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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-05-27

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, May 27, 1998


  • [01] Miller warns on missiles
  • [02] Cyprus problem briefing for air passengers?
  • [03] Shipping industry wants bigger say in EU accession talks
  • [04] Cyprus needs a new image, says Louis boss
  • [05] Deputies slam 'unworkable' plans for Larnaca port
  • [06] Greenpeace hits back at Israeli dumping denials
  • [07] Deputies again probe English School status
  • [08] Kyprianou concern over US policy on missing
  • [09] Russian help on desalination?
  • [10] Water balloons due in mid-June
  • [11] Government to probe claims of top civil service scam
  • [12] Popular Bank upgrades services

  • [01] Miller warns on missiles

    By Hamza Hendawi

    US envoy Thomas Miller arrives at the Presidential Palace yesterday (Photo: Christos Theodorides) THE DEPLOYMENT of the Russian-made S-300 missiles and threats by Turkey to block their arrival would deal a blow to efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, US envoy Thomas Miller said in Nicosia yesterday.He also warned that the situation in Cyprus "could get worse before it gets better" if the crisis over the anti-aircraft missiles was allowed to continue unresolved. Such a development, he added, could have a negative impact on the island's business climate. At pains to clarify that Washington did not question the government's right to purchase the missiles, Miller said their deployment was more likely to trigger Turkish hostilities than serve as a deterrent.

    "As we look at where we go from here, it's clear that the situation could get worse before it gets better and this trend could have a serious impact on the business climate in Cyprus," warned Miller, the US State Department's Special Co-ordinator for Cyprus.

    "The S-300 missile issue will be of particular concern to the United States in the next few months," he told a Nicosia business conference.

    "We have made it very clear to the Turks that we think a reaction (to the deployment of the missiles) would be bad. Just like we think bringing in the missiles would be bad," Miller later told an impromptu news conference.

    "You are talking about two batteries of missiles. Two batteries of missiles are not going to even things up at all... they are much more of a magnet to Turkish hostilities than they are a deterrent to Turkish hostilities."

    "In the final analysis, if they (the government) go and deploy the missiles, I am just saying it makes all our efforts a lot harder," Miller said.

    The US envoy arrived in Cyprus on Monday and had meetings yesterday with President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. His visit comes three weeks after US Presidential envoy for Cyprus Richard Holbrooke left the island after an intensive round of talks with Clerides and Denktash which failed to restart negotiations between the two sides.

    Addressing a May 4 news conference in Nicosia, Holbrooke blamed Denktash for the failure, citing the Turkish Cypriot leader's insistence that he would not resume talks unless his self-styled state was first recognised and Cyprus withdrew its application to join the European Union.

    "In effect, the Turkish (Cypriot) side was trying to guarantee at the outset two key issues that rightfully should be up to the two parties to discuss in the give-and-take of negotiations," Miller said yesterday.

    Time was working against a Cyprus settlement, he warned, but said that the United States was determined to continue its search for a solution.

    "Like any complex challenge, there are bound to be ups and downs. You can't cut and run the first time the going gets tough, or you will never get the solution you need."

    Miller repeated the US position that Turkey's candidacy for EU membership should be considered on the same basis as that of other applicants, but said Washington was fully aware that Ankara must take steps to allay the concerns of the 15-nation group.

    Citing human rights, relations with EU member Greece and Cyprus as areas in which Turkey must improve, Miller said: "The US fully shares these concerns, and we have been encouraging Ankara's co-operation on these issues."

    [02] Cyprus problem briefing for air passengers?

    By Jean Christou

    PASSENGERS travelling on the national carrier could soon be treated to a briefing on the Cyprus problem on take-off and landing.

    Cyprus Airways (CY) pilots yesterday said they had asked management for permission to inform passengers about the political situation on the island over the public address system of the company's aircraft.

    Fears that informing a planeload of tourists on the complexities of the Cyprus problem might take hours were dismissed by the pilots' union Pasipy yesterday.

