May 29/14


Bible Quotation for today/Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation
Mark 16,15-20/‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For May 29/14

Mideast dialogue in need of Pope Francis’ blessing/By: Yossi Mekelberg/Al Arabiya/May 29/14

Why did Biden go to Cyprus/By: Aylin Kocaman/Asharq Alawsat/May 29/14

Assad will not hand over the last of his WMDs/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/AlArabiya/May 29/14


The Daily Star Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For May 29/14

Lebanese Related News

As Maronite Patriach Al Raei head visits Israel, assassination plot against him revealed

Saqr dismisses reports of assassination plot against Rai

Geagea: We Seek President who Won't Conspire against Constitution
Patriarch al-Rahi Prays with Exiled Lebanese in Israel

Al-Rahi Vows to Help Displaced Arab Israelis

Rai becomes first Lebanese religious leader to visit Israel

Syrian Expatriates Balloting Midweek, Lebanese Stuck in Traffic

Beirut roads paralyzed by Syrian voters headed to polls

Hezbollah's number two urges consensus over presidency
Lebanese University Teachers Announce Open-Ended Strike until Signed as Full-Timers

Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel Warns against Adapting to Presidential Vacuum

Bassil: Lebanon's Existence Threatened by Syrian Refugees

March 14 General Secretariat Criticizes Nasrallah's Speech, Calls on Party to Prioritize Lebanon

Israeli Troops Cross Southern Border Gate Near Ghajjar Village

Syrian Warplanes Stage Four Raids on Outskirts of Arsal

Army Seizes Arms, Drugs and Arrests 14 Suspects in Metn Town

Suleiman Vows to Support Resistance with Conditions
Beirut to Witness Implementation of Security Plan in June

Berri Warns Parliament Boycott Paralyzes Monitoring Authority

ISF marks anniversary with nod to the past

Senior Hezbollah commander killed in Syria

Union Coordination Committee calls for exam boycott
Miscellaneous Reports And News

Polls Close in Egypt Presidential Election

Assad's re-Election Assured in War-Ravaged Syria

Syria Opposition Welcomes Obama Plan to Ramp Up Support
Obama Warns U.S. Must Not Rush to War

U.N. Warns against New European, Arab Extremist Networks

On Jerusalem Day, Israel PM Vows Not to Divide City

White House: Israeli-Palestinian peace still priority
Syria's oldest synagogue destroyed in siege

Iran's Zarif reports progress in EU nuclear talks

Four girls escape Boko Haram, 219 still missing: official  


Geagea: We Seek President who Won't Conspire against Constitution
Naharnet /Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea accused on Wednesday the March 8 camp of obstructing quorum during the presidential polls, urging Speaker Nabih Berri to exert the sufficient pressure to persuade all lawmakers to attend elections sessions. He said during a press conference at his Maarab residence: “We seek a president who won't conspire against the constitution.” He added that the Free Patriotic Movement is obstructing the elections, noting: “My nomination bolsters FPM leader MP Michel Aoun's chances of being voted president.” Commenting on recent March 8 claims that he is not a “constitutional” presidential candidate, Geagea said: “If I am rejected by half the Christian population, Aoun is rejected by the other half.” “Surveys show that I enjoy the backing of the majority of Sunnis, while Aoun enjoys the support of the majority of Shiites. My support among Sunnis however exceeds his among Shiites,” he remarked. Addressing Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's recent speech during which he stated that the resistance protects the Lebanese state, Geagea said: “Such remarks are unacceptable.”“Hizbullah's current existence weakens that state and creates despair among the people,” he added. “We want a president who will not conspire against the constitution or stab the state in the back,” he declared in response to Narsallah's demand for a president who “won't stab the resistance in the back.” “We want a president who will demonstrate his loyalty to the Lebanese people,” continued the LF chief. On Nasrallah's claims that he is a confrontational presidential candidate, Geagea responded: “Why am I considered confrontational? Am I not a Maronite? Do I not represent the majority of Christians? Do I not have a presidential program?” Nasrallah accused on Sunday the March 14 alliance of fielding a “confrontational candidate” – Geagea -- to block the election of a "serious nominee” and seek the extension of former President Michel Suleiman's term. Geagea's nomination was officially endorsed by the March 14 camp, while Aoun, an ally of Hizbullah, had stressed that he would only run in the race as a “consensual candidate.” “The other camp's real plan was not at all the election of a president before May 25, but rather the extension of the president's term. Let no one say that we had obstructed the election,” said Nasrallah. The next presidential elections session is scheduled for June 9.


Patriarch al-Rahi Prays with Exiled Lebanese in Israel
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi celebrated mass with exiled Lebanese on Wednesday as part of his controversial trip to Israel. Hundreds of Lebanese Maronites came to Saint Peter's church in the village of Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Christ is said to have delivered many of his most famous teachings. But those who attended on Wednesday, a fragment of the thousands who fled across the border with Israeli forces in 2000 when Israel ended its 22-year occupation of Lebanon, said al-Rahi's historic visit would do little to change their circumstances.Trained, financed and armed by Israel, the Christian South Lebanon Army (SLA) battled Palestinians and Hizbullah fighters during the occupation of southern Lebanon. Many SLA veterans feel they have been abandoned by Israeli authorities in their adopted home, often working in low-paying factory, restaurant or cleaning jobs, but unable to return home for fear of retribution from Hizbullah and others who considered them traitors. "The patriarch will not grant us anything," Boulous Nahra, originally from the town of Qlaiaa, told Agence France Presse, adding he would consider going home if the circumstances allowed. "We never wanted to leave our country and the patriarch knows that," said Henry Al-Ghafri. "Israel is not our country, I want to return to Lebanon (but) a lot of people in Lebanon... have disowned us now," he added. But Victor Nader, former commander of an SLA special forces unit, said he was content with his new life. "We are very happy here and my son is serving in the Israeli army," he said. Al-Rahi came to Israel earlier in the week to join a brief visit by Pope Francis. The Maronite Patriarch was condemned by media close to Hizbullah, which said travelling to arch-enemy Israel would be a "sin". Lebanon remains technically at war with Israel and bans its citizens from entering the Jewish state.But Maronite clergy are permitted to travel to Israel to minister to the estimated 10,000 faithful there. Earlier on Wednesday al-Rahi visited the derelict Israeli Christian village of Kufr Bir'im, near the Lebanese border, whose inhabitants were evicted by the Israeli army in 1948, six months after Israel was established, and never allowed to return. The same happened in the nearby village of Iqrit, and al-Rahi vowed to help the Christians of both places, who now live in nearby towns and cities, to reclaim their homes. "We will work through the Vatican and lobby the pope until the world hears your case," he said. Source/Agence France Presse

