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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-10-15

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, October 15, 1997


  • [01] Turk warplanes fly armed over Cyprus
  • [02] German police find stolen Cyprus church treasure
  • [03] Kyprianou hails Nikiforos as the best yet
  • [04] Greek fighter jets fly low over British base
  • [05] Bases evacuation report "complete fiction"
  • [06] Simitis and Clerides expect "important developments"
  • [07] Romantica blaze in the parliamentary spotlight
  • [08] Man held after suspected strangling
  • [09] Second Kilani suspect released
  • [10] Palestinian bomber on hunger strike again
  • [11] 1998 growth at 4 per cent?
  • [12] New challenge to HTI appointment
  • [13] Compulsory work insurance
  • [14] Petrol stations in island-wide strike on Monday
  • [15] Swedish foreign minister in Cyprus talks
  • [16] Royal thank you for Diana letters

  • [01] Turk warplanes fly armed over Cyprus

    By Martin Hellicar

    TURKISH warplanes have begun flying over Cyprus with live ammunition for the first time in 10 months.

    The Turkish mainland press said the armed flights were in retaliation for Greece's participation in the Nikiforos military exercises with the Cyprus National Guard.

    The Sabah daily said Turkish F-16s had broken an agreement made with Washington last year not to fly armed over Cyprus because of the increased tension with Greece.

    Turkish warplanes in the eastern Mediterranean have been flying with "defence systems as well as rockets with warheads" since the weekend, Sabah stated.

    Other Turkish dailies carried the same reports.

    An official at Turkish military headquarters said he was unaware of a change in flight rules. "I have no knowledge of that," the official said.

    Greece and Cyprus yesterday insisted they would continue to hold joint military exercises and boost Nicosia's defence capability as long as Turkey kept its occupation forces on the island.

    "As long as the Turkish threat exists, the exercises and the armaments will continue," President Clerides told reporters in Athens after talks with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    Greek planes and navy ships took part in an exercise with Cypriot forces for the first time on Sunday.

    Athens has said any Turkish military move on the island would mean war with Greece.

    "We back Cyprus's decision to take the necessary measures for its defence. Turkey must realise that unless there is a just solution to the Cyprus problem, relations with Greece can't be fully normalised," Simitis said.

    Meanwhile, Greece yesterday said it would protest to Turkey over the buzzing by its warplanes of a Greek air force Hercules C-130 flying Greek Defence Minister Akis Tzohatzopoulos to Cyprus on Monday.

    "The Greek ambassador will go to the Turkish Foreign ministry in Ankara to lodge a protest," Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said in Athens.

    Greece is also to call in the ambassadors of its EU allies in Athens and the acting US ambassador to brief them on what it says have been massive air space violations by Turkish warplanes since Sunday.

    Greece complained of more intrusions yesterday as the five-day Nikiforos military exercise in and around Cyprus - seen as the catalyst for the violations - concluded.

    Britain said yesterday it was concerned about Greek and Turkish military flights over Cyprus.

    "I expressed my concern at the air movements which are currently taking place in Cyprus," British minister of state for Europe, Douglas Henderson, told reporters after meeting Turkish officials in Ankara.

    "I believe they are destabilising and dangerous incidents which, if they go wrong, could cause havoc," he said.

    "A similar communication has been sent to the Greek government today from my London office," Henderson said.

    On Sunday, Cyprus complained that two Turkish F-16s had flown over Paphos to engage in mock combat with Greek Corsair bombers participating in the Nikiforos exercise.

    The Cyprus government has already protested to the United Nations over violations of the Athens and Nicosia Flight Information Regions (FIR) and of Cyprus air-space by Turkish fighter jets on Sunday.

    The Turkish Foreign Ministry has denied any intrusions and said the buzzing incident did not take place.

    Reppas said the "density and intensity of the violations show that it was a political choice."

    "It shows (Turkey) has not chosen the road to co-operation with Greece," Reppas said.

    In total, Greece and Cyprus are claiming over 100 violations of the Athens and Nicosia FIRs by Turkish jets, 30 of these occurring yesterday.

    Greece said the intruding Turkish warplanes - including the two F-16 warplanes which "harassed" Tzohatzopoulos's carrier - had been seen off by Greek Air Force jets.

    Turkish Cabinet Minister Sukru Sina Gurel retorted by warning that the Greek side was playing a "very dangerous game".

    "They are playing with fire. When the tension rises and military shows are being carried out... there is the possibility an accident may occur which can lead to a clash," Gurel said in Ankara.

