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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-10-16

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, October 16, 1997


  • [01] Peace, but not at any price
  • [02] `I wouldn't even bother arm-wrestling with Greece'
  • [03] `We are proud of our armed forces'
  • [04] Stolen treasures were hidden in labyrinth of fake walls
  • [05] Value for money?
  • [06] Government unwilling to dampen recovery
  • [07] Legal procedures weigh on development projects
  • [08] Pyla water dispute comes to the boil
  • [09] New deadline for overdue broadcasting law
  • [10] Man killed driving back from Nikiforos
  • [11] Taxi driver found hanged
  • [12] Policeman `sent 16,000 for Dutch hash'
  • [13] Top UN Iraq post for Cypriot
  • [14] Petrol dispute set to continue

  • [01] Peace, but not at any price

    By Jean Christou

    GREECE wants peace with Turkey but not at the cost of its own survival and rights, Greek Defence Minister Akis Tzohatzopoulos said yesterday.

    Speaking at a joint press conference with his Cypriot counterpart Costas Eliades in Nicosia at the end of his two-day visit to the island, Tzohatzopoulos accused Turkey of deliberately escalating tension in the region.

    Referring to the dozens of Turkish violations of Greek and Cypriot airspace during the joint Nikiforos exercises this week, Tzohatzopoulos said the violations were "part of the Turkish policy of threats to make us yield to its illegal demands".

    The violations continued yesterday, the last day of the exercises. It was reported that several Turkish military aircraft confronted Greek jets near Rhodes.

    "Turkey has no right whatever to behave in this irresponsible and aggressive manner in a deliberate move to raise tension and cause regional instability," Tzohatzopoulos added.

    He also ridiculed comments made earlier yesterday by Turkish Chief of Staff General Ismail Hakki Karadayi that it was Greece and Cyprus creating artificial tensions.

    The fact that "Greece and Cyprus have agreements on defence matters to face external threats together" does not create tension in the area, Tzohatzopoulos said. Greece, he said, wants peace but "not at the cost of its own survival and rights."

    Tzohatzopoulos was also critical of Tuesday's call by the US to reinstate the ban on military overflights.

    He said if the United States or any other country was interested in reducing tension in the region "they have to turn to the sole source of that tension, which is none other than Turkey".

    "If anyone thinks they can tolerate such destabilising illegal behaviour in the name of reducing tension and are asking us to accept such a position then they are wrong," Tzohatzopoulos said.

    He said Greece and Cyprus were peaceful countries which only wished for their right to exist and defend their own sovereignty, something Greece would not hesitate to do.

    Cyprus Defence Minister Costas Eliades echoed this stance and said the island was "ready and determined to face any situation or threat posed by Turkey".

    Both men said the joint defence agreement with Greece was irreversible and would continue with the same military exercises next year unless the demilitarisation of the entire island was agreed or the Cyprus problem was solved.

    By early next year the proposed air base at Paphos, where the Russian S-300 missiles will reportedly be deployed, is likely to be operational.

    Tzohatzopoulos said the international fuss created by Turkey over the missile deal was "artificial and intentional".

    He said the S-300 system was clearly a defensive weapon and that it was "irresponsible of Turkey to speak about danger to its safety from its deployment."

    "There will no danger for Turkey unless it attacks Cyprus by air," Tzohatzopoulos said.

    Tzohatzopoulos returns to Athens early this morning.

    [02] `I wouldn't even bother arm-wrestling with Greece'

    By Jean Christou

    RECENT concerns about a possible clash between Greek and Turkish forces are unfounded, a top Turkish general was quoted as saying yesterday.

    "We are dealing with the problem responsibly and in a cold-blooded manner. There is no cause for concern," the Sabah daily quoted Turkey's chief of staff, General Ismail Hakki Karadayi as saying.

    The comments came at the height of tensions between Greece and Turkey over the Nikiforos military exercises.

    Since Sunday, Turkish military jets have violated Cypriot and Greek airspace on dozens of occasions. Around 50 sorties of the Cyprus-Rhodes- Crete triangle have been carried out over a two-day period.

    On Monday, Turkish F16s also buzzed the C-130 bringing Greek Defence Minister Akis Tzohatzopoulos to the island.

    Karadayi said Turkey did not need to pick a fight with Greece because Ankara's numerical military superiority would make the result of any conflict a foregone conclusion.