Rai becomes first Lebanese religious leader to visit Israel
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF /05/27/2014/The leader of Lebanon’s Maronite community, the country’s largest Christian denomination, visited the Latrun Monastery Monday, becoming the first Lebanese religious leader to come to Israel since its creation in 1948, the DPA agency reported. Cardinal Bechara Rai made the trip, joining Pope Francis on parts of the pontiff’s three-day Holy Land pilgrimage, against opposition in Lebanon where Hezbollah claimed that the visit would legitimize Israel. Rai said Monday that his journey is celebrating the roots of Christianity in the region and was purely spiritual, DPA reported. He was cheered by members of the Maronite community as he arrived at a parish later in Jaffa. Rai is expected to also visit Christian communities in Nazareth, Acre and Haifa before returning to Lebanon via Jordan on Saturday.

As Maronite Patriach Al Raei head visits Israel, assassination plot against him revealed
Lebanon’s security forces arrested a suspect who confessed to working with regional intelligence agencies in plot to assassinate Maronite Church Patriarch Beshara Rai; church leader touring Israel in defiance of Hezbollah.  The head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church, Patriarch Beshara Rai, continued his visit in Israel and toured ruins of a Maronite village near the Lebanese border on Wednesday as an assassination plot against him was reported. Lebanon’s security forces arrested a suspect who confessed to working with regional intelligence agencies in a plot to assassinate Rai, security sources told The Daily Star on Wednesday.
Lebanese security arrested the suspect last week, and the police report stated he was taking pictures of the patriarch’s hometown, 20 km. outside Beirut.
The church leader, who defied warnings from Hezbollah by accompanying Pope Francis on his visit to Israel, pledged on Wednesday to help dispossessed Christians in Israel.
Rai visited the site of Kafr Bir’am, a former Maronite village in the North that is now the location of Kibbutz Bar’am, on Wednesday. In antiquity the area was home to a Jewish community, and ruins of a synagogue can still be seen. The Maronite residents of Kafr Bir’am were displaced during the War of Independence 66 years ago and they and their descendants now live in other communities in the Galilee.
Kafr Bir’am villagers, who numbered more than 800 in 1948, and their descendants have campaigned to be allowed to return to the village and rebuild there, winning an Israeli high-court ruling that has yet to be implemented by the state. Rai said his church would lobby on their behalf through the Vatican. “We are with you, and want to help you as much as possible,” he said in a speech to an audience of several hundred, saying he could not appeal to Israel as it is “an enemy country.” Ghada Zoabi, founder and CEO of the Israeli Arab news website Bokra, told The Jerusalem Post Israeli Arab opinions regarding Rai’s visit are mixed, reflecting the debate taking place in Lebanon on whether the trip represents “normalization” with Israel. Sawsan Srour, Bokra’s editor, said, to her knowledge, no Israeli political leaders had met the patriarch until Wednesday, though she said an Arab MK could have met him. She said Rai was going to attend a meeting at a Maronite church in Capernaum and meet with Maronite veterans from the Lebanon war living in Israel. Some Lebanese Christians allied themselves with Israel in the past. Most of the personnel in the now-defunct South Lebanon Army, which helped Israel battle Hezbollah until they withdrew in 2000, were Maronites. Around 10,000 Maronites live in Israel, including 2,000 former SLA men and their families, who fled there during the Lebanon withdrawal. Branded as traitors in Lebanon, former SLA soldiers and their relatives fear to return to Lebanon and want Rai to intercede on their behalf in Beirut. “This is the first time that a senior Lebanese figure has come [to Israel], and he wants to listen to us,” Julie Abu a-Raj, a spokeswoman for the ex-SLA community, told Israel Radio. She commended Rai for “making good on his religious duty to visit his flock and not succumbing to threats,” referring to Hebollah’s disapproval of the visit. “We are an exiled community that was a political, historical and geographic victim of the wars of others in our country,” Abu a-Raj said. “We want to tell the Lebanese government... to stop the trials and investigations against us, the only ones who are loyal to our identities.”
Rai is set to visit Acre, Nazareth and the Maronite town of Jish on Thursday, and Haifa on Friday. He is to remain in Israel until Saturday and then return to Lebanon through Jordan. Bishara Shlayan, an Orthodox Christian Arab from Nazareth, told the Post that he welcomes the visit of a fellow Christian. “All Christians in the Middle East should visit Israel – the Holy Land – just as Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca.”Shlayan, who is looking to found a Christian Arab political party that would support Israel as a Jewish state and national or army service for Arabs, said most of the country’s Christian Arabs would support such a party. Many do not do so publicly because they do not want to be seen as traitors by Muslim Israelis, he added.
Rai is the leading official in the Maronite Church. He is the first Lebanese religious leader to visit Israel.

March 14 General Secretariat Criticizes Nasrallah's Speech, Calls on Party to Prioritize Lebanon
Naharnet/The March 14 General Secretariat slammed on Thursday Hizbullah chief sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, calling on the party to prioritize the higher interest of Lebanon. “Nasrallah's speech focused on delusional victories in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.... to secure some presidential and parliamentary interests,” the March 14 said in a statement after its weekly meeting. The statement demanded Hizbullah to “return to Lebanon and abide by the constitution.” Nasrallah said on Sunday in a televised address to mark the 14th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon that the party wants the country to have a president "who does not conspire against it."“The resistance axis will triumph in the Syrian conflict,” he announced. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on Sunday with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. Over the past two months the parliament convened five times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last four sessions due to a lack of quorum. The March 14 General Secretariat called on “those who are devoted to Lebanon to hold onto the constitution, the Taef accord and respect the constitutional deadlines and democracy.” “A new president should be elected swiftly with no power higher than his to prevent the country from entering a dark stage.”The statement warned that the developments in the region are impacting the situation in Lebanon and “directly affecting the national” interests.