    Turkey said yesterday it would hold war games in Cyprus after the Nikiforos military exercise. "I don't know the exact details but we will have our own manoeuvres after the Greek-Cypriot exercises," Turkey's Anatolian news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit as saying during a visit to Sweden.

    Turkey and Turkish Cypriot forces carry out joint military exercises in occupied northern Cyprus every autumn.

    [02] German police find stolen Cyprus church treasure

    By Charlie Charalambous

    GERMAN police have uncovered a multi-million pound stash of Byzantine art works stolen from Cyprus churches in the occupied areas.

    Bavarian state police said yesterday they had tracked down £20 million worth of Byzantine treasures following a tip-off from Cypriot security services.

    The information led German police to two apartments in Munich where they discovered a hoard of religious icons including ornate frescoes and mosaics plundered from Greek Orthodox churches after the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    According to reports the priceless relics were stolen from Antifoniti monastery in Kyrenia and Panayia tis Kanakarias in Karpassia.

    The church fought a long and hard legal battle to regain stolen mosaics from Panayia tis Kanakarias several years ago.

    A German police spokesman said that a 60-year-old Turkish art dealer, a Munich resident, had been arrested on charges of trading in stolen artifacts.

    Some of the stolen items have been carried for years on Unesco's list of world culture items, said German police.

    Experts estimate that one of the mosaics, a 16th century depiction of St Thomas, is alone worth £4.3 million.

    It is believed the Turk, whose name has not been released, has operated an international trade in religious booty for some time.

    German police said they searched two homes belonging to the Turk, who calls himself an archaeologist, and found 14 cases and packages containing the pillaged works. They were hidden in a cellar and attic.

    The suspect faces up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted of dealing in stolen art treasures.

    German authorities said the religious works would be returned to the Greek Orthodox church in Cyprus once the man's trial was over.

    [03] Kyprianou hails Nikiforos as the best yet

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE LAST phase of the Nikiforos exercises with the participation of Greek jets and parachutists ended days of heightened tension in the region.

    Two Greek A7 Corsair bombers and two F-16 fighters overflew the exercise area and attacked mock land targets.

    The scenario on the ground involved National Guard tanks, armoured personnel vehicles and live ammunition.

    Combined air, land and sea forces were taking part in war games along the Larnaca coast.

    Acting president Spyros Kyprianou, Defence Minister Costas Eliades and his Greek counterpart Akis Tzohatzopoulos were among the dignitaries watching the exercise.

    Kyprianou described the exercise as "exceptional and the best to date".

    He said Nikiforos '97 also confirmed the success of the joint defence pact in reality.

    But Kyprianou made it clear the government was seeking a peaceful solution to the island's problems while at the same time needing to defend itself.

    "Neither Greece nor Cyprus threaten anyone. Neither do we wish to threaten anyone. We aim for a peaceful solution to our problems."

    Tzohatzopoulos said the exercise proved that Cyprus with the help of Greece was able to respond to any threat or provocation.

    [04] Greek fighter jets fly low over British base

    TWO GREEK military aircraft flew low over the sovereign British base of Episkopi around midday yesterday during the wrap-up of Cyprus' annual Nikiforos exercises.

    The bases authorities are looking into the matter, spokesman Mervyn Wynne- Jones said.

    "What we believe were two F-16 aircraft flew past Episkopi in the late morning," Wynne-Jones said.

    "The bases authorities are looking into the matter, but understand that it is not usual for military aircraft to fly this low or so close to the garrison."

    Under the 1960 Treaty of Establishment the bases are allowed to carry out military exercises in the Republic for up to 90 days a year.

    It is unclear what the position is in reverse, but in yesterday's incident it was Greek and not Cypriot military which flew over the bases.

    [05] Bases evacuation report "complete fiction"

    THE British bases have blasted a Logos news report about the "evacuation" of Dhekelia Garrison as deliberate scaremongering.

    A Logos TV news broadcast on Monday implied that British army personnel were on the move from Dhekelia to Akrotiri because of rising tensions on the island with the Nikiforos exercises.

    As a result, the British High Commission made an informal approach to Logos yesterday asking why the station had not contacted them to establish the truth.

    The report caused such concern at British base headquarters that it issued a terse statement describing the news item as "nonsense".

    "The Logos broadcast was a work of complete fiction. This was sensational and irresponsible journalism with the clear intention of scaremongering," said the statement released yesterday.

    British forces PR men were also unhappy that Logos failed to contact them to confirm the story.

    Bases spokesman Mervyn Wynne Jones dismissed any suggestion that an evacuation plan was in progress and rubbished the broadcast as a "complete flight of fancy".

    He said the bases tried to cultivate good relations with all media outlets, but "Logos seldom approach us".

