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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-08-28

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, August 28, 1998


  • [01] Tough talk on S-300s
  • [02] Probe into overtime by government doctors
  • [03] Cyprus keeps close eye on rouble crisis
  • [04] Foreign experts to help locate bodies of missing persons
  • [05] Suspect diamond thief to be extradited
  • [06] Church and state clash over taxes
  • [07] Soft option ruled out for future boat people
  • [08] Turks jailed for illegal entry
  • [09] Limassol plans to tap ground water reserves
  • [10] Chrysostomos-Pseka split over funds
  • [11] Hotel unions give 10 days' notice of strike
  • [12] `Open university' lectures begin
  • [13] Beach volleyball for charity

  • [01] Tough talk on S-300s

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS and Greece stood firm yesterday on the planned deployment of the controversial Russian S-300 missiles on the island.

    "There is no decision for a postponement so I have nothing to add," President Clerides told journalists in Athens after a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    Both leaders said the missiles will be deployed as planned in November.

    Military experts fear the tough stance of the two leaders is likely to bring closer the possibility of conflict with Turkey. Ankara has repeatedly it will prevent the deployment of the missiles at the Paphos air base.

    Bit Simitis reiterated that Greece would back Cyprus militarily in the event of any strike by Turkey against their deployment.

    "That weapon or the other weapon is not the problem in Cyprus," he said. "The problem is the illegal occupation by Turkey which must end."

    Just two days ago, Turkish reconnaissance planes flew over the Paphos base and Turkish President Suleyman Demirel also warned this week: "You may start a war but you may not control it."

    Cyprus and Greece have also come under heavy pressure from the US, the UK and other EU countries to cancel the deal.

    Both leaders stressed they did not want tension which would lead to confrontation, but "nobody can ask Cyprus to give up any moves it deems necessary for its defence," Simitis said. "They (the missiles) serve the defence of Cyprus."

    A joint communique from both leaders said the missiles constitute a threat only to those who dare to attack.

    It also said the two countries had agreed on how to handle the Cyprus question in the international arena.

    "If the world community wishes to consolidate peace and security in our region it must undertake initiatives and exert its influence on Turkey," the joint statement said.

    The 1993 defence pact between Greece and Cyprus was described in the statement as "a commitment Greece has undertaken to defend Cyprus militarily in case of a threat".

    "Within this framework, the Republic of Cyprus will take other actions needed to fortify itself," Simitis told reporters.

    Clerides has offered to cancel the missile deal if Turkey accepts his proposal for demilitarisation of the island, or if there is progress in the UN-sponsored talks for the reunification of the island.

    He is currently facing strong pressure from his coalition partners to maintain his pre-election pledge to deploy the missiles or resign.

    Simitis has also come under opposition fire recently for supporting the S- 300 deployment, and his tough talk yesterday showed strong support for Clerides.

    "Our aim remains the solution (of the Cyprus problem) and demilitarisation (of the island). That is why we will back every effort made by Clerides," Simitis said.

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [02] Probe into overtime by government doctors

    By Athena Karsera

    AN INVESTIGATION into possible abuses of overtime by state doctors began yesterday. It was ordered by Auditor-general Spyros Christou after reports of overtime misuse in the public sector.

    When the report is complete, its findings will be given to Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou.

    Defending overtime in state hospitals, the vice-president of the Pancyprian Union of Government Doctors, Petros Petrides, said yesterday: "We cannot leave any patient helpless."

    Petrides referred to a particular accusation by Christou concerning a doctor who received two thousand pounds in overtime in one month.

    He said that what Christou did not say was that this overtime occurred on 26 working days, and "it may even be less (money) than he deserves". Petrides welcomed the investigation, saying he feels it will also expose government shortcomings in the public health sector.

    The Pancyprian Union of Government Doctors issued a statement yesterday saying it wanted a meeting with Christodoulou, and added that requests made many times in the past had met with no result.

    Also yesterday, Christou announced a probe into former public officials now working in the private sector. Allegations have been made that former government employees use inside information gained during public service, and that they also often take former customers with them to their new companies.

    Christou noted that in other countries government employees are not allowed to be immediately employed in the same profession in the private sector.