Al-Rahi Vows to Help Displaced Arab Israelis
Naharnet /The Maronite Patriarch vowed Wednesday to help the displaced Christians of a village in northern Israel, as he pushed forward with a controversial trip to the Jewish state. In 1948, six months after Israel was established, the army asked Iqrit and Kufr Bir'im's residents to leave their homes for two weeks because of military operations in the area. But they were never allowed to go back. The army razed most of Iqrit in 1951 and did the same to Kufr Bir'im two years later. "We are with you and we will help you however we can," Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi told exiled villagers of Kufr Bir'im, near the border, who now live in near by towns and cities. "We will work through the Vatican and lobby the pope until the world hears your case," he said, two days after Pope Francis wound up a historic visit to the Holy Land. In a letter to the pontiff, the people of Kufr Bir'im and Iqrit, all of them Catholics, begged Francis to "intensify" efforts to pressure Israel to end the injustice inflicted upon their community. l-Rahi's visit, timed to coincide with that of the pope, was condemned by media close to Hizbullah, which said travelling to arch-enemy Israel would be a "sin."The trip is diplomatically noteworthy because Lebanon remains technically at war with Israel and bans its citizens from entering the Jewish state. But Maronite clergy are permitted to travel to Israel to minister to the estimated 10,000 faithful there.Source/Agence France Presse

Bassil: Lebanon's Existence Threatened by Syrian Refugees

Naharnet/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil noted on Wednesday that Lebanon has suffered the most from the repercussions of the Syrian crisis, most notably with the flow of refugees. He said during the 17th meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Algeria: “Lebanon's existence and identity are at risk as a result of the influx of refugees.” “Lebanon has showed unprecedented hospitality towards the displaced,” he added. This support has only been met with empty promises from the international community that said it would assist Lebanon in its mission, continued Bassil. The large number of refugees has prompted the government to implement a plan to halt their flow and return them to Syria, explained the minister. The remaining displaced will be harbored at housing zones within Syria or near the Lebanese-Syrian border, he stated. The government on Friday formed a ministerial cell to follow up on the refugees' conditions and adopt procedures to deal with the influx of Syrians in cooperation with concerned administrative bodies. The Foreign Ministry was also tasked with seeking to establish safe refugee camps inside Syria or in the border region between both countries, in cooperation with concerned parties. The UNHCR's periodic report revealed on Monday that the number of Syrians who fled the war-torn neighboring country has reached 1,058,088, in addition to 11,000 who crossed into the country in the past week. The United Nations has called for gathering USD 1,89 billion to support Lebanon in dealing with the refugee crisis in 2014, but has only received USD 242 million of the total amount.

Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel Warns against Adapting to Presidential Vacuum
Naharnet/Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel warned on Wednesday that vacuum in the presidency will lead to vacuum in state institutions, stressing the need to respect Lebanon's National Pact regarding power-sharing between the sects. He said before a Maronite delegation: “We must not adapt to the presidential vacuum.” “Electing a new president is a Maronite duty as much as it is a national duty,” he continued. Moreover, Gemayel said that his contacts between various Maronite leaders is aimed at bridging the divide that has grown between them in order to ensure that the presidential elections are held.
Parliament failed to elect a president after five rounds. The first round was staged, but neither of the candidates received the necessary votes of 86 lawmakers to emerge victorious.
The remaining four sessions were not held due to a boycott of the March 8 camp MPs, namely those of Hizbullah and Free Patriotic Movement, over a dispute with the March 14 alliance over the elections. The sixth session is scheduled for June 9.

Lebanese University Teachers Announce Open-Ended Strike until Signed as Full-Timers
Naharnet /Lebanese University teachers announced on Wednesday that they will not go back to the university and will not hold any exams until they are contracted as full-time employees.
"We will not go back to giving classes until we become full-time teachers, and we will not prepare exam questions, correct exams, supervise or hold them until we become full-time teachers,” a spokesperson of the teachers stated during a protest at the Riad Solh Square in the afternoon. “This is an open-ended strike because the Lebanese University is in danger,” he stressed. He explained: “Since 2008 we have been protesting and continuously struggling in classrooms... We are here to prevent harming the national university, because we are its shield, its blood and its youth. We will not allow overthrowing this cause because it's the Lebanese youth's right. ”The protesters called on Prime Minister Tammam Salam to accept signing them as full-time employees, praising meanwhile Education Minister Elias Bou Saab's efforts to push their cause forward. "We are with you in the battle of saving the national university and we will only go back when we are contracted as full-time employees. And then, we will tell our students the story of our struggle and how we held onto the nation.” They vowed that they will not return to the university until their “names are listed in the Official Gazette as full-time teachers.”

Syrian Warplanes Stage Four Raids on Outskirts of Arsal

Naharnet/Syrian warplanes staged four raids on Wednesday on the outskirts of the border town of Arsal in northern Bekaa, the state-run National News Agency reported. The area of Wadi Hmeid was targeted for the second time in less than two days. The number of rockets that hit the area are still unknown. On Monday, the area of Wadi Hmeid was targeted with four missiles. The Syrian regime had also hit the areas of al-Ajram and Wadi al-Zaarour with six missiles. The Army Command said in a statement that two rockets hit the public road between the towns of al-Labweh and al-Nabi Othman, lightly wounding a citizen and damaging a number of shops. The mountainous area has long been a smuggling haven, with multiple routes into Syria that have been used since the conflict began in March 2011 to transport weapons and fighters.

Israeli Troops Cross Southern Border Gate Near Ghajjar Village
Naharnet/An Israeli infantry unit crossed on Wednesday the southern border gate near al-Ghajjar village, al-Jadeed television reported. According to the channel, an army unit comprised of 25 troops crossed al-Ghajjar gate and deployed eastern the Hosn al-Wazzani resort. The northern part of the Ghajjar village is still under the Israeli occupation. Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil recently instructed the permanent Mission of Lebanon to the United Nations in New York to file an urgent complaint to the U.N. Security Council on Israel's “blatant” security breaches against Lebanon's sovereignty as per former President Michel Suleiman's request. Israeli forces crossed on May 11 the Blue Line in the al-Labbouneh border area, uprooted trees and lifted cement blocks that belong to the Lebanese army. The Israeli navy later violated Lebanese territorial waters off Ras al-Naqoura, pushing a line of buoys 20 meters into Lebanese territorial waters. Bassil had also instructed the Permanent Representative in New York, Ambassador Nawaf Salam, to file two other complaints on Israeli breaches. Lebanon's southern border has continuously witnessed violations carried out by Israel. Israel routinely sends F-16 fighter planes over Lebanon, in violation of Security Council resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 war.

