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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

FYROM:Vergina Sun;UN:Palestinian state;Chechen militants;Russia-Serbia,NATO;Cyprus talks,Archbishop Chrysostomos II,Pope Benedict XVI

The Vergina Sun [Star of Vergina] is depicted on university diplomas awarded by a state-run university in the north-central part of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). According to the Skopje broadcaster, the symbol appears on the fours corners of the diploma issued by a university, which was established in 2007. This report comes a week after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) opened proceedings in a lawsuit filed by FYROM against Greece for allegedly violating a provision in a bilateral 1995 "interim agreement" not to block FYROM's membership in international organisations under its provisional name, i.e. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Greece countered the allegation that it did not veto FYROM's entry into NATO, while at the same time charging FYROM with violating the interim agreement with a series of provocations - using Hellenic symbols and historical figures. The Vergina Sun, now prominently associated with the ancient kingdom of Macedon, was brazenly featured on FYROM's flag between 1992 and 1995. One of the most significant provisions in the "interim agreement" was that the symbol be removed from the neophyte country's flag.

Israel informed the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council last week that if the Palestinian Authority persists in its efforts to gain recognition in September as a state within the 1967 borders, Israel would respond with a series of unilateral steps of its own. The Israeli diplomatic corps conveyed the message that support for international recognition, encouraged the Palestinians to forgo negotiations with Israel and to move more quickly toward recognition at the UN of Palestinian statehood. Israeli diplomats stressed that such a move violates the Oslo Accords and will not lead to a Palestinian state even if the General Assembly grants recognition, but could lead to violence on the ground.

Russian investigators on Tuesday accused Chechen militant leaders Doku Umarov and Aslan Byutukayev of organizing January's deadly blast at Moscow's Domodedovo airport. The attack killed 37 people and injured dozens more. Meanwhile, it was reported on Tuesday that both Umarov and Byutukayev may have been killed during recent fighting in the volatile North Caucasus region. On Monday, 17 militants were killed in an attack on a base in Ingushetia used by Islamist insurgents to train suicide bombers.

Russian Ambassador to Belgrade Alexander Konuzin said that if Serbia joins NATO, which it remains freed to join any organization it chooses, the alliance will want to then install long-range missiles in its territory. This, Russia may see as a threat to its own security. "We count that Belgrade will respect our thinking that entering NATO would represent a threat to Russia’s security,” the ambassador said adding that Russia would have to "take military measures to remove such threats. The measures would not be against Serbia, but against the missiles.”

President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu will meet on Wednesday morning in the framework of the UN-backed direct negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem. On March 23, President Christofias submitted a proposal for a population census in both communities that would be monitored by the United Nations. However, the Turkish oppose such a move. Christofias said, “If we do not know the numbers and how many Turks from mainland Turkey have the so-called citizenship of the Turkish Cypriot regime, we will not be able to get into the depth of the issue. We are ready, the UN has said it is ready to help towards this, but unfortunately, we have again problems with the Turkish Cypriot side." Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

The head of the Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, following a visit to the Vatican to meet his holiness Pope Benedict has asked the Pope to work "along with the powerful nations of Europe - Germany, Italy, France and Poland - who are also Catholic, in order to exert pressure on Turkey to terminate the pillage of our religious monuments in the occupied areas". The new "entente cordial" between Rome and the "old church" of Byzantium, marks a strategic shift in the foreign policy inside Cyprus, with its Government making alliances with Israel, and the church with Catholic dominated nations. There is a consensus that there must be bridge building in Europe with Roman Catholics, to lobby against the ongoing illegal occupation of the northern third of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkish troops. Bishop Porfyrios who is the Brussels based head of the Church of Cyprus to the EU said: "This is nothing other than an abuse of the freedom to religious expression, freedom of movement by Turkey against Cypriot and European citizens".

On the morning of Monday, March 28, Benedict XVI received in private audience Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Nea Giustiniana and All Cyprus. During the meeting they discussed, among other things, the situation facing Christians in the Middle East and the issue of religious freedom on the island of Cyprus. The Orthodox Primate of Cyprus then met Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State.