    "Any soldier can see the reality of the balance of power. The Turkish army's overwhelming superiority is obvious. That's why I wouldn't even bother arm wrestling with them," he said.

    "Greek Cypriots and Greece try to create an artificial tension in order to present Turkey as aggressive and themselves as victims."

    Turkey has the second largest number of troops in Nato and a larger array of weaponry than Greece.

    Nikiforos ended yesterday, but the Turkish Daily News reported that the Turkish Air force had recently transferred at least four squadrons of its F4 and F16 fighter jets, numbering up to 50 aircraft, to the Mediterranean emergency bases of Antalya and Dalaman.

    An official from the Turkish air force told TDN this was not a hostile act but a show of determination to protect the interests of Turkish Cyprus and Turkey in Cyprus against Greeks who had violated the moratorium on military flights over Cyprus.

    Turkey meanwhile is planning to hold two military exercises in the region. The first one, Toros '97, is planned between November 1 and 8 while the second one will be held immediately afterwards in the same area.

    Turkish State Minister Sukru Gurel also tried to play down Ankara's actions over the past few days, saying Turkey would not be dragged into an armed conflict with Greece.

    "We have no intention of playing at war," Gurel said. "I do not see a dangerous escalation."

    Commenting on Turkish statements yesterday, a Greek government spokesman, Nicos Athanasakis, said if there was a threat of war in the region "it is not coming from Greece".

    "It is not Greece which is using provocations to increase tensions," he said.

    [03] `We are proud of our armed forces'

    A Russian-made T-80 tank parades in Larnaca THE ANNUAL Nikiforos military exercises ended with a parade in Larnaca yesterday.President Clerides said the parade was the "most impressive" and that more would follow. "We are proud of our armed forces," he said. Asked to comment on the dozens of air violations by Turkish aircraft throughout the exercises, Clerides said: "This provided an opportunity to see whether our joint defence pact with Greece is effective." For his part, Greek National Defence Minister Akis Tzohatzopoulos congratulated all those who took part in the military exercises. "The message is that we are satisfied with the work done," he said.

    [04] Stolen treasures were hidden in labyrinth of fake walls

    The 6th century Kanakaria mosaic of Saint Thomas found in Munich FAKE walls, ceilings and floors were located in two Munich apartments where a hoard of Greek Cypriot Byzantine treasures was found last week, Attorney-general Alecos Markides said yesterday.The apartments, owned by Dikman Aydin, 60, a Turk who claims to be an archaeologist, contained a stash of mosaics and icons worth $46 million, stolen from churches in the occupied areas since 1974. Aydin has been arrested by German police and faces charges of trading in stolen artifacts, an offence which carries a 15-year sentence. In all, 14 boxes were recovered, five of which have not yet been opened, Markides told a press conference in Nicosia yesterday.

    FAKE walls, ceilings and floors were located in two Munich apartments where a hoard of Greek Cypriot Byzantine treasures was found last week, Attorney- general Alecos Markides said yesterday.

    The apartments, owned by Dikman Aydin, 60, a Turk who claims to be an archaeologist, contained a stash of mosaics and icons worth $46 million, stolen from churches in the occupied areas since 1974.

    Aydin has been arrested by German police and faces charges of trading in stolen artifacts, an offence which carries a 15-year sentence.

    In all, 14 boxes were recovered, five of which have not yet been opened, Markides told a press conference in Nicosia yesterday.

    He said this was due to technical reasons in order to prevent damage to any archaeological treasures which may be inside.

    Sadly, Markides said, one of last week's finds, the 16th century icon depicting the Virgin with St John, from the Ayios Ioannis Monastery in Koutsoventis, was damaged. He said the eyes of the Virgin had been scratched out with a sharp instrument.

    The other treasures recovered were two 14th century frescoes from the church of Antiphonitis and a fifth of the 6th Century stolen Kanakaria mosaics - depicting the Apostle Thomas - from the Kanakaria Church in Lythrangomi.

    This mosaic alone is worth 4.3 million.

    Four of the Kanakaria mosaics which were found in the hands of American art dealer Peg Goldberg in the 'eighties were returned to the island four years ago after a long legal battle in the US.

    "We are determined to get back any archaeological or church treasures stolen from the Turkish occupied areas of the island, no matter how much time elapses," Markides said. "We shall not relinquish our right to these treasures."

