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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-01-13

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Tuesday, January 13, 1998


  • [01] Turks hand files on missing to the UN
  • [02] Peacekeepers survive landmine blast
  • [03] Air base will not be inaugurated before elections
  • [04] Another 8 days for Santorini man held by Turks
  • [05] Big push takes centre stage
  • [06] Temperatures to return to normal after cold spell
  • [07] Man injured in bomb blast
  • [08] Local authorities drowning in debt
  • [09] Contracts signed for final road works
  • [10] Man killed in road crash
  • [11] Turkish jets violate Cyprus airspace
  • [12] House passes budgets

  • [01] Turks hand files on missing to the UN

    By Jean Christou

    REPRESENTATIVES for the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides are expected to exchange information on the missing early next week, according to the UN.

    UN permanent representative Gustave Feissel yesterday told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that the Turkish Cypriot side had handed in information on some 400 of the 1,619 Greek Cypriot missing.

    The handing over of the information is part of a deal struck between President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash at a meeting on humanitarian issues in July last year.

    The two sides had initially agreed to exchange the information by the end of September last year, but while the Greek Cypriot side met the deadline, handing in files on 200 out of an estimated 500 missing Turkish Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots asked for more time.

    "We expect the exchange of information will happen in the coming days," Feissel said. He said that Rustem Tatar, the Turkish Cypriot side's representative on the issue, was currently abroad for personal reasons and would not be back until next week.

    "We will be ready to exchange information on the location of sites where missing persons are found," Feissel said.

    In response to questions on whether the information provided by he Turkish Cypriot side was good enough, Feissel said: "If things were not good, we would not have a meeting."

    "We are ready to move, and as soon as Tatar is back, we will move," he added.

    Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Takis Christopoulos yesterday described the development as a "good start". He said this was just a first phase, and that the two sides were expected to continue gathering more information on the issue.

    He added that the Greek Cypriot side was satisfied with the number of files handed over by the Turkish side.

    Although he had not yet seen the files, Christopoulos said they may contain information on the sites of mass graves.

    Christopoulos said the exchange would have taken place this week, had it not been for Tatar's absence in the UK.

    Once the information is exchanged, work will begin to exhume and identify the remains.

    In his December report on Unficyp's mandate, UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan said the agreement on the missing represented a significant breakthrough, which "if faithfully implemented should have a positive effect on the remaining work with regard to missing persons."

    Annan was referring to the work of the tripartite Committee for Missing Persons (CMP), which the UN supports with a third member.

    The last UN appointed member resigned almost two years ago and has not been replaced, but Annan has said he will appoint a replacement as soon as the July agreement is effectively applied.

    [02] Peacekeepers survive landmine blast

    By Jean Christou

    TWO ARGENTINE peacekeepers serving with Unficyp narrowly escaped injury yesterday when their vehicle drove over a landmine.

    According to Unficyp spokesman Waldemar Rokoszewski, the incident happened at around 1pm near the Turkish-occupied village of Lefka in the Morphou district in the western part of the island.

    "They drove over a mine which detonated," Rokoszewski said, adding that the type of mine and which side had laid it remained to be determined. He said the buffer zone in the area where the incident took place was less than one kilometre wide.

    "Thankfully, the Unficyp personnel were not injured," Rokoszewski said. He added that the two unnamed soldier would, however, remain under observation for the next 24 hours.

    Their vehicle was badly damaged, according to the UN spokesman.

    Rokoszewski said the mine had been buried at the side of the road along which the two NCOs were driving and was in an unmarked area.

    He said the area had now been marked and was sealed off until an investigation was carried out by Australian Civilian police and UN military police.

    "It's not the first time UN personnel and equipment have been affected by mines in the buffer zone," Rokoszewski said.

    "This incident proves again the urgency to remove existing mines and booby traps which we marked in the buffer zone."

    He said at least one UN soldier had been killed by mines since 1975, and recalled an incident in 1990 then two other soldiers were injured.

    There are some 38 minefields and booby-trapped areas inside the 180-km-long buffer zone which divides the island, and a further 73 minefields located within 500 metres of it.

    It is estimated there are more an 16,000 landmines buried on the island.

    Last year, a 37-year old father-of-three became the latest victim of the island's landmines after following his dog into a minefield in a government- controlled area, near to but not inside the buffer zone.

    Cyprus is one of the countries that recently signed up to a global ban on landmines, a move which was welcomed by the UN.

    In a resolution in 1996, the UN Security Council called on the two sides to assist the UN in dealing with the problem.

    "Regretfully, despite all our efforts we are still faced with this kind of ugly incident," Rokoszewski said yesterday.

