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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-01-28

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, January 28, 1998


  • [01] Kyprianou lashes out
  • [02] Former ministers endorse Iacovou
  • [03] Defence cannot be held hostage
  • [04] Start of accession talks no April Fool's joke
  • [05] The Cyprus problem is not sexual
  • [06] Ministry slams rumours of extension to military service
  • [07] Annan welcomes progress on missing
  • [08] Man killed as car overturns
  • [09] Cyprus aims to go straight into EMU
  • [10] Clerides takes poll lead
  • [11] Cook advises against deployment of S-300s

  • [01] Kyprianou lashes out

    By Martin Hellicar

    DIKO leader Spyros Kyprianou went on the warpath against the Clerides government yesterday, dishing out insults to ministers, former ministers and the chief of police.

    Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou was charged with violating the constitution, Government spokesman Manolis Christofides was told to back off, former Justice Minister Alecos Evangelou was labelled "unpardonable" and police chief Panicos Hadjiloizou a "goon" for governing Disy.

    The accusations flew during a press conference Kyprianou called to reply to The Disy camp's charges that he had turned nepotism into a "science" during his 10 years as President.

    Christodoulou replied on behalf of the government yesterday, labelling Kyprianou a liar who had "lost his cool."

    Diko and Disy have in recent days been vying to out-do each other with charges of nepotism as the mud-slinging between the former government coalition partners has reached fever-pitch.

    Right-wing Disy are backing President Clerides for re-election in the February 8 polls while centre-right Diko have abandoned the government and joined left-wing Akel in backing former Foreign Minister George Iacovou.

    First in Kyprianou's line of fire was the Finance Minister.

    "It is well known that he acts as the minister of ministers," Kyprianou said. He claimed Christodoulou violated the constitution by deciding the agenda for cabinet meetings and approving "and in some cases altering" the minutes for the meetings.

    He said Christofides - who on Monday had charged Kyprianou with failing to maintain the standards expected of a former President - should not presume to tell him how to behave.

    "I do not think Mr Christofides, or anyone else, is qualified to tell me what to do," Kyprianou said.

    Evangelou has alleged that while he was minister, Kyprianou besieged him with demands for "favours" for Diko followers wanting police positions. Kyprianou, banging his one good fist on the table (his left wrist is in a plaster cast), said Evangelou was "unpardonable" and said "any old thing."

    He said Disy and Clerides had "wheeled him out" to make nepotism claims against Diko.

    "I ask that all promotions and transfers made during Evangelou's time be put before the House interior committee, so that we can see who practised meritocracy and who not," Kyprianou said.

    "Let us now turn of the police chief, who is a Disy goon," Kyprianou added. He challenged Clerides and his ministers to a public debate on the issue of nepotism.

    Christodoulou wasted no time in responding to Kyprianou's onslaught. "I must again express my sorrow about the fact that Mr Kyprianou is not telling the truth," he said.

    He said Kyprianou's charges that he had violated the constitution by deciding the cabinet agenda were "totally unfounded."

    The President had always designated a minister to set the agenda for cabinet meetings, Christodoulou said. He categorically denied ever altering the minutes for a meeting.

    Commenting on the attacks on Christofides, Evangelou and Hadjiloizou, the Finance Minister called on the Diko leader to "show respect for people's dignity."

    "I am sorry to observe that Mr Kyprianou has obviously lost his cool because in a political discussion what is convincing is not characterisations but rather arguments and facts," he said.

    "It is for the public to judge whether Kyprianou is meeting the standards expected of him," Christodoulou said.

    He added that Kyprianou had never made any complaints of nepotism while his party was in government for four years and nine months.

    [02] Former ministers endorse Iacovou

    ELEVEN former Diko ministers yesterday publicly endorsed the party decision to join Akel in backing George Iacovou in the upcoming presidential elections.

    The Diko decision has met with open dissent from some prominent party members, notably Diko vice-chairman and former Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides and former Diko vice-chairman and deputy Alexis Galanos. Galanos has announced his own candidacy for the elections, angling for the votes of Diko members not favouring Iacovou.

    The party has threatened to ostracise the rebels. It welcomed yesterday's statement from the 11, which urged Diko followers to unite behind Iacovou's candidacy.

    The eleven former ministers were: Costas Eliades, Costas Petrides, Stelios Kiliaris, Christos Mavrellis, Dimitris Liveras, Andreas Papageorgiou, Takis Pelekanos, Andreas Dimitriades, Emilios Theodoulou, Elias Eliades and Rois Nicolaides.

