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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-10-08

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


Wednesday, October 8, 1997

CONTENTS

  • [01] EU 'will honour commitment to Cyprus'
  • [02] Security talks disappoint Holbrooke
  • [03] Experts slam 'pseudo-byzantine' Stavrovouni extension plan
  • [04] Man of the moment outlines future of cruising
  • [05] Romantica flames put out
  • [06] Consul's outburst over treatment of Filipina maids
  • [07] Taxi driver held after stabbing
  • [08] Akel and Turkish Cypriot party agree yet disagree
  • [09] Bottled water withdrawn from market
  • [10] Cheese makers threaten lockout if milk prices go up
  • [11] Denktash denies opposition to national congress
  • [12] No pensions paid as 'ministry' runs out of cash

  • [01] EU 'will honour commitment to Cyprus'

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE EUROPEAN Union said yesterday it would start membership talks with Cyprus next year as planned regardless of Turkish objections.

    "The negotiations will open with Cyprus whatever the climate in the region, " said Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jacques Poos. "The European Union will stick to this commitment."

    Poos was speaking at a news conference in Luxembourg after an hour of talks with Cyprus Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides and EU foreign ministers.

    Luxembourg currently holds the EU presidency and Poos heads the EU's council of foreign ministers.

    Membership negotiations with Cyprus, along with five other Eastern European countries, are scheduled for March 1998.

    Cassoulides took the opportunity to repeat the government's invitation to Turkish Cypriots to participate in the EU process.

    "This invitation still stands, despite the fact that the first reaction of Mr Denktash was negative," Cassoulides told the news conference.

    Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash scuppered the last round of direct talks because of Cyprus's EU bid and has issued threats ever since.

    The EU has snubbed Turkey's requests for membership, but Poos said the next meeting of EU foreign ministers would consider inviting Turkey to a conference next February for aspiring EU members.

    Cassoulides said the government would not try and block this move.

    "We have no objections whatsoever to sitting at the same conference table as Turkey."

    [02] Security talks disappoint Holbrooke

    TOP US negotiator Richard Holbrooke has expressed his disappointment at the lack of progress in the recent security talks in Nicosia between President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    "I was pleased that the security talks took place, but disappointed that they did not make progress, and I just said I hoped they would resume in the future."

    Holbrooke was speaking from New York where he met President Clerides on Monday and held a working breakfast, attended by American businessmen, in his honour yesterday.

    Commenting about general progress on the Cyprus issue, Holbrooke said: "We don't see any movement by anybody. You all have to work that out. We are just here to help, but I have no reason to see that there has been any change in the situation."

    Holbrooke said he wouldn't visit Cyprus before he meets Denktash in Washington later this month.

    The US diplomat was also eager for American investors to be briefed by President Clerides on the situation in Cyprus and on financial opportunities.

    "I think most people do not understand how strong the Cyprus economy is. So this (meeting) is very useful," said Holbrooke.

    During the meeting 16 prominent US businessmen and journalists questioned Clerides about local banking systems and financial services.

    They were reassured that Cyprus followed international regulations on combating money-laundering.

    "I believe we have laid the foundation to enable American investment in Cyprus to flourish on the island and throughout the region," said Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou.

    Washington would like to encourage stronger trade links between both communities in Cyprus.

    "A rising tide can lift all ships. And the people in the region, Greek and Turks alike, should think very hard about ways they can improve their situation on mutual economic benefits," said Holbrooke.

    [03] Experts slam 'pseudo-byzantine' Stavrovouni extension plan

    By Bouli Hadjioannou

    EXTENSION work at Stavrovouni monastery has been approved by the authorities, but other experts yesterday slammed the project as damaging to one of island's most prized monuments.

    The Technical Chamber and POAK, the association for the protection of Cyprus' cultural heritage, told the House Environment Committee the Antiquities Department had bypassed the advice of a consultative committee when it agreed to a building permit.

    The decision for a building permit was given not on scientific, but on other reasons, they added.

    Deputies also heard that the Agriculture Ministry's Environmental Service had not been consulted. Had it been asked it would have voted against, because the project "radically changed the monument's character" an official said.

    There was a spirited defence from Bishop Chrysostomos of Kitium, government officials and the project's architects.