Army Seizes Arms, Drugs and Arrests 14 Suspects in Metn Town
Naharnet /The Lebanese army said Wednesday it has seized weapons, ammunition and drugs from a building in a town in the north Metn area and arrested more than 12 suspects. An army communique said the raid took place in Sabtieh on Tuesday night after the military received a tip-off about the suspicious activities carried out there. The army unit arrested 14 suspects, including 6 Syrians. It seized drugs, weapons, ammunition, hand grenades in addition to cash, military gear, communications equipment and fake IDs from the suspects, the communique said. The detainees and the confiscated material were handed over to the appropriate authorities, it added. The state-run National News Agency said the raid targeted the house of Ali Monzer Zoaiter in the area of Fanar. The army arrested his brother Mohammed who has several warrants issued against him. Ali, who is one of the most wanted fugitives in the country, is a top drug trafficker. The military also apprehended 14 others, NNA said.

Beirut to Witness Implementation of Security Plan in June
Naharnet/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq has said that a security plan for Beirut is expected to witness light in June as another cabinet minister stressed that no party wants to create chaos.
Al-Mashnouq told Beirut MPs that the capital will see more security measures in the coming days to arrest wrongdoers, according to al-Liwaa newspaper published on Wednesday.
The army and security forces have already implemented a security plan in the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern Bekaa Valley, arresting scores of gunmen and members of gangs involved in car thefts and kidnappings in return for ransom. Meanwhile, An Nahar daily quoted a cabinet minister as saying that no one from the rival Lebanese parties has an interest in tampering with security. “Any security chaos would be caused by parties abroad,” the minister, who was not named, said. On the political situation in Lebanon, the minister said: “The government is not willing to take the place of the president. It will exercise its authorities and won't infringe on them unless it is very necessary do so in favor of the country's highest interest.” President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended on Sunday. But he left Baabda Palace with a vacant seat after the parliament failed to elect a successor over the differences between the rival parties on a consensual candidate.

Suleiman Vows to Support Resistance with Conditions

Naharnet/Former President Michel Suleiman has vowed to back the resistance if it asked for his support but on condition that it abides by a defense strategy for the country. In remarks to As Safir daily published on Wednesday, he said: “When the resistance needs assistance, it will find President Suleiman as its supporter but within known conditions and the vision of the strategy.”“We need the resistance as part of the state,” Suleiman told the newspaper the day he left Baabda Palace at the end of his six-year term on Sunday, leaving behind an empty seat over the failure of MPs to elect a successor.
But the daily published his remarks on Wednesday because newspapers were not printed for two consecutive days over the holidays. Suleiman said that Hizbullah does not want a defense strategy. He expressed understanding to its role as a resistance in southern Lebanon against the Israeli enemy and its occupation of Lebanese territories. “I wish that it was still in the South. No one would have ever said anything to it,” he told As Safir, lamenting the party's involvement in the war in neighboring Syria. Hizbullah has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to support President Bashar Assad's forces against rebels seeking to overthrow him, saying they are defending an "axis of resistance" against Israel and the West. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday that his movement wants the country to have a president "who does not conspire against it." Relations between the party and Suleiman deteriorated sharply in the past months after the president criticized Hizbullah over its insistence to hold onto the “army, people, resistance” in the cabinet's policy statement. Hizbullah snapped back at Suleiman, saying he required “specialized care.” But the ex-president told As Safir that he had turned a blind eye to many “violations” committed by the party against him. “Anyway, there is no problem with the resistance and these differences are not important,” he said.

Berri Warns Parliament Boycott Paralyzes Monitoring Authority

Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri has warned that the boycott of parliamentary sessions would paralyze the power that the legislature exercises to monitor the government's activities.
In remarks carried by several local dailies published on Wednesday, Berri said: “The boycott of the parliament leads to dangerous consequences and paralyzes the monitoring power that it exercises, turning the cabinet into a caretaker” authority. The speaker vowed to continue to call for parliamentary sessions to approve the public sector's wage hike draft-law so that there would not be a precedence on the paralysis of the legislature over the boycott of certain blocs. Christian lawmakers and al-Mustaqbal bloc MPs boycotted a session that was scheduled to be held on Tuesday to discuss the wage scale in protest at the failure to elect a new president. Berri set a new session for June 10. “Legislation should not stop,” he said. About a June 9 session that is aimed at electing a president, Berri hoped that the rival parties would “reach a certain agreement” by that date. “No one can hold the elections alone … The polls are carried out by both sides,” he said about the March 8 and 14 alliances, whose rivalries prevented parliament from electing a head of state. “I have the presidential elections as a priority. That's why I set the (June 9) session before the legislative session,” Berri added.
President Michel Suleiman left Baabda Palace on Sunday after the expiry of his six-year term and following the failure of lawmakers to elect a head of state over their differences on a compromise candidate