    [03] Defence cannot be held hostage

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS cannot and will not discontinue its defence plans while it waits for a political settlement, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said yesterday.

    Speaking to foreign media correspondents in Nicosia, Cassoulides was defending the government's decision to go ahead with the establishment of the Paphos air base and the planned deployment of Russian S-300 missiles.

    "It takes time to plan, time to prepare and to organise, so we cannot discontinue our defence plans waiting for new developments in the political efforts to solve the problem," Cassoulides said.

    "But we have always declared that the minute there will be a momentum that will make the reason which made us feel the necessity to build up our defences go away, then of course there will be no need to proceed."

    The Minister said that although the base had been "contractually" handed over to the National Guard last Saturday, the government "for the moment" had no plans for Greek planes to be stationed on the island.

    "We have not taken such a decision, at least not yet," he said.

    Turkey has said it intends to complain to the UN Security Council over the air base.

    The US State Department said on Monday that Turkey, as a member of the UN, had a right to raise issues of concern before the Security Council.

    "We remain concerned in general about the increasing militarisation of Cyprus on both sides of the cease-fire line, and we urge all parties to avoid taking actions or making statements that result in increased tensions in the region and that detract from efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace on the island," spokesman James Rubin said.

    Government spokesman Manolis Christofides told his daily press briefing that, considering its own actions in Cyprus, Turkey had no right to go to the Security Council over the air base.

    "Turkey's hands are not clean," Christofides said. "They are protesting because David has taken up the sling."

    Commenting on Rubin's statements on US concern, Christofides said all those who were concerned by militarisation in Cyprus should urge that President Clerides' demilitarisation proposal be adopted.

    The Foreign Minister meanwhile said that the new base had "all the facilities according to Nato requirements to be used by a friendly air force if there are hostilities in Cyprus".

    "The same applies to the missiles," he said.

    "We cannot keep ourselves for eternity as hostages to the Turkish army in Cyprus. If we have a base in Paphos, let me say to you that the whole of northern Cyprus is a base," he said, referring to UN statements that northern Cyprus was the most militarised area in the world.

    He said the 35,000 Turkish troops in the north corresponded to one soldier to every two and a half Turkish Cypriots.

    "Can you imagine that one Turkish soldier protects two and a half Turkish Cypriots. It means they are not here to protect, they are here to be ready for an expansion should the political decision be taken," Cassoulides said.

    "It makes us feel vulnerable, so we have the legitimate right to protect ourselves. We are using a force of deterrence. It's not that we are going to defeat the Turkish army, but they know that if they attack us it will be at a cost. We will never use missiles if we are not attacked, we will never use the base if we are not attacked."

    [04] Start of accession talks no April Fool's joke

    By Bouli Hadjioannou

    CYPRUS' EU course is well on track, with accession talks set to start on March 31 irrespective of developments on the Cyprus issue, the government said yesterday.

    The statement came a day after British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, dismissing earlier remarks by his Italian counterpart Lamberto Dini to the EU Council meeting in Brussels, denied that a Cyprus solution was a precondition for the start of accession talks. Dini later backtracked, telling journalists there were no preconditions.

    Government spokesman Manolis Christofides was succinct, insisting a settlement was not a condition for accession talks which will begin as agreed in Luxembourg on March 31.

    And Foreign Minister Yiannankis Cassoulides said Dini had been pressing on behalf of Italy to accept Turkey to the European conference.

    "Instead of concentrating on Dini, I think the most important thing that happened was the clear cut position of the British Foreign Secretary," he told foreign journalists.

    "EU accession means Turkey will be confronted with the dilemma of either allowing a federal settlement in time for the next enlargement, or risking Cyprus joining without a federation," he said.

    Asked about Turkish Cypriot participation in the accession talks team, he said an invitation would be extended - based on the principles that negotiations will be carried out by the Republic and that the goal is accession.

    The Foreign Minister also said EU experts had looked at the economic cost of the island's division and estimated that it would take only a few years to achieve economic parity between the two sides.

    "We are dealing with a population of 120,000. It is very easy to achieve economic parity," he said.

    For his part, the government spokesman said March would see significant developments in the EU which would be of interest to Cyprus. They include the March 12 European Conference in London to cover organised crime, illegal migration, drugs, the environment and economic issues.