    They said procedures had been followed to the letter and architectural designs changed three times to protect the character of the monastery. Foreign experts were also brought in to check the geology of the rocky outcrop on which the centuries-old monastery stands, they said.

    Deputies were also told huge blasts from two quarries in the vicinity posed a direct threat to the monastery.

    At issue is work already under way to extend the south and west wings of Stavrovouni monastery - the oldest in Cyprus. The bishop said the changes were essential because of increased demands on the monastery.

    The monastery is an ancient monument, but enjoys a special status under the law because it belongs to the Church whose property cannot be expropriated.

    The issue was brought to the committee at the suggestion of POAK's Pevkios Georghiades. He criticised the project which he said damaged the character of the monument, but also the church's general approach to architectural issues.

    "Whereas the church opposes any change in the liturgy, it shows indifference on architectural issues," he said.

    Georghiades, an architect, spoke of pseudo-byzantine style, imported marble and other additions to church monuments totally alien to Cyprus' cultural heritage.

    On Stavrovouni, Georghiades said the two wings would encircle the monastery and distort its facade. Because of the rocky outcrop, parts of the building would be 10 to 15 metres high - equivalent to a five story block of flats.

    "It will radically change the whole appearance of one the most cherished monuments in Cyprus," Georghiades said.

    Government officials countered that a building permit was granted after clearance was given by all relevant bodies, including the Department of Antiquities. The latter insisted approval was given after changes were made to the designs.

    The Bishop was outspoken. He said experts could not insist on having their views adopted, but agreed to discuss changes - provided they did not affect work already carried out.

    The project's architects said the extension involved an eight-metre extension to the west, which would also result in reinforcing one wing which needed it. A destroyed Byzantine tower would be repaired in the process. Only local stone would be used, and aluminium and other alien elements already in place were being removed.

    [04] Man of the moment outlines future of cruising

    By Hamza Hendawi

    STEPPING into the limelight as a saviour, the owner of the Princessa Victoria basked in glory yesterday as he catalogued to hundreds of shipping executives the woes and future prospects of the cruising market.

    The old ladies of the sea, according to Costakis Loizou, president of Louis Cruise Lines, must make way for new ones in order to compete with new arrivals and keep up with the industry's change of focus.

    Loizou's liner, Princessa Victoria, rescued some 700 passengers and crew on Saturday after another Cyprus-flagged liner, the Romantica, caught fire and began to list south of the island. There were no casualties, but British press reports spoke extensively of scenes of panic during the evacuation.

    The rescue operation won praise from William O'Neal, head of the International Maritime Organisation - the world's top shipping regulatory body - in an address he gave on Monday at the inaugural session of a three- day international shipping conference in Nicosia. Other speakers also praised the rescue operation, but the age of the Romantica came up and was cited as characteristic of the ills plaguing the industry.

    The cruise ship was built in Hamburg, Germany, in 1939 and was used as a hospital ship for German troops during World War II.

    Hints that the Romantica's old age might have had something to do with Saturday's disaster surfaced at a time when the Cyprus Shipping Register came under attack by several speakers who complained of the poor quality of some ships flying the Cyprus flag and the poor training of their crews.

    Of the world's estimated 43,000 vessels, 2,700 fly the Cyprus flag, making it the world's fifth biggest fleet.

    Government officials, however, defended the Cyprus Register and renewed pledges to tighten supervision of Cyprus-flagged ships and administer the fleet more efficiently.

    "Our task has been to enhance the reputation of the Cyprus flag and, believe me ladies and gentlemen, we are working very hard at it," said Klaus Oldendoreff, chairman of NORD, a Limassol-based shipping company, and a pillar of the shipping community on the island.

    "The Cyprus shipping industry has matured and obtained international recognition," he told the conference, Maritime Cyprus 1997, yesterday.

    "Cyprus is not the best place in the world to own and operate ships from, but it is certainly one of the best."

    Loizou's acknowledgment yesterday of the appreciation expressed on Monday for the rescue operation undertaken by the Princessa Victoria won him warm applause from the estimated 1,000 delegates, who applauded him again at the end of his address.

    He told the conference that demand for cruises was expected to increase, but that the supply of new berths would be greater. Regional wars and political instability, he added, would continue to have a negative impact on bookings.

    A total of seven million people worldwide will take a cruise this year on the 240 cruise ships plying the seas, he said. They will visit more than 500 ports, of which 115 are in the Mediterranean and 145 in northern Europe.