    Markides said last week's success had been a joint operation between German and Cypriot police.

    He stressed the results of the investigation were not due to chance but to a steady flow of information.

    He also said the role of Archbishop Chrysostomos had been crucial to the investigation, which had taken weeks of painstaking and meticulous work.

    Also critical was the part played by the Honourary Consul of Cyprus in the Hague, Tasoula Georgiou Hadjitofi who was recently instrumental in locating the stolen Doors of Peristerona at a Japanese University.

    Hadjitofi will give a press conference in the Hague on Monday.

    Markides said the government's efforts would now concentrate on having the artifacts returned to the island.

    [05] Value for money?

    CIVIL servants cost the state half a million pounds each from the moment they are hired until they retire - and that is excluding pensions.

    Pensions costs are also steep. The state will fork out 87 million this year on pension contributions - up from the 12 million it had to pay in 1987. The annual rate of increase is some 12 million a year.

    These daunting figures were given by Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou to the House Finance Committee yesterday during the first committee meeting on the 1998 budgets.

    Christodoulou had been asked to elaborate on earlier remarks that in its five years the Clerides government had managed to curb the rate of increase in the cost of the public wage bill by 1.5 per cent compared to the previous five years.

    Despite this development, the wage bill is up 10 per cent in next year's budget.

    Many of the questions were put by Diko parliamentary spokesman Tassos Papadopoulos who, while welcoming the news, queried when - if ever - public wage costs would show an actual decrease.

    "I am still waiting to award a prize to the department head who does not ask for more employees but says he has too many," Papadopoulos said.

    But he said that judging from the criticism levelled at Christodoulou by his colleagues in the Council of Ministers, the Finance Minister was taking steps in the right direction.

    Christodoulou said efforts to curb the rate of increase in the public wage bill would continue. The moratorium on new civil service positions had been kept - the only "new appointments" were contract workers who were given permanent jobs under an agreement hammered out in co-operation with the House of Representatives.

    New teachers have already been taken on under a 1987 agreement to reduce the teacher-pupil ratio.

    On pensions, Christodoulou said the huge jump in costs was in part the result of a decision to cut the retirement age to 60 without making corresponding provisions.

    [06] Government unwilling to dampen recovery

    By Bouli Hadjioannou

    THE GOVERNMENT is ready to ride out a higher fiscal deficit rather than take measures which would derail economic recovery.

    It will not turn to new taxes to meet the shortfall in revenue, but will concentrate on more efficient collection of direct and indirect taxes, a process it says is already reaping benefits.

    And it will channel substantially larger sums towards development to help boost the economy.

    These are some of the conclusions from yesterday's meeting between Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou and the House Finance Committee on the 1998 budgets.

    Christodoulou said he expected economic growth this year to average some 2.5 per cent - with encouraging news on the tourist front and in the service sector. Tourist arrivals in the first nine months this year were up 4.1 per cent - raising hopes overall arrivals would reach 1995 levels, he said.

    Revenue was also expected to be up as a recent study has shown per capita expenditure by tourists to be 0.2 per cent up on 1996.

    "If this trend and the recovery in domestic consumption continues we can hope to see economic growth at 2.5 per cent" he said.

    The fiscal deficit for 1997 is estimated at 4.1 per cent. Expectations are that it will rise to 5 per cent in 1998. The public debt is also up.

    This only had Akel's Kikis Kazamias querying why the government when in opposition had blasted more favourable economic indicators as being out of step with the Maastricht convergence criteria - including the 3 per cent ceiling for the fiscal deficit.

    Christodoulou countered that the Maastricht criteria, while making good economic sense, should not lead to a dogged adherence which might block economic recovery.

    "The fiscal deficit should only be allowed to rise when this is dictated by the demands of the economy. Reality requires us to allow economic recovery to continue. This in itself will lead to a drop in the fiscal deficit by generating more revenue," he said.

    On the public debt, he said interest payments would absorb 264 million in 1998 alone, or 5 per cent of the fiscal deficit. And he said the two year drought had made substantial demands on state funds.

    He had a similar message on taxation. Even though revenue was down from a drop in customs duties because of the Cyprus-European Union Customs Union Agreement, the government would not seek to make up the shortfall through higher taxes as this would dampen economic recovery.

    "At the moment reality dictates we do not damage economic recovery which is on course. This would in itself generate more revenue," the minister said.

