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Cypriot report Cypriot report
by Euro Reporter
2014-10-04 08:15:02
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More Tornados to join Iraq mission says Cameron on visit to Cyprus airbase

David Cameron has flown to the RAF base in Akrotiri, Cyprus, from which British pilots are launching air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) targets in Iraq, announcing that he was to send a further two Tornado GR4 planes to supplement the six currently operating. The prime minister also disclosed that, as the Guardian revealed on Thursday, the RAF 2 squadron based in Cyprus is to operate for longer than April next year, the date they were due to be replaced. The decision represents a minor triumph for the air force, which has been arguing about the importance of air power in conflicts in the Middle East. Tornados brought into service in 1991 during the first Gulf war are due to be disbanded by 2019 in a staged process, but some squadrons due to be taken out of service earlier are now to be reprieved. A new class of Eurofighter Typhoon is to replace the current fleet, but the new class is not yet able to load Brimstone missiles effective against small- and medium-sized targets such as Isis vehicles.

Britain is believed to be considering whether to help train the moderate Syrian opposition, a plan proposed by former chief of defence staff Lord Richards before he retired last year but previously rejected by ministers. Strengthening Syrian forces allied to the moderate opposition, as well as Iraqi troops, is seen as a vital step towards defeating Isis, and to this end the government is planning to send British troops to train the Iraqi army. It is unclear whether they will be trained in Iraq or neighbouring countries such as Jordan, or the Gulf states. A small number of British military personnel are already on the ground in northern Iraq supporting Kurdish peshmerga. Cameron’s decision to fly to the airbase suggests he believes the campaign is not likely to end soon. He said he had come to Cyprus to thank the pilots personally for the dangerous work they were undertaking, and went on: “Less than a week into combat operations in Iraq, I wanted to come here to thank our troops for the vital work they’re doing to defeat these barbaric Isil terrorists who threaten security not just in Iraq, Syria and the region, but on the streets of Britain too.”

The air strikes by US and UK aircraft are understood to have forced a change of behaviour in Isis fighters, who now have much less freedom of movement. However, intelligence gathering on Isis has shown they are extremely well-organised, with their own shura – or councils of elders – regional governors, and welfare networks. Britain currently has seven combat capable air squadrons compared with the 15 the French air force has. The RAF had 30 combat squadrons at the time of the first Gulf war, and for years has been protesting its contribution to military conflicts in uncontested air space is invaluable. The ageing Tornados – some older than 30 years – have flown as many as 30 surveillance operations over Iraq since mid-August, but were only given political clearance to launch air strikes against Isis forces, mainly in northern Iraq, after MPs voted a week ago for the use of force so long as it does not extend to Syria. The RAF has so far launched strikes on four sorties against Isis assets such as pickup trucks, normally on the advice of Kurdish forces on the ground. The planes may be old, but they are equipped with modern radar and infra-red sights capable of giving highly detailed information on targets.

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Refugees rescued by cruise liner reluctantly disembark in Cyprus

Hundreds of mostly Syrian refugees rescued by a cruise liner in the Mediterranean disembarked in Cyprus on Friday, after hours of refusing to move and demanding to go to Italy. On Thursday, 345 migrants, mainly women and children, had been plucked from a boat in trouble off the coast of Cyprus by the cruise ship. Approximately 700 paying passengers disembarked from the liner at the port of Limassol, police said, but only 65 of those rescued at sea initially left the ship. The others refused to disembark, the shipping company said. The situation was resolved shortly before dawn on Friday after police entered the vessel to talk to the remaining refugees, who finally agreed to leave, according to Marinos Papadopoulos, an interior ministry official.

“Everything went calmly,” he said. The refugees were to be taken by bus to a camp near Nicosia where they would be able to shower, get clean clothes and rest, according to the Red Cross. The cruise ship had answered a distress signal from a trawler sailing 50 nautical miles off the Cyprus coast in poor weather conditions, the Cyprus defence ministry said. The liner had been en route from the Greek island of Syros to Limassol when it received a call to assist in the rescue operation. The Mediterranean has been plagued by shipwrecks in recent months involving migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

The UN high commissioner for refugees says more than 2,500 people have drowned or been reported lost at sea this year trying to cross the Mediterranean. In one of the deadliest wrecks on record, a ship carrying about 500 migrants – including Syrians, Palestinians and Egyptians – was deliberately sunk by traffickers off Malta earlier this month, leaving just 10 known survivors. Cyprus is 62 miles from the shores of war-ravaged Syria.

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Jobs on the rise

With a rising trend in job placement advertisements, one would think that Cyprus has overcome its economic crisis and that unemployment levels were falling. However, that is far from reality with the national jobless rate stubbornly above the 15% threshold, but with some hope for optimism. The latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) showed that in monthly seasonally adjusted figures, unemployment decreased marginally from 15.9% in May 2013 to 15.3% in May 2014. “We are still not out of the crisis,” said Michalis Antoniou, Deputy Director General of the Employers and Industrialists Federation, OEV.

“What we can say for sure is that there is a clear drop in the rate of rise in unemployment. In other words, things seem to have stabilised. There are many other indicators that will determine a drop in the jobless rate and a rise in employment levels,” he said. Vacancy ads in recent weeks have included mainly junior and mid-level accountants, lawyers, office administration, as well as the usual dose of franchise operators expanding and seeking to vertically integrate their stores, either retail outlets for clothing or food chains. But what caught our eye was the advisory firm MAP S.Platis that has been advertising for 14 jobs, a number unheard of for any employer, even in the good old days of high employment levels. This is an indication that the firm that turned Cyprus into a hub for forex firms continues to grow despite the economic crisis.

“We have obtained licenses for 85 Cyprus Investment Firms since 2006, including the industry’s bigger names whilst we expect some more licenses before year-end – also a couple of big names,” said Dr. Stelios Platis Managing Director of the firm. “Our financial services advisory team is today one of Europe’s largest team of experts on European financial services legislation and especially on forex,” he added. The MAP S.Platis Group currently employs more than 65 people in Limassol and Nicosia, of whom nine have come aboard within the past 12 months. “We are currently looking for people with experience in forex and/or financial services with emphasis on compliance, as well as first-class graduates to enter our 3-year management training programme. We are also looking for experienced as well as junior lawyers and accountants,” said Stelios Platis


         
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