Syrian Expatriates Balloting Midweek, Lebanese Stuck in Traffic
Naharnet/Syrian expatriates and legal refugees in Lebanon began balloting at the Syrian embassy in Yarze early Wednesday morning, contrary to Lebanese elections held usually on weekends, which triggered suffocating traffic congestion, jamming work bound Lebanese citizens in their cars. Hazmieh Municipality chief Jean Asmar told Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) that the traffic congestion on Hazmieh highway began long before 7 a.m. and that the traffic block reached al-Tahweeta main road. He called on the Lebanese army for a solution. Balloting began at 7 a.m. on Wednesday and was scheduled to carry on till seven in the evening. However Syrian ambassador in Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali told the state-run National News Agency that “the balloting will be prolonged till 12 midnight due to the huge turnout for the vote, and that one more day could be scheduled for balloting.” “The Syrian embassy will prepare the list of turnouts to be submitted to the Supreme Election Commission authorized to announce the results,” added the ambassador. Later in the day, the Syrian Foreign Ministry officially announced that the elections will actually be prolonged one more day.
The Syrian embassy in Beirut issued a statement on May 24 and called on “the Syrian citizens who recorded their names at the embassy to practice their constitutional right and take part in the presidential elections by heading to the embassy in Yarze area on May 28 from 7 a.m to 7 p.m. They should carry their passports or identity cards together with the proof that they have legally left the Syrian territory.”The statement added: “All Syrians who were unable to record their names at the embassy should head on June 3 to one of the electoral centers on the border crossings.”The Lebanese army deployed heavily in Yarze area and set checkpoints for security purposes as thousands of Syrians, filling the streets around their embassy, turned out to vote in Syria's controversial presidential poll being staged as civil war rages in the country. For the early vote by expats, the Yarze district of east Beirut was festooned with Syrian flags and portraits of President Bashar Assad, who is expected to cruise to victory in the June 3 election. The yellow flags of Lebanon's party Hizbullah, a staunch Assad ally in the three-year conflict with rebels, were also prominent.
Of the estimated three million Syrians living abroad, including both refugees and peacetime residents, only around 200,000 were entitled to vote on Wednesday, in 39 embassies abroad, a foreign ministry source said in Damascus. President Bashar Assad is to face two challengers in Syria's June 3 presidential election, which he is assured of winning reports say, including Maher Abdel Hafiz Hajjar and Hassan Abdallah al-Nouri. Assad is all but guaranteed a victory as opposition groups are boycotting the vote and balloting will only be held in government-controlled areas of the fragmented country, where rebels hold vast territory and where entire blocks have been destroyed and emptied of their original inhabitants because of the fighting. More than 160,000 people have been killed and millions of others displaced from their homes since the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011, then morphed into a civil war. Lebanon is hosting more than a million refugees. Hundreds of thousands of others are scattered across Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and beyond.

Obama Warns U.S. Must Not Rush to War
Naharnet /President Barack Obama mounted a defiant defense of his global leadership Wednesday, rebuking critics who see him as weak but warning that not every global threat justifies a U.S. military response. In a major speech at the West Point military academy, Obama denied U.S. power had ebbed under his watch, after he withdrew troops from Iraq and as he does the same in Afghanistan.
He also pledged to ramp up support for Syrian rebels, vowed to stand up to Russia over Ukraine and promised to make drone strikes against terror suspects more transparent.
He vowed to hold China accountable to international "rules of the road" in the South China Sea and elsewhere. "To say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution," Obama said. "Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures -- without thinking through the consequences," Obama said, in an apparent reference to the Iraq war, which he has branded a disaster. The president's speech came with his foreign policy, which was once seen as a political asset, under assault from critics who believe he is being outmaneuvered by strongmen like Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's President Xi Jinping. "Here's my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don't, no one else will. The military ... is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership."
Obama was particularly exercised by those who complain he should have deployed the U.S. military in Syria or made a more robust strategic response to Russia's annexation of Ukraine, or who complain that he has left Iraq or Afghanistan to fend for themselves. "Tough talk often draws headlines but war rarely conforms to slogans," Obama said.
"But U.S. military action cannot be the only, or even primary, component of our leadership in every instance. "Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail," Obama told a graduation ceremony at the college. "And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader – and especially your commander in chief – to be clear about how that awesome power should be used."Obama said he was "haunted" by the deaths of American servicemen under his watch -- including some who attended previous commencement ceremonies he had given at West Point. Obama also made an implicit defense of his decision to call off military strikes on Syria at the last minute last year to punish chemical weapons strikes.
Critics at home and abroad warned that the decision left dangerous questions about whether Washington would stand up to "red lines" elsewhere in the world.
He also defended his decision to leave nearly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan for a year after combat troops leave at the end of this year, and to gradually reduce the presence to a detachment of troops at the U.S. embassy in Kabul by the end of 2016, just before he leaves office.
Meanwhile, Obama also warned that the United States was ready to respond to China's "aggression" but said that Washington should lead by example by ratifying a key treaty.
Obama said that the United States should shun isolationism and that its military must be prepared for crises. "Regional aggression that goes unchecked -- whether it's southern Ukraine, or the South China Sea, or anywhere else in the world -- will ultimately impact our allies, and could draw in our military," Obama said. But Obama emphasized caution on any decision to use force and said: "American influence is always stronger when we lead by example." "We can't try to resolve the problems in the South China Sea when we have refused to make sure that the Law of the Sea Convention is ratified by the United States -- despite the fact that our top military leaders say that the treaty advances our national security," Obama said, not naming China directly as he diverted from his prepared text.
"That's not leadership; that's retreat. That's not strength; that's weakness," Obama said. Senators of the rival Republican Party have refused to ratify the treaty, saying that the U.N. convention would override U.S. sovereignty. Tensions have been rising for months between China and its neighbors at sea, with Vietnam on Tuesday accusing Beijing of ramming and sinking one of its fishing boats in the South China Sea. Japan and the Philippines also have tense disputes at sea with China. Japanese commentators have voiced concern that the U.S. failure to prevent Russia from annexing Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March sent the wrong signal to China. In another reference to policy toward Asia, Obama again cited the democratic reforms in Myanmar as a success story.
The administration upon entering office in 2009 opened a dialogue with the then military-ruled nation earlier known as Burma, whose relations have improved with the United States have improved dramatically. "Progress there could be reversed. But if Burma succeeds, we will have gained a new partner without having fired a shot," Obama said.
Myanmar has freed political prisoners, eased censorship and welcomed foreign investors, but human rights groups have voiced alarm over violence against the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.
Source/Agence France Presse