    The cruise industry, he said, was growing by about 10 per cent every year, but its share of the global tourism industry was worth only $12 billion or just 2.8 per cent.

    Forecasting changes in the industry in the remainder of the 1990s and into the 21st century, Loizou said: "The cruise fleet in the European waters will be replaced by younger tonnage especially as we get closer to 2005 when, due to IMO regulations, older ships that cannot meet the safety standards will disappear from the market.

    "We are going to see more activities and sports on board, more casual atmosphere. Cruising has long been an adult activity, but this is about to change especially with Disney coming into the cruise market."

    Loizou also spoke of the arrival on the cruise scene of giant British tour operators Thomson and AirTours and the mergers of some cruise ship operators as evidence of more competition.

    Referring to the opening in 1999 of "Greek seas" to European Union flags, he said the high operational costs of Greek cruise ships might be reduced if they were to use other EU flags.

    [05] Romantica flames put out

    By Jean Christou

    THE LAST flames aboard the gutted cruise ship Romantica were extinguished by yesterday afternoon, police said.

    Fire experts boarded the vessel anchored some 200 metres off Limassol port yesterday morning and extinguished several pockets of flame in its interior. Tons of water must now be pumped from the ship.

    Police spokesman Stelios Neophytou said investigators should be able to board the Romantica to begin their probe into how the fire started in the engine room on the morning of October 4, forcing the evacuation of some 700 passengers and crew.

    In the meantime, he said, statements were still being taken from the Romantica's 186-member crew.

    A round-the-clock operation was mounted to fight the smouldering flames on the Romantica after it was slowly tugged to Limassol port in the early hours of Monday.

    The ship had been 60 nautical miles off the south coast when it ran into trouble.

    All 673 passengers and crew aboard the Romantica were evacuated on to the Louis-owned Princessa Victoria without any reported injuries.

    A statement was issued yesterday by MED Duchess Lines Ltd, the owners of the Romantica, which was operated by New Paradise Tours.

    The statement announced "with regret" the "unfortunate accident" to the cruise vessel which was caused by extensive fire.

    The company said that at 5.45am the owners received the first message that a fire had broken out in the engine room. "Distress signals were sent out at the same time."

    It said the master and crew then activated the shipboard emergency plan to contain and extinguish the fire but attempts failed.

    They then evaluated the situation and decided to evacuate all passengers to the Princessa Victoria which had already answered the distress call. It had been 12 miles behind the Romantica.

    "By 7.43am when it was apparent that the fire became uncontrollable the remaining crew members and fire squads were evacuated, the Master, Chief Engineer, staff Captain, staff engineer and Chief Electrician being the last to leave the vessel," the statement said.

    "All efforts were made to obtain assistance from the Cyprus maritime and police authorities, the British bases and a local salvage company". Help was "readily rendered," the statement added.

    The company said it was too early for a final assessment, but it could already conclude that the evacuation of the passengers was carried out "very professionally and at no time were passengers at risk, nor was there a situation of panic or confusion among the passengers or crew".

    "It goes without saying that such an operation can only succeed when the crew involved are properly trained and the equipment used is fully operational and up to the required safety standards," the company said.

    The Romantica came under heavy fire after passengers' complaints raised questions about its seaworthiness.

    The 58-year old 298-cabin Romantica, built in Hamburg, had only recently been fully refurbished. The ship was insured with Lloyds for $4 million.

    During a voyage in August after being revamped, the Romantica's departure from Piraeus was delayed by a host of shellfish blocking the outlet pipes of the toilets on the lower decks.

    [06] Consul's outburst over treatment of Filipina maids

    By Jean Christou

    JUDGES must exercise caution when dealing with police statements in court, a Nicosia lawyer warned yesterday.

    "Judges have to be wary of what police are saying. They don't always present the real facts," said Yiannis Erotokritou.

    Erotokritou, who is also the Philippines Consul, was referring to the recent arrest of a Filipina housemaid for theft.

    Lolita Bebibble, 32, was arrested on September 29 after her taxi-driver boyfriend Charalambos Georgiades accused her of stealing 200 from his pocket while he was out on a job.

    Bebibble was taken to court the next day and remanded for three days after making a statement to police.

    However, she was released on October 1 after Georgiades told police she had not stolen the money after all. Georgiades was then arrested and is under a four-day remand on suspicion of making false statements to police.

