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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-09-16

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, September 16, 1998


  • [01] Defence chief urges military moratorium
  • [02] Earth tremor felt in Limassol and Paphos
  • [03] Clerides denies anti-corruption drive is mere populism
  • [04] 'We're in trouble' with our groundwater
  • [05] Airline hopes for revenue boost
  • [06] America doesn't want to slam doors
  • [07] Hotel deal signed
  • [08] Who will tar the Pyla roads?
  • [09] Israel reassures Cyprus on Turkey alliance
  • [10] British minister's Cyprus holiday under the spotlight
  • [11] Gangland suspect denies planting bomb
  • [12] Greece calls on EU to do more to deter looting

  • [01] Defence chief urges military moratorium

    Britain presses for flight ban

    By Charlie Charalambous

    BRITAIN'S Defence Minister George Robertson yesterday urged both Athens and Ankara to accept a ban on military flights over Cyprus to avoid tension- raising confrontations.

    The minister described the Greek Cypriot government's planned deployment later this year of the Russian-made S-300 missiles as a threat to security in the eastern Mediterranean.

    Robertson, on a visit to Ankara, said he had urged Turkey to accept the idea of a moratorium on military flights to reduce tensions.

    "I strongly put it to the Turkish government today that they should consider the idea of that moratorium and indeed I will be putting it to the Greek government tomorrow," said Robertson.

    The British minister also stressed his country's readiness to back such a moratorium with practical assistance. "We are willing to help the monitoring of that moratorium," he said.

    Turkey has publicly dismissed any idea of a flight ban over Cyprus after the Americans pushed the idea of a "self-policing" moratorium.

    Nicosia, backed by Athens, has demanded nothing less than a secured no-fly zone over Cyprus in return for not deploying the surface-to-air missiles on the island.

    Robertson underlined Britain's - and the international community's - opposition to the missile deal. "We believe it is something that would be better not to happen and that it would add to the tension in an already tense part of the world."

    He was speaking during a visit to Ankara yesterday where he signed a defence industry co-operation agreement between Britain and Turkey.

    The Clerides administration has steadfastly insisted that the missiles will arrive, despite international pressure, if there is no progress in the peace process or a move towards demilitarisation.

    Tensions have risen on the island ever since the government announced it would purchase the Russian missiles back in January last year - they are now expected in late November at the earliest following an initial postponement.

    With Turkey rejecting any trade-off for cancellation of the missiles, it continues to threaten that it will strike the surface-to-air missiles if and when they reach Cyprus.

    Greece has said such a provocation would be a cause for war between the two traditionally bitter rivals.

    Wednesday, September 16, 1998

    [02] Earth tremor felt in Limassol and Paphos

    AN earth tremor which registered 4.4 on the Richter scale shook Cyprus last night.

    Police said the tremor was recorded at 21.50 by the Geological and Surveys Department in Nicosia. The epicentre of the tremor was pinpointed in the sea some 20 kilometres south of Paphos.

    Police said the tremors were felt in Limassol and Paphos and a number of people had phoned the police. There have been no reports of any damage or injuries.

    Wednesday, September 16, 1998

    [03] Clerides denies anti-corruption drive is mere populism

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday rejected any notion that President Clerides is pandering to public opinion in calling on his ministers to declare their wealth.

    Government spokesman Christos Stylianides dismissed criticism by Diko deputy Tassos Papadopoulos that the Clerides initiative was based on pure populism.

    "I believe Mr Papadopoulos, whom I respect, should not have described the president's actions in such a way," Stylianides told his daily press briefing yesterday.

    "Especially," he added, "when the president's aim was to create an environment of trust between the public and the political process."

    But Papadopoulos stood by his words yesterday, saying that asking ministers to declare their wealth without any relevant legal framework was an "insignificant measure".

    Clerides called on his ministers to go public about their wealth and sources of income following corruption allegations apparently implicating one of his ministers.

    House Watchdog Committee chairman Christos Pourgourides claims to have solid evidence that a government minister and several top civil servants are guilty of corrupt practices.

    Clerides has asked the Disy deputy to submit his evidence to him personally by the end of the month.

    Disy president Nicos Anastassiades called the Papadopoulos comments "unfortunate", but seemed less than happy about a member of his own party blowing the whistle on the government.

    "Such allegations need to be approached seriously and be fully investigated before being made public, or the desired result will not be achieved."

    Anastassiades added that Clerides should be praised for his decision, not criticised, considering that an anti-corruption bill had been pending at the House for five years.

    "Those responsible for not passing this bill are the deputies at the House."

    In response, Pourgourides said his party boss had been fully briefed on the situation and was well aware of the amount of evidence in his possession.