Assad's re-Election Assured in War-Ravaged Syria
Naharnet /Syrian President Bashar Assad's is preparing for an inevitable re-election next week as the civil war shifts in the army's favor, with rebels losing ground and world powers paralyzed by divisions. A brutal three-year conflict that wrought destruction across the country and displaced millions, has left large swathes of territory in rebel hands. And the June 3 vote, in which Assad is seeking a third seven-year term, will only take place in regime-controlled areas. The main opposition has already dismissed Syria's first multi-candidate election as a "farce" after the regime ensured no upsets by barring exiles from standing and with candidates needing the endorsement of 35 MPs in the state-controlled parliament. The United States has called the vote a "parody of democracy." Candidates Maher al-Hajjar, an independent former communist MP, and Hassan al-Nouri, a businessman belonging to the tolerated opposition, are seen as token rivals giving the vote a veneer of credibility.
No candidate from the rebel ranks is running, in what is effectively the first presidential election in more than 50 years. Until now, like his father and predecessor Hafez, who ruled with an iron first from 1970 to 2000, Bashar secured his two previous mandates through a referendum.
"It is not about measuring popularity in a vote but to prove the power of the regime to force the country to demonstrate allegiance," said Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. In theory, all Syrians over the age of 17 are eligible to vote, including the seven million displaced within the country, but the reality is far more complicated, and dangerous. "The elections will take place in all the cities in Syria, with the exception of Raqa," which is the hands of powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the constitutional court's spokesman Majid al-Khadra told Agence France Presse.
By implication, there will be no polling stations in much of the countryside, notably northern and eastern Syria and around Damascus, or in areas of certain cities under rebel control, including Aleppo and Deir Ezzor. Fabrice Balanche, a French geographer who specializes in Syria, estimates that the vote will take place only 40 percent of the territory, where around 60 percent of the population live. Voting actually begins on Wednesday, when Syrian expats go to the polls at 39 embassies around the world, pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan reported on Tuesday, citing a foreign ministry source.
But of the estimated three million Syrians living abroad, whether as refugees or expatriates, only around 200,000 are able to vote.
"It's a relatively acceptable figure, if we bear in mind the fact that France, Germany and Belgium have banned Syrian citizens" from casting their ballots, Al-Watan said.
Much of the international community has criticized Damascus for holding an election with the civil war still raging. But staunch Damascus allies Russia and Iran are supporting the vote, and Tehran has said it will send election observers. The conflict began in March 2011 when the army suppressed a peaceful uprising, sparking a full-blown civil war that has killed more than 160,000 people, forced nearly half the population to flee their homes and shattered the economy.
Souhail Belhadj, author and academic at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, said "Bashar wants to prove that he is the political alternative and that he is able to restore order and legality, even if this legality is achieved through a non-democratic political process."  Events on the ground appear to working in Assad's favor, even if the army's gains remain limited. Infighting between rival jihadists, namely ISIL and Al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida's Syria affiliate, has killed about 4,000 people. Al-Nusra has been accepted as an ally by many rebels, undermining their support in the West. In the end, analysts say the election will not lead to any significant political changes. "The Assads have always been sticklers for superficial constitutional legitimacy, without ever conceding an inch of their absolute power," said Aron Lund, an expert on the conflict at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. Assad might perhaps make "some little gesture towards negotiations and compromise, for international consumption" and to show his supporters that he's got a realistic plan for the future.
Source/Agence France Presse

Polls Close in Egypt Presidential Election
Naharnet /Polls closed Wednesday in an Egyptian presidential election seen as a plebiscite on the ex-army chief frontrunner, after voting was extended when turnout fell below that won by the Islamist leader he deposed. Ballot counting has already begun, and preliminary results are expected overnight, with ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi certain to win an overwhelming majority against leftist rival Hamdeen Sabbahi. The move to extend polling for a day drew further criticisms of an election already marred by a deadly crackdown on supporters of deposed Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi.
An electoral official said on Tuesday that turnout was about 37 percent, well below the 52 percent of voters who cast their ballots in the 2012 election Morsi won. The low turnout came despite a personal appeal from retired field marshal Sisi, who had been seeking vindication for his July overthrow of Morsi, Egypt's only freely elected president, after a single turbulent year in power.
Sisi had urged "40, 45 (million) or even more" of Egypt's 53 million eligible voters to turn out to give credibility to an election boycotted by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and secular opposition groups. After reports of a meager numbers at polling stations on the first day of voting Monday, Sisi's backers in the state-run media appealed to people to go out and vote. An electoral official said polling had been extended to "give a chance to the largest possible number of voters to cast their ballots."On Wednesday, several Cairo polling stations visited by Agence France Presse were nearly deserted. "They didn't get enough votes, so they extended polling into a third day," complained filmmaker Mohamed Ali Hagar, who said he would stay away regardless. "The state is searching for votes," said a front-page headline of Al-Masry Al-Youm, a newspaper that usually backs Sisi. The extension of polling casts doubt on the vote's credibility, experts said.
It "raises more questions about the independence of the electoral commission, the impartiality of the government, and the integrity of Egypt's electoral process," said Democracy International, a U.S.-based observer mission. That echoed criticism from Sabbahi, who said on Tuesday that the extension raises "questions... about the integrity of the process". Sisi's campaign team too filed a complaint against the move, suggesting an extra day of polling might be a burden on voters. "On a national level, the state has argued that the roadmap is backed by a majority of Egyptian people," said Hisham Hellyar, associate fellow at The Royal United Services Institute, referring to the military-installed authorities' plan to return Egypt to elected rule. A very low turnout "would make the international position for Egypt difficult. People (the authorities) were making the argument that democracy is on the way," he said. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which had championed a boycott of the election, hailed the low turnout. "The great Egyptian people have given a new slap to the military coup's roadmap and... written the death certificate of the military coup," said its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party.
The Brotherhood has been subjected to a massive crackdown that has killed hundreds of its supporters and seen it designated a "terrorist" organisation. All of the movement's main leaders are now in jail or exile, and Morsi himself is being tried on charges that could carry the death penalty. Prominent activists behind the uprising that ousted long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011 had also called for a boycott, charging Sisi was a new autocrat in the making. Sisi's ouster of Morsi on July 3 last year triggered the worst peacetime bloodshed in Egypt's recent history, but the former army chief has vowed to stamp out the violence. He has said "true democracy" in the Arab world's most populous nation will take a couple of decades. Source/Agence France Presse

