At one point the hijacking of EgyptAir flight diverted to Larnaca Airport in Cyprus, which went without any incident or threat, could have been likened to a ‘Cypriot farce’ or a script for Cypriot TV. The ‘love’ twist, giving the hijacker’s demands to see his ex-wife, a Cypriot, a woman named as Marina Paraschou, and a four-page letter in Arabic handed over to the authorities, thickens the plot further.
Thankfully, the hijacking of EgyptAir Flight MS181 passed without any serious injury to any hostages, passengers and crew.
The ‘twist’ was perhaps very-well crystallised by Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades who responded to a reporter’s question about whether the hijacker was motivated by romance, by laughing and saying: “Always there is a woman involved.”
The country’s leader also thanked all of the local emergency services, including the Cypriot soldiers, for their quick and efficient reaction to the incident.
EgyptAir Flight MS181 was taken over by a passenger claiming to be a suicide explosive belt.
EgyptAir said the Airbus A320 was carrying 56 passengers from Alexandria to Cairo, along with six crew and a security official.
The hijacker’s motives were said to by Cypriot authorities, plainly of a non-terrorist nature, and the belt was ‘fake’ despite it having wires sticking out to be give the pretence of genuine explosive.
The suspect had gradually released passengers and crew throughout the day, and the air-pilot was filmed climbing off the plane.
Cypriot’s RIK TV reported that the man, believed to be an Egyptian national, made a list of demands, including ‘to deliver a message’ to a woman who was identified as his ex-wife.
The Cypriot authorities described the man as ”mentally unstable” and will be brought before a local court, on Wednesday.
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It is unacceptable to shift the burden of responsibility for the migration crisis on the shoulders of the Republic of Cyprus, President Nicos Anastasiades stressed on Tuesday.
The President held a meeting in Nicosia with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, who is preparing the ground for this week`s EU – Turkey Summit on the migration crisis.
“Ι conveyed to President Tusk our position that the Republic of Cyprus does not intend to consent to the opening of any chapters, if Turkey does not fulfill its obligations as described in the Negotiating Framework and the Ankara Protocol,” President Anastasiades said.
He underlined that he explained to President Tusk “it is unwarranted, counter-productive, not to mention unacceptable, not by President Tusk, to shift the burden of responsibility for the migration crisis on my shoulders or on the shoulders of the Republic of Cyprus.”
In his statements, Tusk said that he is not in Nicosia to exert pressure on Cyprus. “I am here to listen to your positions ahead of the EU Council this week,” he noted.
He stressed that when it comes to accession, “I want to make it clear that the rules have not changed. The same strict conditionality applies and moving forward will still require the agreement by all 28.”
“No third country can ever be more important to me than any of our member states,” Tusk pointed out. Furthermore he expressed his full support to the ongoing efforts for a settlement in Cyprus.
In his statements, Anastasiades expressed his absolute satisfaction for the objective stance he adopted both during the recent European Councils and during today`s meeting. “A stance that corresponds with the President`s institutional capacity as the guardian of the EU`s principles and values,” he added.
He said that during today’s meeting they had the opportunity to exchange some thoughts, ideas and concerns as regards the upcoming European Council and, among others, I informed the President of the position of Cyprus as regards Turkish requests.
He noted that Cyprus, “as Turkey’s EU closest neighbor, has always been a strong supporter of Turkey’s full accession to the EU, on the condition of course that Turkey fulfills its obligations, as described in the negotiating framework, including the full and non-discriminatory implementation of the Ankara Protocol.”
“At the same time, I conveyed that we fully understand the problems EU member states face as a result of the unprecedented flow of migrants, and in particular the serious problems faced by Greece following the closure of routes to Europe,” he said.
Anastasiades said that “in this regard – and despite the fact that the migration crisis is in no way connected with the discussion on the re-energisation of Turkey’s accession process -, Cyprus has maintained a very constructive stance”.
He recalled that Cyprus consented to the opening of Chapter 17, accepted Turkey’s participation in informal Summits
on migration and consented to the Action Plan.