    Wynne Jones was worried that such groundless stories spread undue worry and concern among people living in Cyprus.

    [06] Simitis and Clerides expect "important developments"

    THE LEADERS of Cyprus and Greece yesterday reaffirmed their commitment to a Cyprus solution based around United Nations resolutions as well as to the island's European Union accession.

    Speaking to the press after their working lunch in Athens, President Glafcos Clerides and Greek Premier Costas Simitis said that "important developments" were on the cards for Cyprus over the coming months, especially in regard to the EU accession.

    Clerides also repeated that Cyprus would be willing to reconsider measures to boost its defences if his proposal for demilitarisation were to be accepted by the Turkish side.

    He thanked Simitis for his country's continued support and expressed particular gratitude to the Greek Air Force for its participation in the Nikiforos '97 military exercises.

    The meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, Government Spokesman Manolis Christofides, Cypriot Under-Secretary Pantelis Kouros and Cyprus' Ambassador to Greece Charalambos Christoforou.

    Earlier in the day, Clerides briefed seven Ambassadors of EU members and candidate states on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem and the island's EU accession course as well as his meetings in New York Strasbourg and Berlin.

    Clerides included in his briefing details of the violations of Cyprus' Air Space by Turkish fighter jets and spoke of Turkish Cypriot Leader Rauf Denktash's statements that "all doors for a solution are closed."

    [07] Romantica blaze in the parliamentary spotlight

    By Bouli Hadjioannou

    THE BLAZE on the Romantica was so intense that hundreds of tons of water actually evaporated before they hit the deck, firefighters said yesterday.

    By the time the Romantica had been towed to Limassol, the fire had been burning for more than two days.

    "The fire had burnt everything. The heat was so intense, we were pumping hundreds of tons of water on to the ship and it evaporated before hitting the deck," George Karydis of the firebrigade told the House Communications Committee.

    Officials from the department of merchant shipping said they insisted the ship be salvaged - sending the message that an in depth inquiry would be held into the accident.

    The fire broke out in the engine room early on Saturday, October 4. All 687 passengers and crew were rescued without any injuries.

    The committee heard that the rescue operation had gone smoothly and the fire fighting system had worked while preliminary police findings showed no signs of criminal action or negligence.

    Experts' inquiries were focusing on why the fire could not be extinguished - possibly because of a fuel leakage. Answers will be possible perhaps some time next week when water is pumped from the engine room.

    The Romantica, launched in 1939, was in good condition and had passed several inspections - including by authorities in Greece and Israel, Lloyds classification society and its own insurers - the ship's owner Tassos Anastassiades said.

    The issue was brought to the House Communications Committee by two Limassol deputies - Doros Theodorou of Edek and Stelios Stylianou of Disy.

    Theodorou was complimentary about the rescue operation - the combined efforts of the crew, authorities and others involved had salvaged the reputation of the Cyprus registry and "for this we have to thank them", he said.

    But he had a series of questions. They included the crew's ability to communicate in Greek and the condition of the lifeboats. And he said the inquiry's report should be issued soon and made public.

    Stylianou was less generous. He said tragedy had been avoided because of a series of lucky coincidences.

    But Yiannis Karitzis of the Department of Merchant Shipping was clear. He stressed that the ship had been properly inspected by one of the most prestigious classification societies in the world, as well as by the Greek and Israeli authorities, and no safety problem had arisen.

    Evacuation procedures were followed to the letter, and the captain's handling of the emergency had been impeccable, he added. Lifeboats had worked well - they are intended to distance passengers and crew from the ship by a few hundred metres - and interviews with the crew showed correct procedures had been followed to extinguish the blaze.

    "It was correct procedures which led to a successful rescue operation, not the good weather," he said.

    Anastassiades and the company's legal counsel Acis Montanios said the crew had been well trained, passengers had undergone fire drills, while more than 40 of the 160 or so crew members were Cypriots, Greeks or Cypriots from Britain. And they said seven foreign experts had been sent out by the insurers to help investigate the cause of the blaze.

    The issue remains before the committee.

    [08] Man held after suspected strangling

    A 30-YEAR-old Nicosia man was arrested yesterday on suspicion of attempting to strangle his former fiancée on Monday night.

    Police said Anthoulis Sofroniou Loupis was arrested in connection with an attack on 23-year-old Prodromia Pitsillou, from Latsia outside Nicosia.