    "It would take much less time than that," said a union representative, adding that the pilots would have to prepare their take-off and landing at the same time.

    He said the pilots wanted to contribute to enlightenment on the Cyprus issue in the form of a running commentary.

    "Some pilots already do it voluntarily and the response has been good," the union representative said.

    He dismissed suggestions that tourists might get the impression they were flying into a war zone, saying that scaring visitors was not the general idea.

    "When we fly across the occupied areas, we will point out Morphou Bay and other places," he said.

    Pasipy said it had written to management on May 13 seeking permission to carry out its plan, which it says would be in line with government policy on the Cyprus issue.

    But the airline has not responded, the union claims.

    However, CY spokesman Tassos Angelis said yesterday he had made several attempts to contact the Pasipy leadership to discuss the proposal.

    He expressed surprise that the pilots had sent out a statement on the issue.

    "Of course we would be in favour of the proposal," Angelis said.

    Meanwhile, a bitter dispute between pilots and management over the renewal of a collective agreement continued yesterday.

    Following a critical statement by Pasipy on Monday threatening strike action, CY hit back accusing the pilots of damaging the company, tourism and the economy.

    "They are refusing to say the real reason why they want to strike," a CY announcement said. "They don't feel comfortable telling the Cypriot people why."

    The company is urging the Labour Ministry to intervene to solve the dispute.

    On Monday, Pasipy said it would announce strike measures within the next few days. However, the union representative said yesterday there would be no strike action before the weekend because the two sides are due to meet by the end of the week.

    The main sticking point is a row over promotions in CY's charter firm Eurocypria.

    CY pilots want to be given top jobs in Eurocypria if they have longer service than their charter-firm counterparts.

    Pasipy says an impasse has been reached in the negotiations.

    [03] Shipping industry wants bigger say in EU accession talks

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE HEAD of the powerful Cyprus Shipping Council called yesterday for closer involvement of the Limassol-based body in government efforts to formulate a negotiating position for its shipping sector in accession talks with the EU.

    Captain Juergen Hahn, the council's president, also urged the government department in charge of merchant shipping to tighten control over Cyprus flag vessels, saying this was essential if the island's shipping industry was to protect its image and enhance its international role.

    "The great success of the Cyprus-based shipping companies and the tremendous growth of the Cyprus fleet has made shipping one of the most successful and vital sectors of the Cyprus economy," said Hahn in an address to a business gathering in Nicosia organised by The Economist Conferences.

    "I hope that the government will make good use of the huge expertise and capabilities of the private shipping sector, and will thereby engage us more in their deliberations vis--vis the drafting of the negotiating strategy of Cyprus shipping.

    "We feel that we have a legitimate interest to be directly consulted on this matter," said Hahn, whose Cyprus Shipping Council operates as the trade association of the resident shipping industry in Cyprus.

    Cyprus opened accession talks with the European Union in late March. On the road to membership, Cyprus appears determined to win long grace periods for its lucrative offshore sector, which covers its vast shipping industry.

    Offering tax incentives and other perks, Cyprus began to attract international shipping back in the 1960s. Its flag now ranks fifth in the world fleet, with some 2,700 ships and a total of 25.5 million tonnes. But the flag has been mired in notoriety in recent years because of vessels with safety standards below international specifications, leading to frequent detentions in foreign ports.

    "Due to lack of regular inspections of all the Cyprus ships, a considerable number has regularly been detained in foreign ports for serious deficiencies, which in turn has placed the Cyprus flag on the priority inspection lists or 'target lists' of various countries," Hahn said.

    "This unfortunate situation stigmatises the overall picture of Cyprus shipping and seriously undermines efforts made by the Cyprus maritime administration and the Cyprus Shipping Council," he added. He also called on the government to apply a policy of "zero tolerance" to offending Cyprus flag vessels.

    He said the Department of Merchant Shipping, which is attached to the Ministry of Communications and Works, must "view deletions of substandard ships as an expression of its commitment to 'safe and quality shipping' and not as a sign of weakness."