    "I respect Anastassiades' opinions, but disagree with his position," Pourgourides said.

    "There is no instance where I have not acted without caution, seriousness and objectivity."

    The deputy went on to say that he had decided to go public after a number of scandals involving tax payers' money had been pushed under the carpet.

    "There have been a number of scandal allegations, but nothing was done so I decided to act.

    "I had a lot of evidence before I decided to open my mouth... my conscience is clear."

    Whatever the outcome of Pourgourides' crusade to restore trust in politicians, he agrees there has been a mood swing against corruption in high places.

    "It's the media and the public who have changed the climate of cover-ups," he said.

    Nonetheless, cleaning up public life is no easy task.

    "I'm being pressured by a lot of people not to reveal the truth... some of them are powerful businessmen," Pourgourides said.

    Wednesday, September 16, 1998

    [04] 'We're in trouble' with our groundwater

    By Anthony O. Miller

    A GOVERNMENT warning published exactly 30 years ago today - that the island's groundwater was being dangerously over-pumped - has come true with government data indicating that some private bore holes are today yielding 30 times less than they did back then.

    And the government has had almost no success in controlling the over- pumping of its aquifers in the last 30 years, Water Development Department (WDD) sources concede.

    On September 16, 1968, The Cyprus Mail reported that the Agriculture Ministry had ordered drastic cutbacks in potato and other crops in the eastern Messaoria plain because of an acute groundwater shortage in the area caused by overpumping.

    The Ministry further warned back then that overpumping had helped seawater to infiltrate the coastal aquifers, and had dried up aquifers further inland.

    As the Mail reported that day, the Ministry "bluntly (told) farmers that continued over-pumping will lead to the destruction of the water sources, and the total ruin of all cultivations."

    Thirty years later, "we are in trouble" with our groundwater reserves, WDD Senior Hydrologist Michael Peppis said yesterday. Despite that 30-year-old warning, "we have to over-pump to meet the needs" of an island now in its third year of drought, he said.

    Cyprus relies heavily on aquifers for the vast majority of its water. It gets 80 per cent of its government water from boreholes, and the remaining from dams and the Dhekelia desalination plant's 40,000 cubic meters of daily output. And this does not take account of water taken from private boreholes.

    Peppis confirmed that Cyprus probably has no more than 50 per cent of the groundwater it had in 1960, and even that is rapidly diminishing. "Boreholes (that) were yielding 30 cubic metres of water per hour 30 years ago... now do not yield more than one to five cubic metres per hour," he said.

    He also confirmed that the aquifers from Nicosia to the Troodos Mountains are bone dry; that those west of Nicosia need heavy winter rains to recharge; and that many, if not most, coastal aquifers are too brackish to drink due to seawater insalination.

    Several culprits appear to blame for this situation, one made all the worse by Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous' recent admission that the reservoirs are 93.5 per cent empty and could run dry "by the end of this year" without heavy winter rains.

    The chief suspects would seem to be the owners of private boreholes, many of them farmers, as well as lax government law enforcement, and, ironically, the very existence of the WDD's Southern Conveyor, which supplies much of the island with government water.

    Private borehole owners "do pump actually much more" than their permits allow, "and there is no way that we can enforce these regulations," Dr George Socratous, WDD senior water engineer admitted yesterday.

    This is because the district officer, who is charged with enforcing the private permits' pumping limits, "does not have enough people" to do the job, Socratous said.

    With private boreholes "not looked after by the government," their owners are "over-pumping the aquifers... for crops that are not water-efficient," he said.

    The "water entity" that the WDD seeks to create would try to change this, Socratous said. But other WDD sources say the plan to expand the WDD's remit to cover all water matters is tied up at the Attorney-general's office.

    Farmers and other borehole owners, who have got used to plentiful government water via the Southern Conveyor, "have gone back into pumping their aquifers," because of government water rationing - 28 per cent to cities, 56 per cent to farms - imposed this year, Socratous said.

    The irony is that, according to WDD Acting Director Christos Marcoullis, "the main purpose" of building dams, government boreholes and island- spanning pipelines, including the Southern Conveyor, was "to help those aquifers to recover."

    "In spite of all we have done," Marcoullis continued, "because of the extent of the drought, we had to go again into over-utilising our groundwater. So we have brought (the aquifers) to the same level as in 1968."

    "The groundwater is our safety factor" against running out of water in this or any other drought, Peppis said. But much like bank checking accounts, they can suffer from "overdraft", he said, and "overpumping means we have less" for the future.