    "When she was arrested she was persuaded by the police and the taxi driver that it was better to admit she had stolen the money because she would not be arrested and sent home to the Philippines," Erotokritou said.

    "She made the statement because she was afraid, like all the girls. But after she made the statement to police, they arrested her anyway."

    Erotokritou added Lolita had been pushed into making a statement even before an interpreter arrived at the police station.

    When she spoke to the interpreter, she gave her side of the story, but police told her she could not change her statement at that stage, Erotokritou said.

    "There is a question mark over the actions of the police," he said.

    Since her release, Lolita's employer, a French diplomat, has refused to give her back her job. "She cannot find work because no one will have her now and she runs the risk of being sent back. The poor girl has lost her job and has been slandered," he said.

    "Who is going to answer for this? Not the police, who hurried through the enquiry to get a remand. This case was not well investigated and it was all put before a judge just to issue a remand. What was their hurry for the sake of 200?"

    He added: "It's about time the courts were more wary of the information put in front of them by the police. They should not believe whatever they say. How can we trust the police when we have reached the stage when they are the ones we need protection from?"

    Erotokritou said he was seriously thinking of looking into the possibility of taking legal steps against Georgiades and the police.

    In a separate incident, Erotokritou said another Filipina housemaid was in danger of being thrown out of Cyprus because her British employers allegedly refused to pay her medical expenses, for which they are clearly responsible under her contract.

    Maria Carmelita Caisip, 35, came to Cyprus two years ago and was working for a British couple.

    She claims a benign lump developed from a bruise on her left breast after the couple's two-year old son accidentally kicked her last November while she was putting on his shoes.

    The bruise has since developed into a lump which now has to be operated upon.

    Caisip said her employers wanted her to go back to the Philippines to have the operation and then return to their employ. She feared not being allowed to return and left the house on September 26 to go to the Consul for advice, but did not return home.

    A letter from her employers to the immigration department on September 29 said she had left the house without notice which was a "clear breach of contract".

    The letter said the employers were not willing to release Caisip to find a new job on the island. She says she cannot afford the operation in the Philippines with four children to support.

    "She can't go to the hospital here because she is not covered, even though the government receives millions in social insurance for these housemaids," Erotokritou said.

    He added that without a proper investigation as to why she had left her employment, Caisip would simply be thrown out.

    But he added even when there was an investigation, the authorities always believed the employers.

    "This exposes us as a society. What is the government offering to these foreigners? If we don't want foreigners, don't let them come. If we do, we have to respect their rights."

    [07] Taxi driver held after stabbing

    By Martin Hellicar

    A TAXI driver has been remanded in custody for four days on suspicion of knifing another man outside a Larnaca taverna in the early hours yesterday.

    Larnaca District Court heard that 47-year-old Vasilios Stamatiou, a Greek national living in Larnaca with his Cypriot wife, seriously injured 40-year- old Georgios Kyriacou Kkatsiou, known as Mantis, from Larnaca.

    The court heard that Stamatiou and Mantis got into an argument at a tavern in the early hours and had to be pulled apart by other customers. The two men left that taverna but ran into each other again later outside another restaurant, the court heard.

    Investigating officer Theodoros Sergiou said Mantis had a blazing row with his girlfriend at the second taverna and began hitting her. Other customers intervened and Mantis stormed out of the establishment only to run into Stamatiou outside, Sergiou stated.

    Mantis then allegedly assaulted Stamatiou, kicking and punching him. Stamatiou managed to get away and went to his cab where he picked up a diving knife and, returning to the scene, stabbed Mantis in the stomach, Sergiou said.

    The knife attack was apparently witnessed by a number of bystanders.

    Mantis was rushed to Larnaca hospital where he had to undergo emergency surgery. He was in a stable condition yesterday evening.

    Stamatiou was arrested just after 7am.

    Sergiou told the court Mantis's behaviour had been "highly provocative" towards Stamatiou and a warrant for his arrest had been issued.

    [08] Akel and Turkish Cypriot party agree yet disagree

    By Martin Hellicar

    AKEL AND the Republican Turkish Party profess common goals in the search for a Cyprus settlement, but cannot agree on the specifics of how to arrive there.

    The two left-wing parties are similarly united and yet divided on the issue of Cyprus's EU accession course.