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [03] Cyprus keeps close eye on rouble crisis

    By Hamza Hendawi

    RUSSIA'S LATEST financial haemorrhage is being closely monitored by authorities on the island for a possible spillover into the local economy, and early signs already suggest that the offshore sector might top the casualty list.

    "It is extremely difficult to gauge the impact of the crisis (on Cyprus) because the dust has not settled yet," senior Central Bank official Spyros Stavrinakis said yesterday. "And there is a lot of dust in the air."

    Russia's central bank yesterday suspended all foreign currency trading on the country's main exchange for the second successive day because of fears that the rouble, which lost about 40 per cent of its value against the German mark on Wednesday, was going into freefall.

    Pressure, meanwhile, piled up on President Boris Yeltsin to resign as many Russians hunted for dollars to protect their savings.

    "We don't even know whether this is the beginning of a crisis or the end of a crisis," Stavrinakis, who heads the Central Bank's Offshore Banking and Financial Services Section, told the Cyprus Mail.

    The well-being of the Russian economy has been of particular relevance to Cyprus since the break-up of the Soviet Union at the start of the decade meant sizeable Russian businesses and capital coming later to the island. The market economy introduced by Yeltsin at the time allowed many international companies to set up shop in Cyprus to do business with Russia under the island's offshore regime.

    The Cyprus connection became so instrumental in the post-communist economic development of Russia that up to $25 billion in investment reaches Russia through Cyprus every year and Russian-manufactured goods worth up to $600 million are made available to buyers on the island.

    "We believe that there will be no impact on the existing offshore companies but it remains to be seen whether the crisis will affect companies wishing to come to the island to do business with Russia," said Iacovos Pashos, Senior Manager, International Division, at the Central Bank.

    "We have not as yet seen anything that should be of concern to us in terms of companies closing or businessmen leaving," added Stavrinakis.

    But with confidence in the Russian economy and the rouble in tatters, investors are likely to stay away from the former Soviet republics until the element of risk has been removed completely.

    One knock-on effect of this virtually certain scenario would be a much diminished volume of the business normally done with Russia through Cyprus.

    But, according to Stavrinakis, there might still be a silver lining in the crisis.

    "Perhaps one of the good things which could come out of it is that the Russians will come to see (the wisdom of) our view on the double taxation treaty, and realise that it is important that it be left unchanged if foreign capital is to flow back again into Russia."

    The treaty is a cornerstone of the island's offshore regime, under which companies pay a corporate tax of no more than 4.25 per cent. Any additional burdens are seen certain to drive Russian and other companies doing business with Russia away from the island.

    Two recent rounds of talks between the two sides to renew the 1982 treaty have proved inconclusive. A third round of discussions which had been due to take place next month is now in some doubt due to this week's change of government in Moscow.

    Under pressure from international financial agencies to improve tax collection, Russia has balked at some aspects of the treaty. According to published reports, it wants to impose a withholding tax on interest paid to banks in Cyprus for loans made to businesses in Cyprus.

    Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou has said that Russia stood to suffer economically much more than Cyprus if the treaty was not renewed, and Stavrinakis yesterday warned that "tampering with the treaty will only worsen the crisis in Russia".

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [04] Foreign experts to help locate bodies of missing persons

    By Jean Christou

    FOREIGN experts are expected on the island before the end of the month to assist in the exhumation of missing Turkish Cypriots, Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Takis Christopoulos confirmed yesterday.

    The government said on Wednesday that the Foreign Ministry is already in contact with organisations abroad which have expertise in exhumation.

    Christopoulos said that although the Turkish Cypriot side has reneged on last year's deal on missing persons the Greek Cypriot side intends to go ahead with it.

    "We are ready to implement the agreement," Christopoulos said. "The Turkish Cypriot side has reneged on the agreement and as a result we have reached an impasse."

    The government is believed to be going ahead with the deal after being faced with the threat that the UN was on the point of washing its hands of the entire missing persons issue, despite having recently appointed its own new member to the tripartite Committee for Missing Persons (CMP).

    The Cyprus Mail has also learned that faced with this possibility the government offered to pay the entire cost of running the CMP.