    Efforts were under way to improve tax collection - with emphasis also on value added tax.

    Asked by Edek's Takis Hadjidemetriou on the economy's dependence on services and particularly tourism, Christodoulou said services accounted for 71 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

    "This has been the policy of all governments, because services are something we have a comparative advantage in," he said.

    But he added that he had instructed the Planning Bureau to look at ways of diversifying the service sector and to come up with proposals to be included in the next five-year plan. Ideas floated yesterday included making Cyprus a regional education, training and health centre.

    [07] Legal procedures weigh on development projects

    NEW protracted procedures required by law are holding up development projects and preventing full implementation of the development budget, Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said yesterday.

    The minister was responding to questions during yesterday's first Finance Committee meeting on the 1998 budgets.

    Asked what percentage of the development budgets had been absorbed in the five years of the Clerides government, Christodoulou acknowledged that the rate had dropped to 67 per cent compared to the 76 per cent rate registered during the Vassiliou administration.

    But he said total amounts had rocketed from 430 million during the Vassiliou government to 700 million for the Clerides government - an increase of 63 per cent.

    Procedures had also changed because of a court decision obliging the government to follow the route of compulsory expropriations -- rather than the previous system of just issuing a decree. This opens the road to a protracted process of objections by citizens whose property is involved, while environmental and other concerns were adding to delays.

    [08] Pyla water dispute comes to the boil

    By Jean Christou

    GREEK and Turkish Cypriots living in the mixed village of Pyla almost came to blows on Tuesday over a borehole in the buffer zone, Turkish Cypriot press reported yesterday.

    According to Kibris, the Greek Cypriots tried to take control of the fresh-water borehole close to the occupied areas, an issue which has apparently been simmering for months.

    "In this latest incident, the Greek Cypriots escorted by UN soldiers attempted to take electricity to the well, but were met with a determined resistance by the Turkish Cypriots," Kibris said.

    "The UN openly sided with the Greek Cypriots and about 70 fully armed UN soldiers tried to obstruct the Turkish Cypriot activists. They closed the road and surrounded the area with barbed wire."

    Kibris said that, realising the well issue could lead to bigger arguments between the two sides, the UN arranged a meeting which lasted more than five hours.

    At the meeting - attended by Pyla's Greek and Turkish Cypriot Mukhtars - the Turkish Cypriot side proposed the `TRNC' authorities carry out the necessary work to take the water to Pyla. Kibris said, however, that nothing was decided.

    It said the Turkish Cypriots in Pyla were surrounded on three sides by the Greek Cypriots and the British bases and did not want to allow Greek Cypriots control of the only place connected with the occupied areas.

    A UN source said yesterday the problem centred on the watering of the Turkish Cypriot football pitch in Pyla, for which Turkish Cypriots have received permission to use water three times a week from a borehole close to the occupied areas.

    "Meanwhile as we all know the water situation on the island became critical, " the source said, though he added Pyla was not as badly off as some other areas, including Nicosia.

    A second borehole was recently found, which it was thought could be used for the needs of the village, leaving the first borehole available for the football pitch.

    Both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, through their respective Mukhtars, applied to use the second borehole, but the Turkish Cypriot authorities claimed both were connected, "meaning if water was taken from one, then levels in the other would drop," the source said.

    A subsequent study by the Greek Cypriot authorities contradicted this claim. The UN - bearing in mind that the request for water came from the two village mukhtars - gave permission for supplies to be brought to the village.

    When a Greek Cypriot contingent went to pump some water out, the Turkish Cypriots objected and tried to change the decision. "They were afraid this would harm the watering of the pitch and attempted physically to prevent this, but were stopped by UN soldiers," the source said.

    "We (the UN) consider the supply of water to people more important."

    The source said a number of other options were under consideration.

    "We will try to have water for the village, but we don't want to kill the pitch either," the source said. "We want to advocate bi-communality in the village and we are working in this direction. The aim is co-operation in every area."

    [09] New deadline for overdue broadcasting law

    THE HOUSE Interior Committee will make an all-out effort to complete examination of a broadcasting bill on Monday, October 27, chairman Nicos Katsourides of Akel said yesterday.

    He said the committee would begin an article by article examination of the bill that afternoon - and all political parties were determined to complete their work the same day, irrespective of how long the meeting lasted.