    The accession process will start on March 30 within the framework of the European Council in Brussels. Actual accession talks with six candidate states, including Cyprus, will start on March 31, he added.

    "The ambitious aim set by the Clerides government for the start of accession talks is a reality. The accession talks start on March 31, 1998. It is not an April Fool's joke but a concrete reality," he said.

    The road has not been easy, not least because of Turkey's threats and reservations by other countries.

    "We find ourselves now with the invitation in our hand to start accession talks on March 31st. We are grateful to Greece for its constant, highly appreciated and decisive support in our EU course. The accession talks are not linked to a solution of the Cyprus problem and the person who proposed the connection, Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, stressed yesterday that accession talks with Cyprus will start as agreed," he said.

    [05] The Cyprus problem is not sexual

    By Jean Christou

    THE CYPRUS problem is not a sexual problem, government spokesman Manolis Christofides said yesterday.

    Christofides was responding to questions on whether President Bill Clinton's personal and political problems might affect hopes for an active US role in the Cyprus problem.

    "The Cyprus problem is not a sexual problem. We do not believe these developments will affect in any way the decisiveness of US diplomacy," he said.

    "There are assurances from US officials that all is operating smoothly; there are no problems and this is the view of other international personalities from other countries."

    Christofides added that in any case opinion polls in the US showed that some 70 per cent of Americans did not want a change in their presidency.

    Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides told journalists in Nicosia yesterday that the government would be watching developments.

    "I do not anticipate the resignation of the President of the US, at least at the present moment," Cassoulides said.

    Commenting on the much-touted US initiative on the Cyprus problem, Cassoulides said he did not believe President Clinton "would have appointed a personality like Richard Holbrooke (as special envoy),

    neither would Holbrooke have accepted such a position if they were not intending to be as active as possible in reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem," the Foreign Minister said.

    Cassoulides admitted the US had not yet accomplished much "because they have not yet been involved at full speed."

    But he added that barely three months ago Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was saying he would never sit at the negotiation table again. "Yet when Richard Holbrooke visited Cyprus last November, he gathered together President Clerides and Mr Denktash and had a good discussion for a whole day," Cassoulides said.

    He said although they had not reached "anything in the sense of a breakthrough", they at least discussed the issues in the presence of Holbrooke, which would help him in his handling of the issue in March, when UN-sponsored intercommunal talks are due to resume.

    Cassoulides said that so far Holbrooke had not proposed any concessions from the Greek Cypriot side.

    Cassoulides said what the government wanted from the March talks was that they did not lapse into "a dialogue of the deaf"

    "If they are making progress, we are not going to be foolish enough to be landing missiles in the port of Limassol," Cassoulides said.

    Responding to questions on the possibility of Denktash refusing to attend the talks, Cassoulides said: "Sooner or later he will attend. It will be a great responsibility on his behalf to refuse an invitation from the UN Secretary-general to attend."

    [06] Ministry slams rumours of extension to military service

    THE DEFENCE Minister yesterday dismissed rumours that national service was to be extended by two months.

    "There are no thoughts or intentions to lengthen military service," an official government statement read.

    According to the statement, the denial was deemed necessary "because it has come to the attention of the Defence Ministry that a rumour was being spread that with the deployment of the S-300 missile system the government would extend military service by two months."

    The Russian-made S-300 ground-to-air missiles are due for delivery in September. Service in the National Guard currently stands at 26 months.

    [07] Annan welcomes progress on missing

    UN SECRETARY-GENERAL Kofi Annan has welcomed the exchange of information on the missing between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

    His spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters that Annan had been in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross concerning the selection of the third member of the Committee of Missing Persons. He did not elaborate.

    In Nicosia, government spokesman Manolis Christofides welcomed the statement, and particularly the assurance Annan had been in touch with the Red Cross over the naming of a third member.

    On Friday Greek Cypriot humanitarian affairs commissioner Takis Christopoulos exchanged information about possible mass graves with Turkish Cypriot representative Rustem Tatar.

    The exchange covered 200 Turkish Cypriots (out of a total of 503) and 400 Greek-Cypriots (of a total of 1,493 cases delivered to the Committee).

    The committee of missing persons was set up in 1981. After the resignation of the UN appointed member in 1996, the Secretary-general said he would not appoint a replacement until progress had been made on the issue.

    [08] Man killed as car overturns

    A 40-YEAR-OLD cafe owner was killed yesterday when the car he was driving overturned after colliding with a traffic cone.