    That future includes 1999, which the government hopes to get through by using portable desalination plants or imported water until a second, permanent desalination plant can be built near Larnaca, sometime in the year 2000. The call for bids for these went out on Monday.

    Themistocleous has said he hopes the permanent desalination plant will be ready "by the year 2000," but sources close to the tendering process claim the new plant is unlikely to go on-line before June 2000, and probably sometime in 2001.

    Both Peppis and Socratous insisted the island's aquifers would never completely run dry from over-pumping, because even if winter rains fail to recharge the reservoirs, some of that water will flow into gravel-bedded rivers and percolate down into the underground water supply. That is, if it rains.

    Wednesday, September 16, 1998

    [05] Airline hopes for revenue boost

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS Airways (CY) hopes to increase revenue by 22 per cent to 162 million by the year 2001.

    The loss-making airline has included the optimistic figures in its strategic report, which is currently being discussed in parliament.

    According to reports, there are six sticking points to final approval of the plan, which aims to take the airline into the next century.

    Raising the group's revenue by 42 million over the next two years, from a 1997 figure of 120 million, is one of the main goals on the plan and is dependent on changing the airline's flight network.

    CY recorded an increase of 5.4 per cent in passengers in 1997.

    Cost-cutting and productivity are also major features of the strategic plan, but it is thought CY unions are less than keen about the proposals, one of which recommends a ten per cent pay cut.

    An airline spokesman said yesterday that management was still talking with the unions on the plan.

    But he added that many of its recommendations were already being implemented, particularly as regards cost-cutting.

    "Those suggestions that do not depend on other parties for discussion or approval are already being carried out," the spokesman said. "They don't influence anyone."

    Some of the other issues that are stalled involve the time-frame for implementation of the plan and an investigation into the actual cost of current company policies.

    Staff costs accounted for some 34 per cent of total CY operating costs in 1997, and are the airline's single highest expense.

    Aircraft maintenance costs increased by 23.6 per cent in 1997 and miscellaneous costs by 36.4 per cent.

    Wednesday, September 16, 1998

    [06] America doesn't want to slam doors

    By Andrew Adamides

    AMERICA is still working for a bi-zonal, bi-communal Cyprus solution, but is looking "for ways to open doors, not slam doors" as far as other proposals are concerned.

    Speaking yesterday after a meeting with President Glafcos Clerides, US Ambassador Kenneth Brill said American officials were "trying to get the parties back on the negotiations... on the basis we all understand."

    He added that this basis was that of the UN Security Council resolutions, providing for a bi-communal, bi-zonal solution.

    However, asked about Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's recent confederation proposal, Brill said America would "study" the proposal.

    "I think it is important that we have political proposals, not military proposals; it is important to get the focus on the Cyprus issue on political issues, on the core issues and not on things that distract," he said.

    Brill was visiting Clerides on the eve of the President's departure on Friday for New York to address the UN General Assembly. Brill said he expected he would hold further meetings with Clerides in New York next week.

    On Monday, Denktash told Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris in an interview that his confederation proposal was proof of the Turkish Cypriots' desire for reunification.

    Once mutual confidence between the two sides evolved, he said, it would be up to the people to choose where to go from there.

    He said the "accusation" by the Greek side that he was trying to unite the occupied areas with Turkey was "a lie", and that his proposal would merely prevent enosis.

    Meanwhile Turkish press reports claimed that Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz would visit the occupied areas on October 20. The visit was in order for him to hold a series of contacts and to attend the stone-laying ceremony for the Faculty of Medicine of the East Mediterranean University in occupied Famagusta.

    Wednesday, September 16, 1998

    [07] Hotel deal signed

    By Athena Karsera

    PARTIES in the hotel dispute met with Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas yesterday to confirm an agreement reached the previous day between unions and hoteliers' association, Pasyxe.

    The Monday night deal ended a day of strikes at several of the island's hotels.

    Pasyxe chairman Zacharias Ioannides told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the agreement had been "celebrated by all sides, and acted in the interest of workers, hotel owners and the industry as a whole."

    Unions on Monday ordered strike action at selected hotels in every town, often leaving only four people to staff a hotel usually employing 190.

    Agreement on the proposal was finally reached after an emergency general assembly meeting of Pasyxe members, followed by a meeting with unions.

    The new collective agreement differs only slightly from the agreement reached on Friday between unions and the other hoteliers' association, Stek; the Pasyxe collective agreement is valid for four years, whereas that at Stek runs for just three.

    Until Monday, protracted negotiations for the renewal of the collective agreement had failed to break the deadlock. Mediation by Moushiouttas and pleas from Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis had stopped unions from implementing earlier strike threats, despite deadlocks being declared on several occasions.