    "How long can the international community sustain its patience vis vis something which was not clarified for so many years?" one western diplomatic source told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Both sides have often been accused of exploiting the issue to score political points.

    In all 1,619 Greek Cypriots are officially listed as missing, even though the government has statements from witnesses which indicate that 126 were probably killed.

    The tragedy of the missing persons issue for the relatives was highlighted last week when two women tried to dig up the grave of an unknown soldier, in the belief that their husbands were buried there.

    On August 18, the government said it would look into whether the two men were on the list of the 126. However the day before, a police report on the cemetery incident clearly stated that Charalambous Palpas and Andreas Siamisi had died on August 17, 1974 and were buried at the Nicosia cemetery.

    Christopoulos said that although the women had been told this several years ago they, like all the other relatives of the missing, would not be satisfied until the remains were positively identified.

    "But we did not have the means to do this," he said.

    He added that until all the known remains have been identified through DNA testing the missing list would remain at 1,619 despite the fact that 126 are known to be dead.

    And even though one the missing persons, a 16-year old Greek Cypriot with American citizenship, has been declared dead through DNA testing on his remains, the list will not now read 1,618.

    "Until the CMP officially declares him off the list it will not change," Christopoulos said.

    The UN recently appointed a Swiss diplomat as its representative on the CMP after a two-year gap during which time the two sides were warned by the UN to make progress or the CMP would be scrapped.

    However the new member is not expected to take up his post before next month.

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [05] Suspect diamond thief to be extradited

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A BRITON suspected of carrying out one of the biggest burglaries on the island is to be extradited from the UK to stand trial.

    Extradition procedures are under way to bring suspect Robert Talbot, 22, to Cyprus after a British court agreed to such a request by the Cyprus authorities.

    Police believe that Talbot stole 16 diamonds worth 60,000 and other jewellery items valued at 10,000 from a shop in Paphos - after smashing the display window - last February.

    "Unofficially we've been informed by the UK authorities that he will be extradited. We are now waiting for written confirmation and other procedures to be finalised," a police source told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Although no date has been set for the extradition, police believe the suspect could be brought to Cyprus within the next two weeks.

    Despite finding fingerprints at the scene of the crime, and a 10,000 reward declared by the owner for information leading to arrests, the investigation into the robbery had hit a dead end.

    It was only when CID chief Nathaniel Papageorgiou visited Scotland Yard recently that the police investigation got a lucky break.

    During his visit, Papageorgiou discovered that his British counterparts were investigating a spate of robberies in which Talbot was a suspect.

    The prints found at the Paphos jewellery shop were sent to Scotland Yard on the off chance they might match those of Talbot - which they did, police say.

    If convicted, Talbot could spend a lengthy stretch at the Central Prison, as the maximum jail term for burglary and theft is seven years.

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [06] Church and state clash over taxes

    By Elias Hazou

    FINANCE Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou and Archbishop Chrysostomos have clashed over the question of taxation of Church property.

    Christodoulou yesterday repeated that the Church owed the state some seven million pounds in taxes, adding that "no-one is above the law".

    Following comments by Chrysostomos on Wednesday that the Finance Minister had reached "rash conclusions on the matter", Christodoulou yesterday clarified that asking for payment of the taxes did not constitute an attack on the Holy Church, but rather involved abiding by the laws of the Republic of Cyprus.

    Christodoulou's involvement followed comments by Auditor-general Spyros Christou that the Church owed the state 6.5 million in capital gains tax, and that the matter was being investigated by the Inland Revenue Department.

    "We all have respect for the Church," said Christodoulou. "It would therefore be inaccurate to say the government is motivated by enmity towards it. The government has to enforce the laws."

    The question of tighter state control over Church finances was raised following a recent session of the House ad hoc Committee on Crime, which was briefed by Justice Minister Nicos Koshis on Limassol Bishop Chrysanthos' alleged involvement in shady business transactions. After the session, a number of MPs from almost all political parties called for a change in the special status enjoyed by the Church.

    With public interest in the Chrysanthos saga still strong, Koshis yesterday said that police investigators would travel to Portugal, Britain and the United States to collect more evidence on the controversial bishop's financial activities.

