THE ARRIVAL of the S-300 missiles could derail United Nations efforts to prepare the ground for direct talks between the two communities, UN resident representative Dame Ann Hercus warned yesterday.
"The Security Council has expressed concern for some time over the level and sophistication of armaments on both sides.
"The presence of a plethora of weapons and the arrival of even more weaponry does not support discussions," Hercus said.
Dame Anne's warning on the missiles came at a press conference at the Ledra Palace in Nicosia to announce the start of her "shuttle talks" between President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Hercus has been instructed by UN chief Kofi Annan to develop a process of contacts between both sides with the aim of reducing tension and promoting progress towards substantial peace negotiations.
"I want to explore quietly and carefully how that process might develop and what subjects might be discussed. I will do so by frequently visiting the two leaders," she said yesterday.
"I would describe the process as shuttle talks. I expect this to take some weeks and possibly longer."
Although Hercus said there would be no timetable for talks, she did say her efforts to set an agenda on what could be discussed would "start pretty much straight away".
But Hercus, who has been Chief of Mission for three months, was giving nothing away on the substance of negotiations.
"The process is going to be private. The process is going to be confidential."
There was also little indication as to when the UN would like to see direct talks take place.
"There is no intention whatsoever at this early stage of the process to give consideration to how and when there might be joint meetings," said Hercus.
But she made clear that UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan was pushing for a breakthrough in the deadlocked peace process in view of rising tensions over the government's missile deal and Turkey's vow to strike the system if deployed on the island.
"As each year passes, without an agreed settlement for Cyprus, the environment in which to find a solution becomes more difficult. Therefore the Secretary-general is particularly anxious that every effort be made now."
On Friday, it was reported that Cyprus had delayed the arrival of the S-300 surface-to-air missiles in order to allow UN mediation to reduce tension and kick-start settlement negotiations.
Denktash said in New York on Friday that Clerides had "assured everybody that the missiles will not come".
There was no government reaction to the reports yesterday, except an evasive 'no comment' from its spokesman, Christos Stylianides, who told the Cyprus Mail: "We have decided not to make any comments on this issue."
Clerides has repeatedly insisted that the missiles will be deployed unless there is substantial progress in settlement talks or unless his proposal for demilitarisation is accepted by Turkey.
AS THE United Nations announces yet another initiative to restart the stalled Cyprus talks, there would seem never to have been so great an interest from the international community, with countries and world bodies falling over themselves to appoint special envoys and emissaries.
"Cyprus should be in the Guinness Book of Records," a Western diplomat told the Cyprus Mail. "No place on this planet has so many emissaries, envoys and Excellencies per capita as Cyprus has."
According to the official list, there are currently 12 special Cyprus representatives honing their diplomatic skills on the notorious Cyprus problem.
These include UN Chief of Mission Dame Ann Hercus, US presidential emissary Richard Holbrooke and Sir David Hannay, who wears two hats, serving as both Britain's special envoy and that of the European Union.
One diplomatic source referred to them as the "Dirty Dozen", suggesting that with such a title something might perhaps finally be achieved on the Cyprus problem.
Before January 1997, it was mainly envoys from the United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom that worked on the Cyprus issue, but in the last 18 months alone, no less than seven diplomats have been appointed as special envoys to the island. These come from Finland, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Canada, Australia and the Commonwealth.
They may not have the high profile of such heavyweights as Sir David, or Holbrooke and his sidekick Thomas Miller (who is the State Department's Cyprus 'special co-ordinator'), or the UN Secretary-general's special representative Diego Cordovez, but some of these envoys do carry some clout, according to diplomatic sources.
"The Germans and the Russians are also important," one source said.
For the other countries, the source said, it's "more of a domestic issue than a real contribution".
These countries want to learn more about the Cyprus problem for their own information; Finland, for example, is about to over the EU's rotating presidency, and is aware that Cyprus will figure high on the agenda.
"Others, knowing that the Cyprus issue will continue and may adversely affect the work of the UN, have also taken an interest to be better prepared to deal with the problems of Greece and Turkey," the source added.
With a special representative to cover every month of the year, the set-up could from a distance be viewed as something of a diplomatic gravy train.
But according to another diplomatic source, being an emissary for Cyprus is no picnic at all.
"No it's not a gravy train. These people are not paid a lot for their few odd visits to Cyprus; and anyway they always end up sitting talking with Spyros Kyprianou rather then sitting on the beach enjoying themselves," said the source, who did not wish to be named.
He did not agree that it might be a case of "too many cooks spoiling the broth". He said the 'lesser' envoys were not actively engaged in trying to bring the two sides together in the same way as tough talkers Cordovez, Holbrooke, Miller and Sir David.
However, the source did admit that the number of envoys appointed for Cyprus did reveal something very important.
"It is a demonstration of the fascination the international community has for the Cyprus problem," he said.
Dame Ann Hercus - UN Secretary-general's deputy special representative for Cyprus, 1998
Richard Holbrooke - US Presidential emissary for Cyprus, 1996
Thomas Miller - US State Department's Special Co-ordinator for Cyprus, 1997
Sir David Hannay - Britain's Special Envoy for Cyprus, 1996
Sir David Hannay - The EU's Special Representative for Cyprus, 1998
Joakko Blomberg - Finnish Foreign Minister's Personal Representative for Cyprus, 1998
Vladimir Tchizhov - Special Representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry for Cyprus, 1997
Kai Falkman - Special Envoy of the Swedish Foreign Ministry for Cyprus, 1997
Detlev Graf zu Rantzau - Special Representative of Germany for Cyprus, 1997
Michael R Bell - Canadian Special Representative for Cyprus, 1997
Krif Srinivasan - Commonwealth Special Representative for Cyprus, 1997
John Spender - Australian Special Representative for Cyprus, 1998
TAKIS KYRIAKIDES is hell-bent on salvaging Cyprus Airways. So much so, in fact, that the national carrier's boss told stock brokers three months ago that, as a last resort, he would have no qualms about closing the airline and reopening it the next day under a new name and with a fresh set of employment terms that would greatly reduce the power of unions.