    [03] Air base will not be inaugurated before elections

    By Jean Christou

    THE NEW Paphos air base will not be inaugurated in the pre-election period, the government spokesman said yesterday.

    Manolis Christofides repeated statements by President Clerides on Thursday night that the government would take delivery of the base on January 24.

    However, he made it clear the base would not be inaugurated during the period leading up to the presidential elections on February 8, though a visit to the base would take place, he added.

    Christofides said the new base would enable Cyprus to "tackle Turkish provocations within the framework of the joint defence dogma" with Greece.

    The construction of the base, aiming to boost Greek Cypriot air defences, has provoked a bellicose reaction from the Turkish Cypriot side.

    But Christofides dismissed the response: "Turkey should be the last to have the right to react to the Republic's efforts to bolster its defences, as our aim is to protect the Republic from a new Turkish attack."

    "It is well known that Turkey is the raider and invader in Cyprus."

    Christofides noted that as a guarantor power of Cyprus independence, Greece "has every right to take all necessary measures to fulfil its obligations towards the Republic.

    Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot media have quoted senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official Korkmaz Haktanir as saying the base is a sign of a "militarist enosis" growing between Cyprus and Greece.

    "As the Greek Cypriot administration established air and naval bases for Greece on the island, it resembles a creature preparing for suicide."

    "The Greek Cypriot administration is placing the noose around its own neck and one of the ends of this noose is in Greece's hands as it was in 1974," Haktanir, who was on a visit to the north at the weekend, said.

    Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has already threatened to take steps to counter the opening of the air base. One measure is a threat to open an air base at occupied Lefkoniko.

    Turkish Cypriot press also yesterday quoted opposition parties in the north as calling for a halt to the opening of the air base.

    Both Republican Turkish Party (RTP) leader Mehmet Ali Talat and Communal Liberation party leader Mustafa Akinci believe the move will hamper UN- sponsored efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.

    Clerides' announcement last Thursday of the unexpectedly early delivery of the base is widely seen as part of his re-election campaign.

    [04] Another 8 days for Santorini man held by Turks

    A GREEK national who crossed to the occupied areas last week was yesterday remanded for eight days by a military 'court' in the north.

    Turkish forces arrested George Constantinou Kantarakis, 32, from the Greek island of Santorini, on Thursday afternoon in the buffer zone on the outskirts of Nicosia.

    He was initially remanded on Friday for three days, but the court extended this yesterday.

    Kantarakis, who was staying with friends in Nicosia, told UN officials who visited him that he had crossed to the north deliberately and wanted to stay there. No reasons were given, and Kantarakis also refused to undergo an examination by a UN doctor.

    Today, a second Greek national, Spyros Lilles, 24, will appear before a military 'court' in the north.

    Lilles has been held in custody by the Turkish Cypriot side since December 21 after he crossed into the occupied areas in the early hours. It is understood he had been drinking heavily when he got lost in the buffer zone. The Turks claim Lilles had entered a first degree military zone.

    [05] Big push takes centre stage

    By Martin Hellicar

    ARGUMENTS about the existence or not of international initiatives to solve the Cyprus problem, planned live TV debates between candidates and in- fighting within the Diko party dominated the pre-election scene yesterday.

    The government charged the opposition with "endangering the national cause" by claiming there was no international initiative for a settlement.

    Government spokesman Manolis Christofides repeated President Clerides' re- election campaign position that the UN, the US and other countries were preparing a "big push" on Cyprus for immediately after the February elections.

    Clerides' main election rival George Iacovou, and his backers left-wing Akel and centre-right Diko, have questioned whether such an initiative will ever take place.

    The settlement initiative issue has become the main bone of contention in pre-election sparring between Iacovou and Clerides, whose candidacy enjoys the support of right-wing Disy.

    "Akel and Iacovou are doing harm to the national issue by denying the existence of an initiative," Christofides told his daily press briefing.

    "March will see the start of critical developments, whether they (the opposition) want to accept this or not," he added. He said EU accession talks were set to start on March 30 and "the UN will begin a decisive initiative supported by over 12 representatives from countries interested in the Cyprus problem."

    He said Iacovou, Akel and Diko were "choosing not to see the facts."

    Christofides also announced that Clerides had agreed - in an apparent change of heart forced by criticism from his election opponents - to take part in a televised debate with the other six candidates.

    The President's initial refusal to join in a televised debate drew a barrage of criticism from his election opponents, with Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides most vociferous. Christofides said Clerides would now appear in a single panel discussion, even though he did not see it as a "constructive" forum for candidates to present their positions.

    The spokesman said the debate would take place "on neutral ground" and would be shown by all local television channels simultaneously.

    The Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) and private channels ANT1, Logos and Sigma announced later in the day that they had agreed the TV showdown would be screened at 9pm on Thursday.