    Wednesday, September 16, 1998

    [08] Who will tar the Pyla roads?

    By Jean Christou

    RIVAL Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities in UN-controlled Pyla do not want the village roads tarred with the same brush.

    Both sides in the mixed village, where some 850 Greek Cypriots and 350 Turkish Cypriots live together, faced off yesterday when seven trucks arrived from the occupied areas to tar a stretch of road.

    According to reports from Larnaca, a crew of some 40 Turkish Cypriot men and women drove into the village ready to start work, but were stopped after a complaint to the UN by Greek Cypriots.

    More than a week ago, a similar situation arose when the Greek Cypriot side tried to asphalt the same road, but were stopped by the Turkish Cypriots. Pyla has two village authorities, both of which yesterday had a meeting with the UN officials administering Pyla.

    After the meeting, Greek Cypriot mukhtar Christakis Antoniou refused to comment, but his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Ahmed Sakali said it had been agreed the two communities would tar the road.

    A UN spokesman confirmed to the Cyprus Mail that the road would be done by both sides. He said there was a particular stretch that the Turkish Cypriots wanted to do because they inhabited that area.

    "There was a meeting between both sides to sort out the details," the UN spokesman said. "There is no problem and consultations are going on."

    The UN holds up Pyla as a model village where Greeks and Turks live together, but tempers often flare over everyday issues.

    Earlier this year, Pyla villagers nearly came to blows over a borehole - an issue which has not yet been resolved, according to the UN spokesman.

    Less than a week later a second crisis erupted over the construction by the government of a road, which crosses into Turkish Cypriot land in the buffer zone.

    Since then there has also been a row over Turkish Cypriots refusing to have their power supplied by the Cyprus Electricity Authority (EAC), and there have been reports in the Turkish Cypriot press of Greek Cypriots on motorbikes allegedly terrorising residents.

    Wednesday, September 16, 1998

    [09] Israel reassures Cyprus on Turkey alliance

    ISRAEL yesterday assured Cyprus that its military alliance with Turkey would not harm the island.

    Shemi Tzur, Israel's ambassador to Cyprus, said his country wanted stability in the eastern Mediterranean and would like to see a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    Tzur was speaking after a meeting yesterday with House President Spyros Kyprianou.

    Asked to comment on statements made on Monday by Arab ambassadors to Cyprus that they were worried over the Turkey-Israel military alliance, Tzur responded that "Arab countries should be more worried about how to proceed with the peace process with Israel and leave this sort of thing aside."

    He added that Arab worries had nothing to do with Cyprus and urged the Arab diplomats to help promote peace with Israel.

    Tzur said Kyprianou had raised the issue of the Turkey-Israel agreement.

    "Kyprianou received all the explanations. He received again the assurances that this co-operation has nothing in it to harm Cyprus," Tzur said.

    The ambassador said Israel was a close friend of Cyprus and would not harm Cyprus in any way. "There is nothing in that agreement to harm Cyprus," Tzur said.

    "We want to see stability in the eastern Mediterranean. We want to see the Cyprus problem being solved."

    Kyprianou said he had raised the issue of the military alliance because "it creates an atmosphere of concern to both Cyprus and Greece and to other countries in the region."

    The House President said Tzur had told him the alliance was of a technical and commercial nature and had nothing to do with Cyprus.

    However, Kyprianou said he still questioned the agreement, especially during the current period of tension on the island.

    Both sides are currently engaging in a tit-for-tat military build-up centring around the opening of the Paphos air base and the purchase of Russian S-300 missiles by the Greek Cypriot side.

    Reports have recently been rife that the breakaway Turkish Cypriot regime is also engaged in purchasing missiles.

    And a newspaper in the north reported yesterday that a naval base was to be built on the occupied Kyrenia coast at Ayios Epiktitos and that an aircraft hangar would be built at Lefkoniko airport. Tenders have already been issued and two firms have undertaken the job, the daily Avrupa reported.

    Wednesday, September 16, 1998

    [10] British minister's Cyprus holiday under the spotlight

    By Anthony O. Miller

    BRITISH Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott insists his recent vacation at the palatial seaside Limassol home of a wealthy Cypriot, and his and his wife's flight back to Britain on the mogul's private jet, were innocent, and that in fact he paid for both, the Sunday Times reported at the weekend.

    Despite Prescott's denials, the Times story implied there might be more to his vacation and his links with Haris Sophoclides, the wealthy director of the London office of the J&amp;P construction company, than is appropriate for a minister under the government's code of conduct.

    That code says that "no minister or member of their family should accept a gift from anyone which would, or might appear to, place him or her under any obligation" to the donor, the Times intoned.