    Pitsillou was admitted to Nicosia General hospital in a comatose state at about 9pm on Monday night, police said. She was accompanied by Loupis who told police she had been attacked by a hooded gunman who approached him and Pitsillou as they sat in his car near the Athalassa to Tseri road outside Nicosia at about 7.30pm. Loupis said the mystery attacker forced him at gunpoint to move away from the car before assaulting Pitsillou.

    State pathologist Sofoclis Sofocleous examined both Loupis and Pitsillou. Loupis was found to have bruising on his right hand while Pitsillou had bruising on the neck.

    The girl was kept in hospital for treatment.

    Police said Loupis admitted when later questioned by Nicosia CID officers that he had tried to strangle his ex-fiancée because she had refused to renew their liaison.

    After the attack, Loupis apparently regretted his action and called for an ambulance, accompanying Pitsillou to hospital.

    The victim was making a steady recovery in hospital yesterday.

    Loupis is expected to appear before the Nicosia District Court today.

    [09] Second Kilani suspect released

    A SECOND suspect arrested on Monday in connection with last week's murder in Kilani village was released yesterday.

    Demetris Aresti Demetriou, 33, a member of the Kilani Improvement Board was released after giving a statement to police, an announcement said.

    Police are already holding Michalis Efstathiou Panis, 66 alias Michalo, also from Kilani, on an eight-day remand in connection with the killing in the village centre a week ago today.

    Matheos Christofi, a resident of the village was brutally murdered with a meat cleaver in broad daylight 100 metres from his home. He died after sustaining two deep blows to his head.

    [10] Palestinian bomber on hunger strike again

    By Jean Christou

    A PALESTINIAN convicted of a bomb attack in Nicosia in 1988 yesterday entered his ninth day of a new hunger strike to battle for his release, police said.

    Omar Hawillo, 31, was officially released from jail last year after serving eight years of a 15-year sentence for his part in a 1988 bomb attack in Nicosia which killed three people.

    But he is still in custody at the prison's holding cells because the authorities do not know what to do with him.

    On his release, he was sent to Lebanon, his home country, but was turned away because his passport was fake. No other country has been found accept him since.

    Backing his release from the holding cells is Deputy Attorney-general Loucis Loucaides who said that, according to the relevant European Convention for Human Rights, the authorities cannot keep somebody in detention with a view to expelling him, even if there is no other country willing to accept him.

    Loucaides said it was up to the cabinet to take the final decision to release Hawillo.

    In the past year, Hawillo has gone on hunger strike on two previous occasions.

    Police sources confirmed yesterday that he had again been refusing to eat for the past nine days, though he was taking water.

    "The Legal (Justice) Department is still trying to decide what to do with him," the police sources said. "As the police, we have to take into account the risks against his life."

    Hawillo was arrested in May 1988 after a bungled bomb attack against the Israeli embassy in Nicosia. A jeep rigged with explosives, driven by Hawillo's suspected accomplice, exploded on a busy bridge killing the driver and two bystanders. Nineteen other people were injured.

    Minutes before the deadly blast, security personnel had twice prevented the jeep from parking near the Israeli embassy.

    The identity of the organisation which might have commandeered the attack was never established, but the incident occurred at the height of the Palestinian intifada against Israel.

    [11] 1998 growth at 4 per cent?

    FINANCE Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou will today present the 1998 budgets to the House Finance Committee amid expectations of four per cent economic growth for next year.

    According to a report sent to the House in anticipation of today's meeting, economic prospects for 1998 are encouraging.

    The report says it expects the agricultural sector to pick up - provided the drought is not prolonged - while services are expected to continue to play a major role in future economic growth.

    The report says the economy should grow by some four per cent next year, helping to push unemployment down to about three per cent, from the current 3.3 per cent. Experts also expect a small drop in inflation and in the current account deficit.

    At today's meeting, Christodoulou will give the first, overall presentation of the 1998 budgets - ordinary, development and special relief fund.

    The Finance Committee will then launch an in-depth examination - culminating with the budget debate and a vote in the plenary before the House breaks up for the Christmas holidays.

    The 1998 budgets provide for expenditure of £1,630 million and revenue of £1,080 million. The budget deficit is of some £500 million - forced up by increased expenditure on development and lower revenue from customs and duties because of the Cyprus-European Union Customs Union Agreement.

    [12] New challenge to HTI appointment

    By Jean Christou

    THE re-appointment of the director of the Higher Technical Institute (HTI) is being challenged in an appeal to the Supreme Court.

    Director Demetris Lazarides, who was ousted by a Supreme Court decision last July, was re-appointed in September.

    Lazarides' initial appointment in 1991 had been challenged by George Iordanou, head of the HTI's Mechanical and Marine Engineering Department.