    A representation from the Turkish Cypriot party, headed by party leader Mehmet Ali Talat, met with Akel members at the Cypriot party's Nicosia offices yesterday morning to discuss the Cyprus problem and EU accession.

    In statements made afterwards, Talat said both parties agreed that Cyprus should join the EU, and that a federal solution based on UN resolutions was what was best for the island. But agreement on specifics was not achieved.

    Talat said he came to no agreement with Akel on a formula for Turkish Cypriot participation in EU accession talks. He described the Cyprus government's proposal for Turkish Cypriot participation as "non-serious". He said it would be "unjust" for Turkish Cypriots to be involved only as observers and not as negotiators, as the government has suggested.

    The last round of UN-led Cyprus settlement talks collapsed when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said Cyprus' entry talks had to be frozen before he would return to the negotiating table. Turkey has threatened parallel integration with the occupied areas if Cyprus is admitted to the EU.

    But Talat went against the flow by saying Turkey's own aspirations for EU entry would be aided by Cyprus joining. He said his party believed Turkey would join the EU after Cyprus, but added that Cyprus should not join before a settlement.

    He also said the blame for the collapse of the settlement talks had to be shared equally by the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides, as neither had shifted from its established position.

    Akel and the Republican Turkish Party agreed more rapprochement between the two sides was necessary. They also arrived at the mutual conclusion that no progress had been made towards a solution and that the prospect of a permanent division on the island loomed larger then ever.

    [09] Bottled water withdrawn from market

    A BATCH of bottled water was recently withdrawn from the market as unsuitable and operation of the bottling plant concerned has been suspended.

    "The operator has cancelled his production until he manages to sort out his recurring problems," Chief Health Inspector Lakis Anthousis said yesterday.

    Anthousis did not name the brand involved, but said consumers had not been put at risk because the unsuitable water had been withdrawn before it got to shop-shelves.

    "He (the producer concerned) only bottles water periodically and always gets us to check it before he markets it," the official said.

    "He has had various problems with different batches but always ceases production when a problem crops up," Anthousis said.

    He did not specify what the latest problem had been, but newspaper reports suggested water had been found with fungi and detergent residues.

    The Health Ministry checks all bottled waters on the market on a monthly basis and also tests the water sources used at similar intervals.

    [10] Cheese makers threaten lockout if milk prices go up

    CHEESE manufacturers are threatening to stage a three-day lockout if a proposed increase in the price of milk goes ahead. Under the lockout, cheese bosses would permit no milk to be delivered to cheese factories.

    The possibility of a milk price increase has been under discussion for some time. The milk producers association has asked for a four cent increase per litre, which would hike the current 35 cent price to 39 cents, while the price advisory commission has suggested an increase of 1.5 cents. But the cheese producers say they will only buy milk at the current price.

    No official decision will be made until tomorrow at the earliest, however, as the matter is now in the hands of the Commerce Ministry and Minister Kyriacos Christofi, who is returning from abroad today. The eventual decision is expected in Friday's government gazette.

    [11] Denktash denies opposition to national congress

    PAPERS in the occupied areas yesterday said Turkish Cypriot Leader Rauf Denktash has denied reports that Turkish Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Onur Oymen had declared Turkey's opposition to Denktash's plans for a national congress.

    The reports said that in a written statement, Dentash had expressed his "amazement" at the reports published in Yeniduzen on Monday.

    The paper had quoted Oymen as saying that the formation of a "national congress" would "split the Turkish Cypriot people and could be harmful."

    [12] No pensions paid as 'ministry' runs out of cash

    TURKISH Cypriot pensioners are calling for the resignation of 'Housing and Labour Minister' Ali Ozkan Altinisik over the failure to receive their pensions one week into the new month.

    According to Turkish Cypriot press reports, many had been without money over the weekend and queued for hours at banks on Monday before being refused cash.

    Turkish Cypriot daily Yeniduzen quoted Altinisik as berating the banks for refusing to pay the pensioners. He conceded, however, that his department had not managed to find enough money to pay all 15,000 pensioners, but added he would take the issue up with the 'council of ministers'.

    Earlier press reports said the 'department of social insurance' was on the verge of bankruptcy and was owed over 10,000 billion Turkish Lira by the 'state'.

    © Copyright 1997 Cyprus Mail

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