security of its citizens is the primary responsibility of any state. Several ideas – including an expanded peace keeping mission, an international police force, and other federal structures – that can provide security to all Cypriots are actively under consideration. With well-developed European institutions providing additional layers of security, we are convinced that a reunified Cyprus can meet the highest standards of protection for all its citizens.

The legalization and continued presence of a Turkish occupation force – of any size – and granting Ankara the right of any kind of intervention is completely inconsistent with the goal of a workable and lasting reunification. We cannot prioritize the international community’s desire for a diplomatic victory at the expense of a viable solution. Supporting a reunification with an uncertain future because it is subject to a Turkey with hegemonic aspirations and the ability to wait out every single diplomat involved in today’s negotiations is irresponsible.

We have been asked whether we cannot simply support “whatever the Cypriots agree to.” We are offended by this question. It assumes that our priorities are at odds with those of the Cypriot people. We are attuned to sentiment in Cyprus, and right now our conclusion is that the almost singular focus on process without addressing certain issues is setting up the Cyprus negotiations for failure.

We are not at the negotiating table, and many of us will not have a vote in a referendum on reunification. But we are being asked to invest in and encourage investment in a reunified Cyprus, and to reassure the citizens of Cyprus that the U.S. will stand firmly behind a Cyprus solution and help ensure that it is workable and lasting.

If Turkey’s presence is formalized in a reunified Cyprus – either through guarantees or troop presence – we cannot do any of the above with confidence. Cyprus is in Europe, and just as US policy has prioritized a Europe “whole, free and at peace,” we ask the same for Cyprus. Turkish troops and rights of intervention prevent both the “free” and “at peace” from ever being true. We are committed to the security of Turkish Cypriots and ALL Cypriots, and there are several structures which do not involve Turkish troops that can achieve that security. Going into the upcoming Conference on Cyprus, we condition our support of an agreement on it avoiding certain provisions:

1. A reunified Cyprus cannot be subject to foreign guarantees. The demands by Turkey to retain its guarantor status keep Cyprus inherently unsafe. An EU member state is in no need of any guarantees by foreign powers.

2. Turkish troops have no place in a reunified Cyprus. In 2008, former Vice President Joe Biden insisted on the “full withdrawal of Turkey.” We have the same demand. Foreign armies are not meant to carry out policing functions and would only serve as a source of instability.

3. The benefits that each community is to realize in a reunified Cyprus cannot be subject to temporary derogations and unclear timelines. If these benefits are not in place on Day 1 of a settlement, a successful referendum is less likely, and what will in any case be a challenging implementation period will be derailed.

4. Any settlement cannot contravene the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Convention is binding on Cyprus and Turkey. The Charter is binding on Cyprus. For any settlement to be lawful, and for all Cypriots to have the full protection of the law, both the Convention and the Charter must be incorporated.

We continue to believe that a successful reunification of Cyprus will not only benefit the people of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, it will stabilize a volatile Eastern Mediterranean and further the interests of the United States. Focusing more on process and deadlines than on substance will only lead to failure and instability.

Nikos Mouyiaris,
Chairman and Founder, HALC
Andrew Manatos, President, CEH
Endy Zemenides, Executive Director, HALC
Tasos Zambas,
Executive Vice President, FCAO
Savas Tsivicos, 
President, Hellenic Federation of New Jersey
Philip Christopher, President, PSEKA
Nick Larigakis, President, AHI
Kyriakos Papastylianou, President, FCAO
Ioannis Fidanakis, Executive Director, AHC

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Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post before President Trump can fire him

Rosenstein’s comments about secretly recording the President backfire, and resignation may throw the Mueller Russiagate probe into question.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Washington Times broke the story that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.  At present the breaking story says the following:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out at the Department of Justice.

Axios reported that Mr. Rosenstein verbally resigned to White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, but CNN said that he is expecting to be fired.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr. Rosenstein’s departure immediately throws Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe into chaos.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein in charge.

President Trump mulled firing the No. 2 at the Department of Justice over the weekend.

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This report came after Fox News reported that the Deputy AG was summoned to the White House. Fox reported a little more detail:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House expecting to be fired, sources tell Fox News, in the wake of a report that he suggested wearing a wire against President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year.

This is a developing story, however one major factor that comes under consideration is the fate of Robert Mueller and his Russiagate investigation, which was authorized by Rosenstein. CNBC had this to say in their piece:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is resigning Monday, according to Axios, which cited a source familiar with the matter.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, however, reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord, and that he will only depart if the White House fired him. He will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams added.

Rosenstein was at the White House when Williams reported this on the air. However, President Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bloomberg later reported that the White House accepted Rosenstein’s resignation, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein’s expected resignation will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after The New York Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump, and had also talked about surreptitiously recording the president.

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Axios’ report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.

He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s expected departure comes on the heels of a guilty plea by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to conspiracy charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine, which predates his role on the campaign.

As part of the investigation, Mueller’s team has been locked in an ongoing back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team over an in-person interview with the president.

Trump’s lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have signaled that Trump is unwilling to sit for an interview, calling it a “perjury trap” and setting up a potential challenge for Mueller to subpoena the president.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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European Council crushes Theresa May’s soft Brexit dream (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that the European Council was ready to see things her way, in terms of proceeding with a soft Brexit, which was essentially no Brexit at all…at least not the hard Brexit that was voted on in a democratic referendum approximately two years ago.

Much to May’s surprise, European Council President Donald Tusk delivered a death blow verdict for May’s Brexit, noting that EU leaders are in full agreement that Chequers plan for Brexit “will not work” because “it risks undermining the single market.”

Without a miracle compromise springing up come during the October summit, the UK will drift into the March 29, 2019 deadline without a deal and out of the European Union…which was initially what was voted for way back in 2016, leaving everyone asking, what the hell was May doing wasting Britain’s time and resources for two years, so as to return back to the hard Brexit terms she was charged with carrying forward after the 2016 referendum?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss what was a disastrous EU summit in Salzburg for UK PM Theresa May, in what looks to be the final nail in May’s tenure as UK Prime Minister, as a hard Brexit now seems all but certain.

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Via Zerohedge

Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg, where the leaders of the 27 remaining states in the bloc were discussing Brexit. He said that while there were “positive elements” in May’s Chequers plan, a deal that puts the single market at risk cannot be accepted.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” Tusk said. He also said that he could not “exclude” the possibility that the UK could exit the EU in March with no deal.

May has been urging her European counterparts to accept her controversial Chequers plan which has split both the Conservative party and the broader UK population after it was thrashed out back in July. However, despite the painfully-slow negotiation process, which appears to have made little headway with just a few months left, the UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 2019 – with or without an exit deal.

The main sticking point that has emerged, and left May and the EU at loggerheads, has been how to avoid new checks on the Irish border. May has claimed that her proposals were the “only serious, credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. She said during a press conference after the Salzburg meeting that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a Northern Ireland hard border. She said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.

May also said that there was “a lot of hard work to be done,” adding that the UK was also preparing for the eventuality of having to leave the EU without a deal. Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the “moment of truth” for reaching a deal, and that “if the conditions are there” another summit would be held in November to “formalize” it.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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