    Iordanou had challenged the appointment on the basis that he believed Lazarides did not have a recognised university degree to do the job.

    Iordanou had said Lazarides had a college diploma he earned in 1964 from a British institution whose qualifications only later went on to be recognised as a degree.

    He also said the Public Services Commission had not investigated the issue properly before making the appointment in 1991.

    In its ruling in July, the Supreme Court did not pass judgement on Lazarides' qualifications but on the way that the Public Services Commission (PSC) arrived at the conclusion that he satisfied the scheme of service.

    Now Iordanou is challenging the re-appointment on the basis that the PSC was "once again" misled, sources said.

    Part of the appeal case is based on a letter from the British Council in Nicosia dated May 1991 concerning the equating of Lazarides' diploma in civil engineering obtained from Loughborough College in 1964.

    The letter said the honours diploma awarded in 1964 would be considered to be comparable to a pass degree for membership to the Institute of Civil Engineers "at that time".

    "Today the diploma in Civil Engineering from Loughborough college would not satisfy the academic requirement of membership for a Professional Engineer and would probably be compared to an HND," the letter said.

    However Lazarides' has in his possession a letter dated October 1992, also from the British Council, which confirms that his diploma is of degree equivalent. The new letter also states that its content "supersedes that made in our letter of May 1991 which should be considered as withdrawn".

    Lazarides joined Loughborough College of Advanced Technology in 1961 for a three-year Diploma course in Civil Engineering. He received his diploma with honours in 1964.

    In 1977 he joined Vanderbilt University in the US as a Fulbright Scholar and after a year of studies he received an MSC degree.

    Documents from the British Department of Education, the Engineering Council and the Institution of Civil Engineers also testify to Lazarides' qualifications.

    From 1970-1991 Lazarides was Head of the Civil Engineering Department at the HTI before being appointed as Director.

    Commenting on the new challenge to his position, he said: "To re-challenge is the prerogative of any citizen."

    [13] Compulsory work insurance

    ALL EMPLOYERS will be obliged to insure their employees against work related accidents and illnesses as from November 1.

    A new law coming into effect next month means bosses found guilty of failing to insure their workers risk up to 12 months imprisonment or a fine of up to £1,000.

    Employers will be obliged to insure anyone working for them for more than eight hours a week for a set minimum amount. The law states such insurance cover must extend to permanent Cyprus residents working abroad for a local employer.

    [14] Petrol stations in island-wide strike on Monday

    PETROL stations will be closed island-wide on Monday as operators protest over a break-down in contractual negotiations with petrol companies.

    The co-ordinating committee of petrol station owners announced yesterday that talks with the companies for renewal of collective agreements for 1997 were deadlocked. The agreements were due for renewal in January.

    The co-ordinating committee said petrol stations would be closed for 24 hours on Monday in protest.

    [15] Swedish foreign minister in Cyprus talks

    SWEDISH Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen will today meet President Glafcos Clerides and House President Spyros Kyprianou before holding talks with her Cypriot counterpart Yiannakis Cassoulides.

    Hjelm-Wallen arrived yesterday for a three-day visit to discuss the Cyprus problem and the island's accession to the European Union. This evening she will attend a dinner given in her honour by Cassoulides before meeting with him again early tomorrow for a second round of talks.

    Hjelm-Wallen's programme also includes visits to Cypriot cultural sites such as Ayios Lazaros Church and the Hala Sultan Tekke.

    She is accompanied on her trip by Tel Aviv-based Swedish Ambassador to Cyprus John HM Hagard, Director of European Integration Sven-Olof Petersson, Ambassadors Kaj Falkman and Annika Söder and Ministry Secretaries Ingela Dragstedt and Cecilia Wulff.

    The party will leave around midday tomorrow.

    [16] Royal thank you for Diana letters

    PRINCE Charles and Princes William and Harry have thanked the people of Cyprus for the hundreds of letters sent to the Royal Family in the wake of the death of Princess Diana.

    An announcement issued yesterday by the British High Commission in Nicosia said the many hundreds of thousands of letters received from around the world could not all be answered.

    "It is with this in mind that the Prince of Wales and the young Princes have asked me to make known to the people of Cyprus their deep appreciation of the very kind thoughts and tremendous generosity which they have shown in the many letters they have written and the gifts they have sent," the announcement said.

    It added that the Prince and his sons had been enormously touched by the public support shown to them all around the world and had taken great strength from it.

    "The Prince of Wales and his sons would like, through me, to say thank you and to pass on to everybody who wrote to them, their heartfelt best wishes and to assure them that every letter has been read and each one gratefully received," it adds.

    © Copyright 1997 Cyprus Mail

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