    The accident occurred at around 3am as Pantelis Michail from Xylotymbou was driving along the Larnaca to Dhekelia road.

    His car collided with a traffic cone as he was passing public works near the Larnaca sewage plant, hit the left bank of the road and overturned.

    Michail, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed instantly; passenger Andreas Andrea from Ormidhia was only lightly injured.

    The car was completely destroyed in the accident.

    [09] Cyprus aims to go straight into EMU

    By Hamza Hendawi

    CYPRUS hopes to join the European Monetary Union (EMU) as soon as it becomes a member of the EU, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said yesterday.

    Cyprus and five east European countries are scheduled to open accession negotiations with the European Union in April.

    "I think we will be ready (to join EMU) from the time of accession, considering that the next EU enlargement will take place a couple of years after the year 2000," said Cassoulides, who was speaking to reporters during a briefing at the Foreign Ministry.

    The euro, the proposed single European currency, will be launched on January 1, 1999. EU member states intending to join the euro are supposed to bring their inflation and interest rates in line and meet strict budget deficits, among other entry criteria.

    Cyprus, which is heavily dependent on revenues from tourism and services, has a relatively healthy economy.

    The economy grew by 2.5 per cent in 1997 and is forecast to grow by 4.5 per cent this year.

    Year-on-year inflation and unemployment are running at around three per cent, but Cyprus will have to rein in its growing budgetary deficit, liberalise policies on interest rates and remove foreign currency restrictions as it negotiates its accession to the EU.

    The securing of a firm date for the start of Cyprus's EU accession negotiations is being flaunted by President Glafcos Clerides as a major achievement of his five-year term in office. Clerides is seeking a second term in the presidential election scheduled for February 8.

    But Clerides's rivals have used the economic slowdown of 1996 (1.9 per cent GDP growth) and last year's modest growth as proof of his cabinet's mishandling of the economy.

    [10] Clerides takes poll lead

    By Charlie Charalambous

    PRESIDENT Clerides's re-election campaign gained momentum last night after the latest TV poll put him clear of nearest rival George Iacovou.

    A CyBC poll of 1,200 people, conducted by Cymar Market Research and Greek company VPRC, gave Clerides a morale-boosting four per cent lead over Iacovou in the first round.

    The lead extends to nearly five per cent when voting behaviour for the second round is considered.

    All previous polls had shown Clerides and Iacovou neck and neck, with less than one per cent separating them.

    But the CyBC poll indicates that Clerides can expect 34.8 per cent of the vote come February 8, with Iacovou lagging behind on 30.9 per cent.

    Asked how they would vote in a second round, 41.7 per cent backed Clerides with 37.1 per cent opting for Iacovou.

    Judging by the poll's findings, the hitherto undecided vote in a second round (11.7 per cent) will prove crucial.

    This latest poll also confirms the findings of previous surveys which indicated that many first-time voters - who make up around 11 per cent of the total electorate - will choose Clerides.

    Just over 45 per cent of first-time voters said they would back Clerides in the first round, compared to only 18.7 per cent for Iacovou. The don't knows were 24.2 per cent.

    Some 31 per cent of the undecided vote are first-time voters, while 29.2 per cent come from the Diko ranks, perhaps reflecting the party's divisions over backing Iacovou.

    On this evidence, Iacovou is losing ground and has yet to convince the Diko faithful and those aged between 18-20 that he has what it takes to become president.

    [11] Cook advises against deployment of S-300s

    DEPLOYMENT of Russian surface-to-air missiles in Cyprus would not be considered a friendly action by Britain.

    This was the stern message conveyed by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook after meeting his Russian counterpart Yevgeny Primakov in Brussels yesterday.

    Cook was speaking at a joint press conference after a "historic" meeting of the EU-Russia Co-operation Council to discuss trade issues.

    Cook said installing the missiles could not be seen as a move to reduce tension on the island, which should be the main objective.

    Primakov responded by saying that Russia would be ready to halt delivery of the S-300 missiles if a disarmament agreement for Cyprus was secured.

    But he added that at this stage no such agreement was in sight and therefore Russia would fulfil its contractual obligations to deliver the missiles, expected later this year.

    Cook - speaking on behalf of the EU presidency - did have words of praise for Cyprus when assessing its EU credentials.

    He singled out Cyprus as the only candidate bidding for accession which had a standard of living comparable to member states.

    Cyprus is one of six countries invited for EU membership talks in the union's first wave of enlargement.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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