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UAE, Cyprus sign military cooperation deal



The United Arab Emirates and Cyprus yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to strengthen mutual cooperation on the military and defence levels.

UAE Minister of State for Defence, Mohammed Al-Bawardi, said in a statement that the agreement was signed in a “virtual meeting” with his Cyprus counterpart, Charalambos Petrides. “The agreement affirms the depth of our strategic relations with Cyrus,” Al-Bawardi was quoted by the official WAM as saying.

On his part, Petrides said that the MoU was a result of a “fruition of excellent bilateral relations between the two countries and our like-mindedness on an array of international and regional issues.”

“We consider this MoU as a step towards developing a long term, sustained and robust defence partnership between Cyprus and the UAE,” he said on Twitter.

OPINION: Why do Arab regimes support Netanyahu’s strategy?

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Covid diplomacy: Turkey sends 20,000 doses of vaccine to Northern Cyprus



Turkey will send 20,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the country’s top health official said yesterday.

According to Anadolu‘s Northern Cyprus office, TRNC’s Health Minister Ali Pilli said that the vaccines will be provided both by the European Union and Turkey.

“Vaccines will arrive in Turkey soon. After arriving there [in Turkey], examinations and controls of the vaccines will be made, and vaccination will start and some vaccines will be sent to us. Vaccines are expected to arrive in the next 10 days,” Pilli added.

In April, Turkey dispatched a planeload of personal protective equipment to support the United States as it grappled with the coronavirus outbreak.

READ: Turkey reports over 9,000 more coronavirus cases

Ankara hopes to vaccinate 1.1 million health workers within a month, its Health Ministry said.

Turkey has been implementing curfews on both weeknights and weekends since December as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

Since December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed more than 1.92 million lives in 191 countries and regions.

Over 89.76 million cases have been reported worldwide, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University. The US, India and Brazil remain the worst-hit countries in terms of cases.

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Northern Cyprus calls on Greek Cypriots to agree to talks



The Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar on Saturday called on the Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to respond positively to calls for dialogue and solve the Cyprus issue.

Tatar said in a statement that Anastasiades believes the two-state solution is a realistic solution, however due to massive pressure from the Orthodox Church, the Progressive Party of Working People, the National Popular Front and other elements, Anastasiades is forced to return to the old policies.

Tatar stressed that his country supports the two-state solution based on equal sovereignty, adding: “For the sake of the existence of our state, the freedom of our people, and their lives in safety, we call for a settlement based on a two-state solution.”

The island of Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot government in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south since a 1974 military coup aimed at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece.

Over the years, there have been several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, however they have repeatedly failed.

Turkey’s Erdogan: ‘Two separate states’ solution for Cyprus

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Fuel tankers from Albania ‘violate Syria sanctions’



Tankers carrying liquid petroleum gas (LPG) have been reported to be travelling from Albania to Syria, flouting international sanctions prohibiting the supply of fuel and energy to the regime in Damascus.

According to a report on The Fuse by Lebanese journalist and researcher Noam Raydan, the tankers were spotted transporting the fuel between Romano in western Albania and Baniyas in Syria throughout 2020. Raydan has been tracking two of the vessels for months to discover their methods of avoiding sanctions.

The LPG tanker Melody left Romano on 16 November and was waiting off the coast of Cyprus on 22 November when it switched off its transponder, “going dark” that same day. It went on its way to Syria, where it was seen off the coast of Baniyas in satellite images, before returning to Cyprus 12 days later and switching its tracking equipment back on.

“When the AIS transponder goes off, there is generally something suspicious occurring, as the AIS transponder is a critical piece of navigational safety equipment,” the head of Business Development at International Maritime Risk Rating Agency (IMRRA), Wayne Hurley, told Raydan. “Reputable transparent charterers, owners, managers, would not turn the transponders off.”

READ: UN official urges US to lift Syria sanctions

According to the online shipping database Equasis, the tanker also changed its flag three times between 2015 and 2018, switching between Mongolia, Tanzania, and Comoros. All of those states, said Hurley, are known for “a particularly weak record of enforcing international law.”

The Melody has an interesting back story. In 2015 it was called Blue Way when it was owned by the Turkish company Milenyum Energy SA which was blacklisted and sanctioned by the US Department of Treasury that year for supplying fuel to Syria.

According to the Treasury, “Milenyum has responded to the Syrian regime’s energy needs by regularly arranging for the shipment of products such as liquefied petroleum gas and Gasoil to the Syrian Government-controlled port of Baniyas, likely for SYTROL or other Syrian government entities.”

Another ship tracked by Raydan was the Jaguar S, which travelled between Romano and Baniyas as recently as June after picking up fuel from the Albanian port on 15 May. That vessel also switched off its AIS transponder system when anchoring in Turkey in order to divert attention from its destination.

The investigation carried out by Raydan – along with IMRRA, Marine Traffic, and Tanker Trackers – reveals yet further instances of companies attempting to flout US and EU sanctions against the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad. It comes after a Danish company was reported last month to have also been violating the sanctions.

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