    Joining Clerides and Iacovou in the studio will be fellow hopefuls Lyssarides, George Vassiliou (United Democrats), Nicos Rolandis (Liberals), Alexis Galanos (Diko renegade) and Nicos Koutsou (New Horizons).

    Iacovou, who also came under fire for refusing to appear on a TV debate unless Clerides was there too, claimed the credit for Clerides's change of heart.

    "I insisted he must take part in these common discussions. I believe this was very good handling on my part as he was finally forced to come and meet his opponents," the former Foreign Minister said.

    He denied he had snubbed the other five opponents by his insistence on appearing only if the President did. "I feel very close to them (the other opponents)," he said, adding that he had meant them no disrespect at all.

    In the Diko camp, the issue of "dissenting" members refusing to endorse the party decision to back Iacovou remained top of the agenda.

    Party spokesman Stathis Kittis said he was sending letters to four prominent rebels giving them till the day after tomorrow to come into line or face expulsion from Diko.

    The ultimatum letters were sent to party vice-chairman Dinos Michaelides, deputies Katerina Pantelidou and Alexis Galanos and party central committee member Petros Voskarides.

    Galanos has announced his own candidacy for the elections while the other three have made no secret of their disaffection with the decision to back Iacovou.

    Kittis said the letters contained "a request that they tell us before an executive committee meeting to be called for Friday whether they are prepared to re-examine their stances and conform with the party line."

    Galanos, a former Diko vice-chairman, has already made it clear he has no intention of withdrawing his candidacy. Pantelidou has previously stated she would tow the line "despite her own thoughts on the matter" - a position Kittis described as "unsatisfactory".

    There was no immediate response from Michaelides or Voskarides.

    [06] Temperatures to return to normal after cold spell

    TEMPERATURES may be lower than normal for the time of year, but not exceptionally so, according to Meteorological Services Director Cleanthous Philaniotis.The recent cold snap has caught Cypriots unawares, as temperatures in Nicosia fell to 9.5 degrees Celsius, far lower than the average 15C, while Prodromos hit a low of -5C. However, Cleanthous said yesterday that the worst weather was over and temperatures should get back to normal over the next few days.

    Playing in the snow in Troodos (Photo: Christos Theodorides)

    In spite of the cold temperatures, there has been little snowfall in low- lying areas. The mountain regions, however, have had their share, with 10cm of snowfall on Mount Olympus and 5cm on Troodos Square. Roads to Troodos were closed on Sunday, with five vehicles temporarily trapped.

    Cyprus has not been the only victim of the cold weather in the region, with much of the middle east suffering from unusually cold weather and snowfall since Saturday.

    [07] Man injured in bomb blast

    A 25-YEAR-OLD man was injured when a car bomb exploded in Strovolos in the early hours of yesterday.

    The bomb went off at around 2.10am in a car on Axiotheas Street belonging to 45-year-old Andreas Andreou. The car was parked in front of Andreou's house

    Some damage was caused to nearby houses, including that of Russian Greek Alexis Grigoriou Tatarides, who was injured by flying glass.

    Police are investigating.

    [08] Local authorities drowning in debt

    By Andrew Adamides

    LOCAL municipalities across the island are warning that they are in dire financial straits and may face collapse unless steps are taken by the government.

    In a press release issued yesterday, the Pancyprian Municipalities Union said that by December 31, 1996, 24 municipalities on the island had accumulated total debts of over 73 million, including money owed to the government and to local co-operative credit institutions.

    And they added that interest payments meant the situation was simply getting worse and worse; in 1996, the Union had to pay 51 million interest on the loans, while its income was just 43 million.

    The municipalities claim the government funding system is in drastic need of modernisation, as the public demands ever greater services from their municipalities, while government funding remains static.

    In order to stave off financial catastrophe, the Union is calling for a government study into the financial state of the municipalities, as well as an immediate increase in sponsorship. In addition, it wants municipalities' debts to be unified and payback time extended.

    The union also called for a meeting with Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou and President Glafcos Clerides to discuss the issue.

    If such steps are not urgently taken, it warns, the financial problems will "become mountains and engulf local authorities".

    [09] Contracts signed for final road works

    CONTRACTS were signed yesterday for the construction of the next two stretches of the Limassol to Paphos highway.

    The contracts were signed at midday by Social Services Department director Charalambos Kkolos and representatives of J &amp; P Ltd, A Panayides Works Ltd and the China Wanbao Engineering corporation.

    J &amp; P are to construct the 10.4 kilometre stretch between Petra tou Romiou and Timi at a cost of 12,294,708.

