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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Michael's Morning 7 - 1 June

Strongly urging the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to increase the momentum in the United Nations-backed talks aimed at reunifying the divided island nation, the Security Council today extended through mid-December the world body’s long-running peacekeeping operation in Cyprus. By a vote of 14 in favour to 1 against (Turkey), the Council adopted resolution 1873 (2009), which stressed that there now existed a “rare opportunity to make decisive progress”, and reaffirmed the primary role of the United Nations in assisting the parties to bring the Cyprus conflict and the division of the island nation to a comprehensive and durable settlement. By the resolution adopted today, the Council welcomed the progress made so far in the fully fledged negotiations and the prospect of further progress in the near future, urging “full exploitation of this opportunity, including by intensifying the momentum of negotiations, improving the current atmosphere of trust and goodwill, and engaging in the process in a constructive and open manner”. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s intention to keep all peacekeeping operations, including those of UNFICYP, under close review, the Security Council requested him to submit a report on implementation of the current resolution, including on contingency planning in relation to the settlement, by 1 December 2009, and to keep the Council updated on events as necessary.

375 million people are eligible to vote for the EU Parliament this week, but only one half of them is expected to hit the polls - in an electoral system which is as intricate as the 27-member block is widespread. Each EU country continues to exercise its own voting procedures and has its own nominating process for choosing candidates. The only common aspect they share is proportional representation, which is mandatory in all member states. Differences, on the other hand, begin with the legal voting age. In Austria, for example, young people, who turn 16 years of age by election day, are entitled to vote. In all the other states, the minimum age is 18 years. Candidates in all but two countries must also be at least 18 years old, except in Cyprus and Italy, where the minimum age to be a parliamentarian is 25. All the eligible voters of EU countries can vote in any country they choose, regardless of whether they are a citizen of that country or not. That means a Dane can vote in Ireland, a German in the Netherlands, or a Greek in Spain. The EU member states could also not agree on a common election day. So, instead, they introduced an "election week," which, according to EU law, extends this year from Thursday, June 4 to Sunday, June 7. Essentially, there are 27 separate election campaigns going on for the European Parliament because of the different election systems and the lack of any pan-European list of candidates.

Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis will address Sunday an open election rally in the central Greek city of Lamia. While touring Igoumenitsa, NW Greece, on Saturday, he unleashed a fierce attack on the Socialist party (PASOK), blaming it for the blackmailing dilemmas it has posed. Karamanlis stressed that there is no room for blackmails and lambasted the main opposition party for being irresponsible. The Greek Premier accused PASOK of not joining the campaign against the financial crisis, saying that it is vying to take advantage of it to serve petty party expediencies. He also slammed the Socialist leader, George Papandreou deliberately distorting the truth and insulting the citizens, since his blackmailing dilemma dismissed the overwhelming majority of the Greek people as barbarians. Karamanlis stressed that PASOK is trying to convert its domestic worries into national ones, saying, "either they change or they sink," are indifferent to the nation's major problems, aiming to coming to power. "Their greed is known, their bombast is granted. However, the society and the people will not succumb to their blackmail," concluded Karamanlis.

The Russian ambassador has repeated that his country will continue to support Serbia's struggle to keep Kosovo in her fold. "This is because we respect principles of international law, and because Serbia is a close friend of Russia." The ambassador said an attempt was ongoing to forcibly take away Serbian territory, and described this as illegal and contrary to international law and UN Charter. "In the past period there was a systematic policy to take Kosovo away from Serbia. Just as in 1939 Czechoslovakia was stripped of a part of her territory, so the same states that participated in that arrangement are taking part in the snatching of Serbia's territory."

The United States is aware that Serbia will never recognize Kosovo and wants stability in the region. "for now" the U.S. and EU do not expect "Serbia to recognize Kosovo's independence", but added that it was "very difficult to say what will happen in the future. I think that message was about this moment. In the future, it is very hard to say what will happen. I think they know it's impossible for President Tadić to recognize an independent Kosovo." In fact, what's behind this message is, "Ok, you won't recognize Kosovo, but please, don't deepen the problem. All they want is to maintain stability in the region, they don’t wish to pile up problems any more, they want to secure peaceful coexistence of those people there. Therefore, when Serbia reaches the EU door, and perhaps Kosovo as well, things might change."

A CYPRIOT official says a leopard family at one of the Mediterranean island's zoos have moved to a South African game reserve. Limassol Mayor Andreas Christou says 19-year-old Leda and her 11-year-old offspring Roxanne and Rea were taken to the Shamwari Game Reserve by Born Free wildlife charity founder Virginia McKenna. Leda had lived at the Limassol zoo on Cyprus' south coast since arriving in 1994 from an Israeli zoo in Tel Aviv. She gave birth to Roxanne and Rea in 1998. Mr Christou said on Sunday that Cypriots were happy the leopards would enjoy the rest of their lives in a larger and more natural environment.

In a diminishing demographic trend, Christians make up only 2 percent of the total population of Jerusalem, according to the annual city statistics. The official number of Christians living in the city has remained relatively steady over the last decade, but the figure is substantially lower than half a century ago, due to increased emigration and low growth rates. Some 15,000 Christians live in Jerusalem, compared to 31,000 who lived in the city before the establishment of the state in 1948, the figures issued by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS) show. "The main fear of the church leadership is that local Christian communities will disappear. Even if the Christian population holds steady, their population rate in relative terms will continue to drop, due to low natural growth rates." The  Christian community in Jerusalem includes 4,500 Catholics, 3,500 Greek Orthodox, 1,500 Armenians and 850 Protestants, the figures show. In addition, about 2,600 Christian foreigners - mainly monks and clergymen - live in the city. In all, 150,000 Christians live in Israel. About two-thirds of the city's 760,000 residents are Jews, and a third are Arabs, with the Jewish growth rate 1.8 percent, compared to 3% for the Arabs last year. Based on current trends, Jerusalem will lose its Jewish majority by 2035.