He said that during their deliberations, he reminded to President Tusk the well-known fact that since 2004 Turkey has persistently refused to fulfill any of its obligations vis-à-vis the EU and its member states, including the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey’s refusal to implement fully the Additional Protocol vis-à-vis Cyprus is the reason the Council decided unanimously to freeze 8 negotiating chapters in December 2006 and that in addition to its refusal to implement the Additional Protocol towards Cyprus, Turkey has submitted letters, by which Cyprus is characterized as “defunct”. Further, most recently on 29 November 2015 the Turkish Prime Minister reiterated Turkey’s position that they do not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, he added.
To this end, he stressed, it must be understood by our EU partners that possible acceptance of the Turkish demands, without implementation of Turkey’s long pending obligations would in essence constitute – with my own consent – acceptance that the Republic of Cyprus is, indeed, “defunct”.
Anastasiades said that he underlined to President Tusk that “at this critical phase of the negotiations for a solution of the Cyprus problem such a proposal leads me – without my intention – to come to a confrontation with Turkey. In fact, any confrontation with the Turkish Government, particularly at this critical phase in the negotiations, is the last thing we are looking for.”
“In this regard, I explained to President Tusk that it is unwarranted, counter-productive and not to mention unacceptable to shift – not by President Tusk – the burden of responsibility for the migration crisis on my shoulders, or on the shoulders of the Republic of Cyprus,” he added.
“In view of what I have mentioned, I conveyed to President Tusk our position that the Republic of Cyprus does not intend to consent to the opening of any Chapters if Turkey does not fulfill its obligations as described in the negotiating framework and the Ankara Protocol,” he stressed.
On his part, Tusk said the main purpose of his visit to Cyprus today is to discuss further steps in the European Union`s cooperation with Turkey on how to handle the migration crisis. “I am not here to exert pressure on Cyprus. I am here to listen to your position ahead of the European Council this week,” he added.
He recalled that “at our EU summit last week, we discussed a further strengthening of our cooperation with Turkey,” noting that “this is an important pillar of our common and comprehensive European strategy. But it is never wise to build a plan on one pillar only. We should not, and we will not. The other pillars of our common European strategy consist of getting back to Schengen, ending the wave-through-policy, including along the Western Balkans route. And also massively stepping up humanitarian assistance to the most affected countries, not least Greece,” he noted.
“Last week I was mandated to prepare an agreement between Turkey and the European Union on further strengthening our cooperation in the migration crisis. I am now working on the details. This is why I am here today in Nicosia. And this is why I will continue to Ankara this evening,” Tusk went on.
He said that the Turkish proposal worked out together with Germany and the Netherlands still needs to be re-balanced so as to be accepted by all 28 Member States and the EU institutions. The objective is to conclude the negotiations Thursday and Friday this week but we are not there yet.
“One of the issues to be sorted out is the key question of legality. We need to ensure that any new large-scale return scheme between Greece and Turkey fully complies with EU law and our international commitments. This means that we must ensure that all get an individual assessment in Greece before a decision to return them to Turkey. And it also means that we must ensure that those in need of international protection receive appropriate protection in Turkey. Another issue to be addressed is that of possible alternative routes from Turkey to other EU countries such as Bulgaria. This also has to be factored in for the agreement to be effective,” he noted.
“But our cooperation with Turkey goes much beyond migration. The current dynamics offers an opportunity to re-energise the relations between the European Union and Turkey”, he said.
At the same time, he stressed that “the European Union is a Union of 28 Member States. Cyprus is as important as Germany, France, the Netherlands or any other Member State. No third country can ever be more important to me than any of our Member States. We should use this opportunity, and make sure that all benefit from this new dynamics, also Cyprus.”
Furthermore he noted that when it comes to accession, “I want to make it clear that the rules have not changed. The same strict conditionality applies and moving forward will still require the agreement of all 28.”
Tusk also said that they discussed the ongoing efforts in the Cyprus settlement negotiations, “which have my full support. I listened carefully to President Anastasiades and reassured him we fully understand that the negotiations are at an important juncture and that all EU actions are directed at facilitating these negotiations. A successful outcome, with support from both sides of the island, would give a fresh start not only to Cyprus, but to the whole of Europe and the wider region,” he noted.
Referring to Cyprus `s economic recovery, he noted that “only three years ago, you were standing on the brink of a financial abyss. Today you are standing on your own feet again, without having used all the resources made available to you by your eurozone partners and the IMF. This success is a result of your own efforts. It is a good sign for Cyprus, the euro zone and Europe.”
Article written by CNA