    The Aspros to Petra tou Romiou section will be built by A Panayides Ltd and the Chinese company at a cost of 10,489,550. This shorter section runs for 5.3km. The contracts also provide for the construction of several shorter link roads.

    Speaking at the signing, Communications Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou said the building of the two sections was expected to take 27 months, and the road would be open to the public in May 2000.

    Controversy blew up around the involvement of Wanbao engineering last year, when the government initially took away the company's contract and handed it to the local Cybarco firm, even though the Wanbao bid was 243,000 lower.

    Wanbao, which had won the contract after international tenders were invited, had been expected to sue for at least 1 million compensation.

    The Chinese company's legal representative was not available for comment yesterday.

    [10] Man killed in road crash

    A 48-YEAR-OLD man was killed in a road accident in the Nicosia district on Sunday.

    The fatal accident took place on the Kokkinotrimithia to Astromeritis road at 12.40pm.

    Demetris Chrysanthou Solomou from the Ayios Dometios suburb of Nicosia was overtaking a vehicle in front of him when he collided with an oncoming car driven by George Chiartis, 29, from Paleometocho.

    Solomou was fatally injured, while Chiartis, his wife and their three children, including a two-month-old boy, were taken to Nicosia General Hospital with serious injuries.

    [11] Turkish jets violate Cyprus airspace

    By Martin Hellicar

    TWO Turkish air force spy planes flew over the site of the Paphos military air base yesterday morning, Defence Ministry sources said.

    The RF-4s intruded into Cyprus air-space at about 11.30am, flying over the Famagusta area and then along the southern coast, overflying Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos before heading north, the sources said.

    The same sources said two similar fighter-jets again violated Cyprus airspace yesterday afternoon, between 3.15 and 4.30 pm, flying over the occupied areas.

    The Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) reported that the RF-4s were believed to have photographed the site of the Paphos air base.

    The Turkish side have reacted angrily to President Clerides announcing last week that the base would be "ready for delivery" on January 24. The base is intended for use by Greek air force jets as part of Cyprus's Common Defence Dogma military pact with Greece.

    The government was to lodge a protest with the UN over yesterday's airspace violations, the CyBC reported.

    [12] House passes budgets

    By Martin Hellicar

    AFTER a total of almost 26 hours of debate stretching over four days, the House plenum last night approved the three state budgets for 1998.

    Governing Disy, fellow right-wingers Diko, and the United Democrats voted for the 1.6 billion budget. Main opposition party Akel voted for all but isolated provisions of the budget while socialists Edek voted against all but the defence provisions.

    With the presidential elections less than a month away, deputies used yesterday's day-long session - as they had the previous ones on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week - more as a platform for pre-election point-scoring than debate on economic issues.

    The good-humoured sparring of last week boiled over into more acrimonious confrontation yesterday afternoon as party leaders and representatives took the stand for closing statements.

    Loud protests from the Akel benches during Nicos Anastassiades address prompted the Disy leader to ask House president Spyros Kyprianou to intervene, but the Diko leader declined. This sparked a mud-slinging match between Anastassiades and Kyprianou.

    Disy are backing President Clerides for re-election in the February 8 polls, Akel are backing former Foreign Minister George Iacovou and Diko - who formed a coalition with Disy to get Clerides elected in 1993 - recently decided to throw in their lot with Akel.

    It was a shouted comment from Christofias during Anastassiades's speech that set the cat among the pigeons.

    Anastassiades was replying to Diko criticism of the government record by "reminding" the House that Diko ministers had, almost without exception, backed Clerides till the collapse of the Disy-Diko coalition late last year. He claimed Diko would have continued to back Clerides had Disy agreed to a Diko proposal to jointly back Kyprianou for next president.

    Anastassiades said Akel had consistently attacked Diko while they were in government, but were now sweet-talking them.

    Christofias's response from his seat was blunt: "I don't give a damn, so long as we win the elections."

    Anastassiades seized on the communist party leader's comment: "Let that be recorded in the minutes to show the 'responsibility' of the opposition. He added that Christofias' statement was indicative of Akel's political position: "They care about nothing, neither the national issue nor socio- economic policy, but only that George Iacovou wins the elections."

    The outcry from Akel deputies was deafening. Anastassiades appealed to the House president to silence the opposition benches. Kyprianou declined, telling the Disy leader he was not being interrupted but was rather interrupting himself and disrupting proceedings.

    This led to a flurry of counter-accusations between the two party leaders, each charging the other with flouting House procedure and regulations.

    Christofias stood up to reply, telling Anastassiades he was only trying to drive a wedge between Akel and Diko. He said his comment during his opponent's speech had been tongue-in-cheek.

    Kyprianou later took the stand himself to charge Clerides with failing to achieve any progress towards a settlement.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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