Mideast dialogue in need of Pope Francis’ blessing
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 /By: Yossi Mekelberg/Al Arabiya
Jesuit clergy are known for their exceptional communication skills. These skills were tested this week during Pope Francis’ visit to Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The selection of Pope Francis to replace Benedict XVI as the new leader of the Catholic Church was greeted with immense expectations for a new reformist Pope, who is more down to earth approachable and in touch with the church followers’ daily lives. In his fifteen months in office, he has succeeded thus far in fulfilling the majority of these expectations. A visit to the Middle East will always be tricky for the head of the Catholic world, despite the region being as much the cradle for Christianity as for Judaism and Islam. However, the number of followers of the Catholic Church in the Middle East are far and few between.
His three day visit to Jordan, Israel and with the Palestinian Authority came at a very delicate moment in an already fragile part of world. The peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians, in which religion is playing a significant part, is in tethers and religious extremism is ever-present across the region. A visit, especially at present, to the place which is host to holy places for all three monotheistic religions is highly symbolic. This required his holiness to use all of his diplomatic skills and charm. His message was one of peace and friendship, an important one in this volatile region. It has special importance for Christians as they are a minority in the region and are far from feeling secure. Despite a very courteous welcome in Israel by government and religious leaders, there were segments in Israeli society, especially among the ultraorthodox, that would rather not see such a visit taking place at all, for either religious or historical reasons.
“Taking the decision to be the first pontiff to fly directly to the West Bank and calling it the “the State of Palestine” was a clear and direct message to Israel”
Yossi Mekelberg
All papal international visits are driven by a high octane of symbolism, but none more than a visit to the Holy Land. Pope Francis managed to steer away from direct confrontation with his hosts, but did not avoid addressing major controversies. His gestures as much as his words expressed a strong will of the Catholic Church under his leadership to play an active role in bringing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a peaceful solution. Taking the decision to be the first pontiff to fly directly to the West Bank and calling it the “the State of Palestine” was a clear and direct message to Israel about the Holy See’s stand on the long overdue two-state solution and the Israeli occupation. He was adamant that the latest failure in the U.S. peace initiative should not act as a deterrent from continuing the efforts to bring peace. On the contrary, Francis insisted that, “there is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justice, on the recognition of rights for every individual, and on mutual security.” This position makes clear that he perceives the current situation as depriving many of justice and rights, and hence peace “must resolutely be pursued, even if each side has to make certain sacrifices.”
Boldest expression of his disapproval
Pope Francis’ boldest expression of his disapproval of the occupation was manifested in his decision to pray in front of the security wall just in front of graffiti saying “Free Palestine.”
This act, just before leaving the occupied Palestinian territories and starting his visit in Israel, was a powerful message against what the wall symbolizes. He was under no illusion that this gesture would displease his Israeli hosts, yet was still determined to carry it out. Israel usually tries on papal visits to avoid political confrontation with the Vatican and instead concentrates on improving their relationship with the Christian world and encouraging Christian religious tourism. For the Palestinian leadership, it is also an opportunity to promote this type of tourism. Nonetheless, considering the media attention paid to the Pope’s visit, it was also a great opportunity for President Abbas and other Palestinian officials to drive home their message of the intolerability of the absence of Palestinian self-determination and the damage caused by the constant expansion of Israeli settlements.
The relationship between the Holy See and the Jewish state has always been a delicate affair, considering the history of Jewish persecution at the hands of the Catholic Church, and especially its behavior during the Holocaust. Only 20 years ago, Israel and the Vatican established diplomatic relations, and since then it has been a long haul of a healing process. The visit is part of this step-by-step long road of reconciliation. Many Jewish people, especially from European origins, are still very suspicious of the Catholic Church and its true intentions. A group of extreme right-wing Jewish protesters expressed their feeling by causing disturbances at the King David’s Tomb complex in Jerusalem. They protested against Pope Francis’ visit to Israel in general, but also because they claim that Israel and the Vatican are edging closer towards an agreement that will transfer the control of the Cenacle in Jerusalem to the Holy See. It was denied by both the Vatican and Israel, but because the site is situated above David’s Tomb, it prompted protestations and provided an opportunity for those who were against this visit in the first place to make their feelings known. They were, however, a small minority compared with the majority in Israel that is either apathetic or passively skeptical towards a visit by foreign religious dignitaries, even if it is the pope himself.
Reconciliation towards the Jewish people
Counter balancing his visit to the separation wall with a last minute unscheduled stop at the Memorial to the Victims of Terror at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl would indicate the pope is aware of the complexity of the conflict, responsive to Israeli sensitivities and ready to find a suitable act to avoid a rift. Pope Francis’ visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the Holocaust, praying and honoring the victims and survivors, as did two of his predecessors, was another act of reconciliation towards the Jewish people. However, many would regard this more genuine if the pontiff will allow access to the Vatican’s archives from the Holocaust period, which would most probably reveal the extent of the Vatican’s knowledge about the Holocaust and when they received that information.
Beyond all the symbolism of Pope Francis’ visit to the Middle East, it also emerged that this particular religious leader has an ambition to play a part in the peace process. The visit, no doubt, contributed to strengthening relations with Palestinians and Israelis alike. Nevertheless, Francis’ invitation to host a prayer summit meeting at his apartment in the Vatican, for the Israeli and Palestinian presidents, signals that he might have an ambition to become involved as a peace broker where everyone else has thus far failed. The peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians seems desperate for some divine intervention, though even this might prove not to be enough for both sides to reach a peaceful end to their conflict.