    Defending the government policy, the department's director, Serghios Serghiou, told the same conference that the placing of Cyprus vessels on target lists was not the result of a "lax policy" in regard to safety.

    "On the contrary, the government's maritime policy, for the last 20 years at least, has reflected its commitment to safety at sea and the protection of the maritime environment," he said.

    "The fast growth of the registry during the 1980s, however, created a situation which exceeded the department's capacity to exercise effective control on the ships flying the Cyprus flag."

    [04] Cyprus needs a new image, says Louis boss

    By Hamza Hendawi

    WITH SO much riding on how well it performs, the island's vital tourism industry needs to enter the new millennium with a new vision and a new strategy that would ensure its ability to compete, one of the sector's top executives told a business conference yesterday.

    Reviewing the history of the industry since the 1970s, Costakis Loizou, chief executive of tour giant Louis, said that the rapid development of tourism had given rise to a host of problems. These, he added, included labour shortages, inadequacy of the road system and environmental pollution.

    "These problems have also had a negative effect on the traditional values in Cyprus, such as hospitality, and have led to a decline in the image of the island ... to the point that Cyprus is gradually becoming just another Mediterranean destination, with relatively higher quality of accommodation, " said Loizou.

    Tourism is the island's largest single employer and brings the treasury nearly 1 billion in receipts annually. It accounts for some 20 per cent of gross domestic product, but has over the years shown an acute vulnerability to political developments at home and in the Middle East.

    Cyprus, where the government-controlled areas have a population of about 600,000, attracts about two million visitors a year. The government expects 1998 to be a record year with an increase of up to 10 per cent in arrivals on last year's 2.06 million.

    Describing as inadequate recent efforts by the government and the private sector to improve tourism infrastructure and the tourist product, Loizou said: "We need a vision and a new strategy to take us into the new millennium, which will be supported by consistent and persistent policies."

    "A return to the traditional hospitality values of our fathers is more than a necessity if we are to succeed in the efforts to create a new image," Loizou said. It was also important, he said, to create a "specific vision and strategy for each of the island's tourist resorts as well as the redefinition of their role in the future development of the island."

    Loizou cited the coastal cities of Larnaca and Limassol as examples.

    Larnaca, which has a reputation for being drab and boring, could be turned into the "Cannes of the Eastern Mediterranean with a big marina for luxury yachts and passenger vessels... should the government take the strategic decision to remove the fuel facilities from the area."

    Turning to Limassol, where seemingly eternal road works have turned to a nightmare the life of many tourists and residents, Loizou said the city could become a cruise hub if the government moved to separate passenger from cargo traffic and improved what he called the existing poor facilities.

    "Measures must also be taken by the authorities to transform the tourist areas from a jungle of noise pollution, neon lights, flags, and multi- coloured fast food units into a more humane and cosy environment."

    [05] Deputies slam 'unworkable' plans for Larnaca port

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE HOUSE Communications committee yesterday labelled a government plan to turn ailing Larnaca port into a cruise-ship terminal "pie in the sky."

    The cabinet proposal, unveiled last week and expected to cost over 100 million, was just the latest in a long series of government schemes for the port that never left the drawing board, deputies charged.

    Committee chairman Nicos Pittokopitis went further, saying the government did not care what happened to the port.

    The cabinet was ignoring not only the opinions of port workers and Larnaca residents -- who want the port extended so it can service both cargo and passenger ships -- but of the House also, Pittokopitis said. "A decision on the issue was taken without even giving us the cabinet proposal to look at, " he complained.

    Pittokopitis took exception to Communications Minister Leontios Ierodiakonou failing to show up at yesterday's debate, saying this was indicative of the government's contempt for the House on this issue. He shouted down the ministry representative, Andreas Kokkinos, when he tried to excuse his superior's absence as unavoidable. "May 26 was the minister's choice of date for the debate," the chairman protested.