    Koshis yesterday met one of the bishop's lawyers for what was described as a "friendly discussion". Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Koshis said that further developments on the matter depended on the attorney- general and the outcome of police investigations abroad.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides confirmed on Wednesday that Chrysanthos was a suspect in a $3.7 million scam originating in Britain, but added that more time was needed to determine whether court action would be taken against the cleric.

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [07] Soft option ruled out for future boat people

    By Charlie Charalambous

    WITH THE cost of hosting the boat people spiralling beyond the 1 million mark, Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides has said plush hotel accommodation will no longer be a soft option for immigrants.

    "If I was from Rwanda and I came here and was hosted at the Pefkos Hotel, where I had the luxury of even having my toothpaste paid for and I could swim in the pool, would I want to leave?" said Michaelides at a press conference yesterday to review the boat people saga.

    Since 113 starving boat people were rescued from the battered Syrian fishing trawler Rida Allah on June 29, they have been held at the three- star Pefkos Hotel in Limassol.

    "So far it has cost the government 1 million to meet the needs of these boat people," the minister said.

    To reduce accommodation and policing costs, 30 Africans were transferred to police holding cells in Larnaca last week.

    "It is true that the cost of their accommodation was brought to our attention and the government decided to transfer some of them to less expensive places to save money," said Michaelides.

    He made it clear yesterday that the remaining 84 boat people - 25 have already been repatriated - would be sent home after failing to have their request for political asylum granted by the UNHCR.

    "There is no time schedule as it is proving difficult to uncover their true country of origin as many haven't got travel documents," he said.

    Only two individuals, from Sudan and Bangladesh, have been granted political asylum and a third case is pending, Michaelides said.

    Of the 25 already repatriated, ten were Syrian (including five crew), another ten were Bangladeshi, two were from Egypt and three from Lebanon.

    The survivors of the Rida Allah have always claimed they faced dire consequences if forced to return home.

    Two boat people died on the ill-fated journey before the rest were rescued by a Ukrainian vessel and towed to shore.

    The Syrian captain of the trawler, 31-year-old Mohammed Mustafa, has been charged with causing death by negligence and carrying paying passengers on an unsuitable vessel.

    Survivors claim they parted with thousands of dollars each for passage to Greece or Italy on Mustafa's boat.

    In view of the problems faced by the government and police in handling such sensitive humanitarian operations, Michaelides said a decision had been taken to establish a purpose-built detention centre to deal with similar cases in the future.

    "We will create a place of detention, in line with European specifications, to facilitate deportation," he said.

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [08] Turks jailed for illegal entry

    LARNACA District Court yesterday sentenced two Turks to a month's imprisonment for illegal entry into Cyprus.

    Mehmet Erol Gunioglou, 39, and Mehmet Ali Kizikagia, 30, were arrested on Wednesday while trying to visit the mixed village of Pyla.

    The two and a 17-year-old youth were arrested when a police patrol noticed their car had number plates issued by the Denktash regime. When questioned, they said they were friends and had decided to visit Pyla because they had heard so much about it.

    Gunioglou and Kizikagia both arrived on the island at Kyrenia from Turkey in the mid 1980s.

    Asked if they had anything to say, Gunioglou told the court he was sorry for causing any trouble, and that if the police had told them to turn back they would have done so. Both he and Kizikagia said they wanted to go back to the occupied areas as they had families with children there.

    Sentencing them, Judge Leonidas Kalogyrou said offences like theirs were common in Cyprus, and there was no excuse for them.

    The youth who was with them has already been escorted back to the occupied areas by the United Nations because he is under age.

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [09] Limassol plans to tap ground water reserves

    By Elias Hazou

    LIMASSOL Water Board plans to use the area's ground water reserves to solve the water supply problem caused by the continuing drought.

    A study currently under way on the project should be completed in November. If it goes ahead, residents in the town may soon be spared the massive cutbacks made necessary by a shortage of water on the island for the past three years.

    Limassol Water Board Manager Argis Markaris described the plan as the "only large-scale underground water extraction project" in Cyprus.

    Similar plans had been scrapped in the past, after experts determined that the water pumped might be contaminated as the drilling sites were situated too near built-up areas.