Assad will not hand over the last of his WMDs
Wednesday, 28 May 2014
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/AlArabiya
The next few weeks and months could be decisive in destroying what remains of Syria's weapons of mass destruction. A quarter of the arsenal still remains with Assad and his regime wants to keep enough of that to threaten the world. On Tuesday, Syria’s state-run news agency reported an attempt to kidnap and murder international observers dispatched to oversee the removal of chemical arms. This might be an indication that the Syrian government is preparing to obstruct whatever is left of these observers’ mission. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s warehouses contain a lot of fatal chemical and biological weapons. There’s mustard gas from the remains of the world war, newly-manufactured gases like Sarin and the Botulinum toxin, a few drops of which are enough to poison an entire city. The regime also possesses biological weapons like Anthrax, developed bacteria that can cause epidemics from plague to cholera and viruses like Ebola. “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s warehouses contain a lot of fatal chemical and biological weapons”
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Last year, no one took the Syrian regime’s threat seriously when it first struck al-Ghouta in Damascus’ countryside using Sarin gas. The attack suffocated 1,500 people, mostly women and children.
Tough and dangerous mission
Since last October, international observers have been orchestrating the tough and dangerous mission of transferring whatever chemical weapons they come across outside the country. Observers think they have transferred most of Assad’s chemical arsenal - an arsenal no one knew existed before recent times. However, the small amount left isn’t really small per se - it’s enough to massacre hundreds of thousands of people. Furthermore, we are just talking about the stockpiles that have been discovered. The regime is certainly hiding other weapons in strategic stockpiles which can be used to impose a sweeping victory. It may use these weapons and then accuse al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or any other similar party it dragged into the war, of using them.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel bragged on Tuesday that the U.S. hasn’t lost its influence and importance. How so? He said the Syrian regime submissively approved to handing over its weapons of mass destruction out of fear of American threats. It’s true that the Syrian regime fears American power but it does not necessarily think this power will be used.
Proof to that is that it struck a deal but has been slow in implementing the agreement since it was signed last September. Perhaps Hagel doesn’t know that the Syrian regime exploited the chemical weapons’ crime in Ghouta to prolong its rule and buy more time to attain more manpower and weapons from its allies. The regime has also continued to use chlorine and mustard gas - even if in small amounts - ever since it made the deal to hand over its chemical weapons. Most importantly, it managed to use the chemical truce to strengthen its other destructive methods and it shifted from wallowing in defeat in certain areas to emerging victorious on some fronts, including in Ghouta and Homs. Doesn’t Hagel see that the Assad regime has benefited from chemical weapons as its rule has been prolonged and it is guaranteed protection from international backlash? Now we can all see that Assad’s regime will not hand over the last of its biological and chemical weapons without a large-scale war!

Why did Biden go to Cyprus?
By: Aylin Kocaman/Asharq Alawsat/on : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014
This question has been asked a lot this week. This is only the second time that a US vice president has visited Cyprus, after then-vice president Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit in 1962. So just what was US Vice President Joe Biden doing in Cyprus late last week?  We must discuss numerous things together whenever Cyprus is mentioned; there is always more than one answer to any question about the troubled island. Cyprus is very important for anyone analyzing the Middle East, Russia, the EU or the US. The southern half of the island is an EU member-state with close relations to Russia and newly discovered natural gas reserves. Northern Cyprus is under the “guarantorship” of Turkey, which is a US ally and NATO member state, and also the route for the flow of Israeli and Cypriot natural gas. A solution to the ongoing situation in Cyprus is therefore of direct concern to Russia, Syria, Israel, the EU and the US.
Following his arrival on the island, Biden said that he did not have a solution to the “Cyprus problem” in his back pocket. A solution to this problem had been before the two sides since February. Biden said his objective in visiting Cyprus was simply to send a message to “unblock” the stalled talks. But the subject of energy, of course, plays an important role in Washington’s sudden interest in Cyprus; Biden was accompanied by officials from the US Department of Energy. The EU is in the process of looking for new sources of energy following the events in Ukraine, and it has been looking to the Mediterranean as an alternative to Russia.
The real objective is not access to the limited natural gas in Cyprus, however. It is to prepare for the flow of natural gas located off the coasts of Israel and Lebanon into Europe. The only path for this vital energy corridor into Europe is through Turkey, via Cyprus. Due to newly discovered natural gas reserves on its own territory—not to mention the rise of shale gas production—the US has guaranteed its own energy requirements for the near future. So if the real issue is not energy, why is the US becoming involved in the Cyprus problem?
Elections are approaching in the US. Obama, who has adopted a moderate policy on the Middle East, has been accused of failing on a number of issues. When monitoring this region, which has been rocked by the troubles caused by the Arab Spring, one must take into account the changing balance of power in the Middle East. But many people are failing to do so, attributing failures in the Israel–Palestine peace process, the situation in Syria, and the Ukraine crisis and Russia, to President Obama.
There is no doubt that success in resolving the situation in Cyprus might perhaps alter the balance of power ahead of US midterm elections later this year, delight the Greek lobby in the US and please the EU.
Another reason is the crisis with Russia. The US is concerned by Russia’s efforts to expand its Eurasian Economic Union and its moves in Crimea. We must also not forget the role that Russia is playing regarding the situation in Syria—and Moscow could also seek to expand its presence in the Mediterranean in Cyprus. The Transatlantic Free Trade Area, planned through the unification of NAFTA and the EU, is also great important to the US at this point. The US wants Turkey to be part of this union in order to guarantee its dominance in the region. But Turkey is not an EU member-state, and the Cyprus question is one of the main obstacles to Turkish membership. Therefore, the US would like this problem to be resolved as soon as possible.
That is the position regarding the US but there are, of course, other dimensions to the Cyprus question.
While the US is pursuing these great aims, should we regard the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) imposing a record fine of 90 million euros on Turkey over what happened in 1974 as a blow to peace talks? What about the dozens of Turkish villages attacked by the Greek–Cypriot paramilitary group EOKA between 1963 and 1974, and the hundreds of people who were killed? What about “Bloody Christmas,” the period of unrest between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in December 1963 which saw many Turks killed? Turkey’s dereliction of duty lies in not having applied to the ECHR over these crimes against humanity. Turkey is paying the price for this neglect.
Let me remind readers that the Turkish half of Cyprus has been fighting for survival since 1963. Turkey has remained committed to Northern Cyprus over the past 51 years, not making even the slightest concession on the subject. Not even the prospect of EU membership—which is so important to Turkey—has been enough for Turkey to relinquish its commitment to Cyprus.
It would certainly be ideal for the pains of the past to be forgotten and for a union to be established with brotherhood, friendship and alliance, and for stability to be brought to the area. We have longed for this over the years. But if the US really wants a solution on Cyprus, it must forget about self-interest and develop the capacity to understand the Turkish side of the island, which has been fighting an existential battle for decades. This must be Washington’s priority if it wants to establish a meaningful, long-term influence on the island, as well as in Turkey and the rest of the Mediterranean, securing the much-needed energy pipelines to Europe.