    Larnaca deputies Andreas Mouskos and Nicos Cleanthous, of Disy and Diko respectively, agreed the government plan to turn the port into a passenger terminal was unworkable.

    "Why build a new 6.5 million passenger building when the one already built, at a cost of 2.5 million, stands empty?" Mouskos asked. Cleanthous said the reason haulage companies had abandoned the port was not, as the government claimed, high labour charges, but rather a shallow port which "newer vessels are afraid to approach because their hulls almost touch the bottom."

    Pittokopitis said port workers had accepted cuts in benefits in an effort to save the port, but to no avail.

    Deputies said they were not persuaded a revamped port would attract cruise ships. "How will we attract boats to the port without incentives?" Mouskos asked.

    "We must develop the port as a first step and then follow with incentives if it does not attract custom," Papadopoulos replied.

    "The plan is to create a quality port unrivalled in the Mediterranean region," the ministry man added. "Any other solution would not better guarantee the viability of the port," he added.

    "We are not convinced," Pittokopitis responded.

    The port has been in dire straits as foreign haulage firms have abandoned it in favour of ports in neighbouring countries, prompting port workers to call strikes and stage protests outside the Presidential Palace.

    [06] Greenpeace hits back at Israeli dumping denials

    By Martin Hellicar

    GREENPEACE has charged Israel with "bluntly misleading" the public over the dumping of waste in the sea off Cyprus.

    The Israeli embassy in Nicosia declined to comment on the international organisation's claims yesterday, saying they had already been dealt with them in an announcement issued last week.

    That announcement was issued in response to Greenpeace claims that Israeli firms were being allowed to poison the Mediterranean by dumping thousands of tons of toxic waste in the sea South of Cyprus. The embassy stated the waste was being dumped 300 km away from the island, and was not affecting the marine ecosystem. A land-based disposal solution for some of the waste was to be found within six months, it added.

    The Cyprus Fisheries department also gave assurances that fish caught off Cyprus were contamination-free.

    But Greenpeace is plainly unimpressed with Israel's response: "The Israeli government has bluntly tried to mislead public opinion in the (Mediterranean) basin about the sea dumping operations of Haifa Chemicals and the Israeli Electric Company (IEC)," an announcement from the pressure group's Mediterranean office stated.

    "The Israeli embassy claimed that the regular sea dumping by Haifa Chemicals and the IEC was not affecting the marine environment. This is a totally misleading statement because the exact impacts of regular injection of toxics into the eastern Mediterranean... have not been scientifically researched by any state until today," Greenpeace stated.

    The waste being dumped contained a cocktail of highly poisonous heavy metals, Greenpeace said. The embassy's description of the Haifa Chemicals waste as "treated remains of potash rock" was an attempt to "downplay the toxicity of the dumped substances," the announcement added.

    Greenpeace said Israel's promise that land-based disposal of the IEC waste was to begin soon was nothing but "empty words."

    "Every time a sea dumping permit is issued, the authorities claim a solution will be implemented soon," the announcement read.

    "The reality is, however, that during the past nine years the IEC has been promising to carry out a land-based solution."

    Greenpeace also took issue with the Cyprus government.

    "The Cypriot authorities first tried to deny that Israeli companies were dumping hazardous waste in the sea. But after it became clear that it was impossible to hide the truth, the Fisheries Department claimed that Cyprus was not affected by the toxics," Irene Constantinou of Greenpeace Cyprus said in the statement.

    "Greenpeace demands that any official scientific sampling tests and documents be made public," she said.

    [07] Deputies again probe English School status

    By Andrea Sophocleous

    THE ENGLISH School again came before the House yesterday, with the school's accountability to the government and its bitter headmaster-versus-teachers dispute under the spotlight of the Education Committee.

    The issue of the crisis at the elite Nicosia school was discussed at length, but the committee meeting ended, once again, inconclusively.

    Deputies was addressed by the School Board, the Staff Association (ESSA), the Old Boys and Girls Association and the Parents Association; the meeting was also attended by three pupils, who were not called upon to address the committee.