    "There is no breach of the ministerial code," in his Cyprus idyll or plane ride, Prescott told the Times through a spokesman.

    The paper noted that Prescott's financial ties to Sophoclides were close, adding they "will surprise many who regard Prescott as a traditional figure, aloof from new Labour's love affair with big business."

    These links include Prescott's employment of Sophoclides' 30-year-old son Tony as a parliamentary researcher for the last four years, and cash raised or paid by Sophoclides and pro-Cyprus lobbying groups to which he belongs to Prescott or to the Labour Party.

    This cash includes "a substantial donation from wealthy Greek businessmen to a trust financing Prescott's private office", as well as "a donation of between 5,000 and 10,000" from the Greek Cypriot Brotherhood to Labour in January 1997.

    While not accusing Prescott of any quid-pro-quo, the paper notes the January 1997 donation to Labour followed a Prescott speech in London that same month, in which he pledged that "Britain with a Labour government will use our influence... to bring about an end to the division of Cyprus."

    That same speech, the paper said, preceded a separate 10,000 donation "from a small group of wealthy Cypriot businessmen" that Sophoclides arranged "to be paid into the John Prescott campaign/research trust," the "blind trust" fund financing Prescott's private office.

    While many Labour leaders avoid such "blind trusts" - intended to keep their beneficiaries from knowing their benefactors' identities - the Times noted that Prescott's trustee was Alan Meale, his then private parliamentary secretary, and now a junior minister in Prescott's department.

    "Both Prescott and Meale are close friends of Cyprus," the paper quotes Kyriacos Christodoulou, co-ordinator of the Lobby for Cyprus, as saying.

    Indeed, Meale last year made three fact-finding trips to Cyprus, declaring two of them paid for by Greek Cypriot organisations, the Times said. He also this March sponsored a motion in the House of Commons condemning the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and calling for the island's reunification so it could enter the European Union, the paper said.

    If Prescott is in charge of planning in the Labour government, noted the Times, Sophoclides, "as the London boss of J&amp;P... represents businesses involved in property development and construction, including the building of airports, military bases, luxury hotels and hospitals."

    Sophoclides does not blush at having invited Prescott to stay at his Cyprus villa - for the second year running - as "not a soul approached him (there) and he actually had a break" from the pressures of office.

    The J&amp;P executive insists Prescott refused his offer of a free holiday, preferring to pay for the vacation. A person the Times identified as "a sales agent" on the million-pound Limassol estate corroborates this, declaring Prescott "insisted he got a commercial rate, and he paid."

    As for the private jet ride back home, Sophoclides says "a personal matter" forced the Prescotts to cut short their vacation, and as the J&amp;P jet was going to Britain anyway, well it was no inconvenience to whisk them aboard.

    Here again, as with the villa, the Prescott spokesman told the Times his boss paid "an unspecified sum" to clear the slate.

    Wednesday, September 16, 1998

    [11] Gangland suspect denies planting bomb

    GANGLAND suspect Christakis Charalambous yesterday pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of a Limassol cabaret owner last month.

    Charalambous, alias Patataris, entered a not guilty plea before the Assizes court sitting in Limassol.

    Patataris is accused of trying to kill Evangelos Christodoulou, alias Angelis, by planting a bomb outside his cabaret in Heroes Square on August 22.

    The Assize court is to decide whether the defence should be allowed to carry out its own scientific tests on prosecution evidence.

    The trial date has been set for November 10, and the accused will remain in custody until the hearing.

    Wednesday, September 16, 1998

    [12] Greece calls on EU to do more to deter looting

    GREEK Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday called for the European Union to do more to prevent the looting of churches in the occupied areas.

    Speaking in Nicosia after signing a co-operation agreement that provides for Cypriot-Greek co-operation in tracing and recovering stolen art treasures, Venizelos said the EU reaction to the pillaging of Cypriot churches "is not what is expected from... the verbal declarations which give great emphasis to the protection of the European cultural tradition and heritage."

    Venizelos added that the United Nations and the Council of Europe had always shown far greater interest in the problem. He also said that in spite of Turkish claims that the looting was the work of professional art thieves, the situation was the responsibility of the Turkish government as the occupying power.

    For his part, Cypriot Culture Minister Lycourgos Kappas said scores of churches in the north had been defiled. Many had been turned into mosques, nightclubs, stables and storehouses, he added.

    Venizelos is in Cyprus with Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis. On Monday, the two handed a stolen icon depicting the Virgin Mary back to the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The icon had been stolen from the 12th century Church of Antifonitis at Ayios Amvrosios in Kyrenia by art thieves, who then sold it on the black market.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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