    Once the Interior Committee decides on the bill it will be sent to the plenary for a final vote.

    The Interior Committee had previously pledged to decide on the controversial bill before the summer recess. The new deadline should make it possible for the new regime to be in force before the presidential elections of February 1998.

    The broadcasting bill - aimed at bringing order to the air waves - has been castigated by private television channels as an attempt to turn them into clones of the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC). They have been particularly critical of the proposal to set up an independent broadcasting authority to oversee implementation of the law.

    The bill sets out regulations on programmes and advertising, and imposes strict restrictions on ownership.

    [10] Man killed driving back from Nikiforos

    A MAN died yesterday in a road accident which occurred at about 1.30am on the Anthoupolis-Palekhori road.

    He was part of a party of four who are thought to have been army reserves returning from the Nikiforos '97 military exercise.

    Forty-year-old Charalambos Aloupou from Tseri was killed when the double- cabin pickup in which he was the front-seat passenger, veered off the road and into a field. The driver and the other passengers were lightly injured.

    [11] Taxi driver found hanged

    A 62-YEAR old taxi driver was found hanged outside his home in Limassol yesterday. Epaminonda Georgiou was found at 10am by his wife, hanging from the outside stairs. She cut the rope and tried to revive him but it was too late. Police have ruled out foul play.

    [12] Policeman `sent 16,000 for Dutch hash'

    A SACKED special constable is suspected of laundering drug money from Cyprus to Holland a Larnaca court heard yesterday.

    Andreas Flourentzou, 24, previously employed at Larnaca airport, was sacked following a record drug seizure of hashish last month.

    During the remand renewal hearing, investigating officer Andreas Vryonis revealed that a fellow suspect in the case had given a new statement to police.

    According to suspect Kyriacos Constantinou, two batches of drugs were imported into Cyprus from Holland in August and September.

    An amount of 16,000 was sent to Holland to secure the delivery, the court heard.

    Constantinou told police that another suspect, Nicos Nicolaou, 20, went to Holland to purchase the drugs on behalf of Flourentzou.

    Nicolaou was caught red-handed at Larnaca airport on September 24, when nearly eight kilos of hash were found in his luggage after arriving from Amsterdam.

    Police believe Flourentzou was the man due to take delivery of the drugs from Nicolaou that night.

    Vryonis told the court that all the other suspects held in custody had named Flourentzou as the ring leader as he was able to get the drugs moved through customs unchecked.

    Flourentzou was re-remanded in custody for a further six days in order to allow police to complete their investigation.

    [13] Top UN Iraq post for Cypriot

    UN SECRETARY-general Kofi Annan has appointed a Cypriot national, Benon Sevan, as Executive Director of the Office of the Iraq programme.

    According to a UN press release, Annan has decided to establish the office and consolidate the management of UN activities undertaken under Security Council Resolutions. The director will report directly to Annan.

    Sevan has extensive experience in the UN. He served as the assistant Secretary-general Co-ordinator as well as Assistant Secretary-general in the Department of Political Affairs.

    He was also Senior Secretariat Official with the mission dispatched by the Secretary-general to inquire into the situation of prisoners of war in the conflict between Iran and Iraq.

    Sevan, who was born in 1937, is a graduate of the Melkonian Institute. He also obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in History, Philosophy and International and Public Affairs from Columbia University in the US.

    [14] Petrol dispute set to continue

    MOTORISTS could face problems over the next few weeks as the dispute between petrol stations and petrol companies threatens to continue.

    Bambinos Charalambos, President of the Co-ordinating Committee of Petrol Stations, said yesterday that the breakdown in talks for the renewal of collective agreements announced on Tuesday had come about as petrol station owners were making less than 10 per cent of the profit specified in the agreements.

    He said that unregulated building of new petrol stations also saw profits tumbling and thus it was "not impossible" that the strike set for Monday would continue. He specified that the petrol stations "did not want the lion's share" of profits but just for their losses to be covered.

    Petrol suppliers, however, claim that with car sales up and many new petrol stations, the market is increasing and the stations are making a 70 per cent profit.

    Elsewhere, employees at the Department of Transport yesterday announced they would stage a two-hour work stoppage today between 10am and 12pm.

    Unions claim that restructuring within the department is not being carried out to their satisfaction and that there are discrepancies in promotions.

    © Copyright 1997 Cyprus Mail

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