    The committee had some difficulty deciding what it was actually meant to be discussing; for a second time, the agenda referred to the school's "operational regime", yet, as Diko deputy Stathis Kittis argued, "there are many issues involved here" beyond the operational regime.

    Deputies, headed by Prodromos Prodromou of Disy, seemed most concerned about the lack of a government supervisory role at the English School, despite the state funding it receives (140,000 a year).

    The issues of Headmaster Thomas Thomas' alleged "authoritarian" management style and the controversial appointment of a female member of staff to a senior position were also hotly discussed, though neither was on the agenda.

    Diko deputy Katerina Pantelidou, a former teacher at the school and mother of three English School pupils, agitatedly opposed Akel deputy Andreas Philippou's reference to the headmaster-teacher issue, pointing out that "we are not a court".

    In his defence, Philippou argued that he was concerned about the procedural mechanisms in place at the school to deal with teacher complaints.

    But School Board chairman John Hadjiantonas said various procedures did exist to deal with teacher appeals, such as recourse to binding arbitration.

    Committee members also expressed concern at what they saw as the English School's very high fees of 2,000 a year, which, according to Disy's Lefteris Christophorou, are "higher than even the most expensive private school", despite the school's state funding.

    Christophorou asked Hadjiantonas if school fees had decreased as government funding to the school had risen over the years, but the Board's chairman said he was unable to answer because he did not have the figures at hand.

    Besides, he added, there were at least two private schools more expensive than the English School.

    Prodromou suggested that there should be some kind of neutral advisory authority set up by the Education Ministry to deal with such problems as the current standoff, arguing that, as things stood, the Board was letting the headmaster do whatever he wanted.

    No course of action was decided upon, however, and the Education Committee will discuss the matter again.

    Efforts by teachers, Board, parents and old boys and girls are currently under way to resolve the dispute between the teachers and the headmaster.

    [08] Kyprianou concern over US policy on missing

    THERE is growing government concern at the US decision to assume that four missing Greek Cypriots with American citizenship are dead, according to House President Spyros Kyprianou.

    Following a meeting yesterday with representatives of the missing, Kyprianou said he was concerned the approach adopted by Washington would be extended to the missing issue in general.

    The American report on the fate of the five missing Greek Cypriots holding US nationality concluded that they were all dead.

    In one of the five cases, that of Andreas Kasapis who was 16 when he disappeared in 1974, death has been proven through DNA testing of remains found by an American team in the occupied areas.

    The remains have been returned to his family, and Kasapis' funeral will finally take place in the US on June 22, almost 24 years after his death.

    The other four, according to the US report drawn up by ambassador Robert Dillon, are probably dead, either from physical hardship or ere killed by Turkish militia.

    The report said there was "no evidence" to confirm reports that these people might have been taken prisoner.

    Kyprianou said yesterday the government was so concerned at the report that it had sent it to the Attorney-general's office for an opinion.

    "There is a fear that the US move might in some way constitute a precursor of a more general move with the aim of closing the issue of the missing without ascertaining their fate," Kyprianou said. He said the House would take up the issue.

    The government has repeatedly said that it would not accept that any of the missing are dead without a positive identification of their remains.

    Leaders of the two committees for the relatives took a similar stance yesterday.

    Agapios Hiratos said the US move appeared to be a way of dealing with the missing issue collectively, which "cannot be accepted by the committee or any relative of the missing".

    Nicos Theodosiou said there was a fear that Turkey might adopt the US stance on the issue as an excuse not to give out any further information on the 1,619 missing Greek Cypriots.

    Files relating to the whereabouts of some 400 Greek Cypriots and 200 of the 803 Turkish Cypriot missing were exchanged between the two sides at a meeting in January in line with an agreement reached last July.

    The Greek Cypriot side says it is ready to proceed with the exhumation of bodies.

    [09] Russian help on desalination?

    By Andrea Sophocleous

    THE AGRICULTURE Ministry is discussing the possibility of purchasing or renting small mobile desalination plants from Russia in an attempt to confront Cyprus' acute water shortage.

    Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Costas Themistocleous met Russian Ambassador to Nicosia Georgi Muratov yesterday to discuss this and recent plans drawn up by Russian experts for the creation of a new dam at the Karkotis River in the Troodos mountains.

    Speaking after their meeting, the minister and the ambassador said that the technical details of the installation of mobile desalination units were still being discussed.

    "We discussed using small desalination plants in big hotels, villages, etc, " said Muratov. "In the case of mobile plants... it's a possibility, but it is still in the discussion process."

    Themistocleous stressed that the water shortage problem must be dealt with in the next few months, adding that "what we are examining now is the actual need for small desalination plants to combat a possible fourth year of drought." He said the government was considering the possibility of using small desalination plants instead of permanent plants, such as that in Dhekelia, to deal with "the very immediate needs".

    The Minister said it was too early to speak of costs, because there was talk of using small desalination plants to service anything from single households to entire areas.

    The Russian plans for a Karkotis River dam are being considered by the government. Themistocleous said a new dam would be helpful in facing the water problem.

    In a separate development, the Cyprus Greens have called on the government to correct its "schizophrenic policy" on water, arguing that while the government continues "to deny such a precious resource" to ordinary citizens on most days of the week, it champions the further creation of golf courses in Cyprus.

    The Greens point out that certain golf courses on the island are granted a water allowance equal to that which meets the yearly needs of 20,000 people.

    [10] Water balloons due in mid-June

    THE SCHEME to transport water from Turkey to the occupied areas in balloons will be officially inaugurated in mid-June, after tests this month proved successful, Turkish press reports said yesterday.

    Turkish Cypriot officials are currently awaiting approval by international inspectors of the delivery platform being built in occupied Syrianochori -- a requirement set by the Norwegian company supplying the balloons. Once this is obtained, three million cubic metres of water are expected to be transported in the project's first phase.

    The second stage is expected to see three balloons joined together bringing around 7 million cubic metres of water to the island every year.

    No official date has yet been set for the inauguration ceremony, which is to be attended by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel.

    The water is being taken from a Turkish river near the city of Anamur. In the longer-term, a pipeline is planned to replace the balloons. This is expected to run along the sea bed from the Manavgat River to Cyprus.

    [11] Government to probe claims of top civil service scam

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A GOVERNMENT investigator is expected to be appointed today to probe allegations that a top civil servant gave his subordinates time off to build his plush new home.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous said yesterday that he would propose to the Council of Misters today that an investigator be appointed to examine allegations against Water Development Department director Lakis Christodoulou.

    Christodoulou has been accused of giving his staff time off to carry out construction work on his luxury home in Nicosia, near the new GSP stadium.

    Last week, police carried out a raid on the building site, arresting four employees of the department in the process.

    "In the area of the construction of Mr Christodoulou's residence, four employees from the department and machinery were found," Themistocleous said yesterday.

    He said the police had nearly completed their investigation into the criminal aspect of the case.

    And the government is taking the case seriously enough to suggest that Christodoulou be suspended until a separate disciplinary inquiry is concluded.

    "The ministry has proposed to the public services commission that the water development director be suspended while the alleged offences are investigated," Themistocleous said.

    Christodoulou has told CyBC television that the allegations against him are unfounded.

    And he is confident that any disciplinary inquiry against him will uncover the real facts.

    "When the investigation is completed, the truth will shine," Christodoulou told CyBC on Monday night.

    [12] Popular Bank upgrades services

    POPULAR Bank customers can now enjoy easier access to accounts and ATMs via improved telephone services.

    "The existing Phone Bank and StockLine services, operating on a 24-hour basis, are now connected with the Teleservices Line," said bank official Nicos Hadjinicolaou at a press conference yesterday.

    The PhoneBank services provide for nine new services including account balances, statements, transfers, exchange rate information and stock prices.

    The Popular Bank's multi-purpose service is being hailed as the most advanced on the island.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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