    But the board's chairman, Christakis Athanasiou, has said new studies are under way to determine whether the water posed any health hazard, and if it does not, then the Limassol Board would go ahead with the plans.

    Markaris told the Cyprus Mail that the water obtained from sinking new bore holes would satisfy some 50 per cent of Limassol's water needs.

    He said the area to be drilled is rich in underground water and could have long-term benefits, providing some 12,000,000 cubic metres a year.

    Sinking bore-holes is seen as a desperate measure, as water levels in the island's reservoirs are diminishing by the day.

    Some relief has been provided by the desalination plant at Dhekelia, and the government plans two sea-borne mobile desalination plants which will come on stream by next summer.

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [10] Chrysostomos-Pseka split over funds

    THE Nicosia convention of overseas Cypriots ended on a sour note yesterday, as Pseka President Phillip Christopher confirmed that there had been a disagreement with Archbishop Chrysostomos over the expatriate organisations' approach to the Cyprus problem.

    Christopher, head of the US-based Greek organisation, told journalists that at his meeting with Chrysostomos on Wednesday, he had made clear to the patriarch that the expatriates were concentrating their efforts on informing foreigners of the human rights violations in Cyprus, and not on the specific details of solution proposals.

    He said that in order to carry out an enlightenment campaign properly, "huge" funds were needed, and that he had suggested to Chrysostomos that the church might contribute to the efforts.

    But Chrysostomos said that as long as the solution proposed was that of a bizonal, bifederal community, the church would not give any money towards promoting it.

    Christopher said that the point the overseas Cypriots were trying to make was that foreigners and foreign politicians could be made to understand about the physical problems caused by the invasion, but "if you tell a foreigner you want a bizonal, bifederal solution, he doesn't know what you're talking about".

    The Pseka president said the current generally held view in Cyprus that however much was spent on enlightenment campaigns they did not produce results was wrong.

    He made clear, however, that he was not speaking against defence spending, but merely pointing out that more needed to be spent on informing the world about Cyprus' problems.

    "I have been saying this for 24 years," Christopher said.

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [11] Hotel unions give 10 days' notice of strike

    HOTEL unions yesterday officially announced that if a compromise is not reached with the Pancyprian Hoteliers' Association, Pasyxe, a strike will begin in ten days.

    The move, affecting all hotels belonging to Pasyxe, has been on the cards for days.

    The workers' unions, Sek and Peo, reported that they would send a letter to Pasyxe, informing them of their decision.

    A meeting on policy for the strike will be held today.

    Meetings between Sek, Peo and another hoteliers' organisation, Stek, will continue in the coming week.

    The Peo general secretary, Yiannakis Philippou, said yesterday the strike would not have an effect on Cyprus tourism.

    "We are reassuring everyone that the strike action we are taking will be the type that will not cause any problem for our tourists," he said.

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [12] `Open university' lectures begin

    AS OF September 2, the Cyprus University will be shooting for a whole new student population as it begins a series of lectures open to the public - Cyprus' first open university.

    The series of lectures is being jointly organised by the university itself, Aglanja Municipality, and CyBC. Lectures will be held at the Skali theatre in Aglanja.

    Subjects on offer during the first round of lectures, which ends on November 4, include democracy in ancient Greece, politics in the EU, ethics, biology and the information society.

    Entrance is free, and the lectures will also be broadcast on CyBC's first radio channel for those who cannot attend in person. In addition, they will be relayed to Cypriot expatriates in the UK on London Greek Radio, and across Europe by satellite and via the internet.

    The lectures, which will be delivered by Cyprus University professors, are sponsored by the Aglanja Co-operative.

    And as with any course, those who stick with it will be rewarded with a special diploma at the end.

    Friday, August 28, 1998

    [13] Beach volleyball for charity

    TWENTY beach volleyball teams from companies belonging to the Cyprus Shipping Council are to take part in a charity tournament between September 5 and 27.

    The tournament, organised by the council, will be held at the St Raphael Hotel in Limassol. Games will be held every Saturday and Sunday between 3pm and 7pm. Spectators are welcome.

    The council hopes to raise around 6,000 for charity.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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