Some of his listeners thought he may have been exaggerating to make a point, while others perceived the remark to have been "made in parenthesis," a sort of an anecdote.
But will he do it if he has to?
"To close down the national carrier and reopen it the next day as the only option left to save Cyprus Airways, can only be done with the political backing of everyone, something the like of which is not available in Cyprus, " said Evros Constantinou, a market analyst with Hellenic Investment, the Hellenic Bank's brokerage and investment firm.
"But after all, there is much value to be put on continuity," he said.
Not everyone agrees, however, and, besides, the Cyprus Airways chairman still has a bit of time to steer the company back into the black and lay the foundations for medium and long-term profitability.
Already, Cyprus Airways' management is showing what one analyst called "fine tuning" in some areas. Routes running at a loss have been discontinued, some overseas offices have been closed, and the company is expected to return a profit for 1998, bucking a two-year streak of losses.
But everyone is warning against reading too much into this slight improvement in performance, and everyone agrees that Kyriakides still has something of a "mission impossible" to complete.
The 51-year-old Cyprus Airways has been in the red for two successive years, and its trade unions are becoming increasingly militant in their rejection of a blueprint, or a "strategic plan", put together by a group of foreign consultants last year to reform the company.
With the total deregulation of air travel within the European Union now set to come into force in 2001, EU applicant Cyprus can hardly expect to remain protected from the open skies concept for much longer after.
In fact, low-cost, no-frills start-up carriers are already waiting in the wings to pounce on Cyprus Airways' most profitable routes - Larnaca-London and Larnaca-Athens - the very second the green light is given.
Jockeying for position at the head of the queue is Stelios Hadjioannou, whose Easy Jet is already taking on such big operators as British Airways and KLM on their own turf.
"The company must persuade trade unions to accept the strategic plan," said Stavros Agrotis, a senior broker with CISCO, the Bank of Cyprus' brokerage and investment arm. "The other side of the coin is the company's collapse."
The plan, among other things, recommends the allocation to the airline's nearly 2,000 workers of six per cent of shares free, and a further six per cent at a discount in return for agreement to salary cuts of up to 10 per cent and a three year pay freeze. The unions have rejected the offer.
The Cyprus government owns 80 per cent of Cyprus Airways, while the rest is traded on the Cyprus Stock Exchange. Under bourse regulations, the government must reduce its stake in the company to 70 per cent by March, but the strategic plan envisages a government ownership of 51 per cent.
"I think Cyprus Airways' unions are involved in brinkmanship," said Yiannos Tirkides, chief economist at the Cyprus Popular Bank. "They'll back down and make concessions when they see that the company is on the verge of collapse."
If true, such union tactics could pose a mortal danger to Cyprus Airways. "Unions can take management to the abyss but it could be too late by then to pull back," said a market analyst who closely monitors the airline.
While talks between the management and the unions are continuing, apparently without making much headway, Kyriakides this week announced that the company had started contacts to join one of the four global airline alliances as a way of gaining better access to markets.
"We are talking to several companies and want to hope that we will have a clearer picture of the situation in the next few months," Kyriakides said on Tuesday, without giving details.
He also announced that Cyprus Airways was prepared to sell a 17-per cent portion of its share capital to a major foreign carrier that must also be a member of the alliance it will decide to join at the end.
While appearing on the surface to be a reasonable proposition, finding a buyer for a stake in Cyprus Airways might prove difficult for a company, which has earned a place in Cypriot folklore through its proverbial £8,000- per-annum cleaners and £55,000-per-annum pilots.
Cyprus Airways' search for a buyer also places it in a long queue of other airlines in search of the same.
Indian Airlines, Air India, Pakistan International Airline, Thai Airways International and Biman Bangladesh Airlines - carriers of countries with multi-million expatriate communities who return home at least once every two years - are already prowling around for buyers.
The volume of their business and, in the case of India and Thailand, their link to major tourist destinations put Cyprus Airways at a slight disadvantage as an attractive buy.
"The idea of looking for a buyer makes good sense," said Agrotis of CISCO. "But Cyprus Airways must first make sense as a feasible investment. At present, it remains in a very difficult situation."
Constantinou, the Hellenic Investment analyst, maintains that Cyprus Airways' announcement that it will return a profit in 1998 should not give anyone reason for hope in the future.
"Cyprus Airways has a monopoly on the routes it operates. So a profit in 1998 should not be made a big deal of," he said. "Only when deregulation sets in shall we have a clear picture of the company's performance."
CYPRUS may have ratified EU conventions on animal cruelty in its rush for accession, but it still has a long way to go before it can actively implement effective anti-cruelty measures, a local animal rights activist said yesterday.
Roxanne Koudounaris, speaking to the Cyprus Mail on the occasion of today's World Animal Day, said Cyprus had still not set up an infrastructure of animal shelters, nor had it banned the sale of poisons over the counter.
She also pointed to the lack of funding for privately-run groups as a major black mark for Cyprus.
"Frustrated citizens who've formed pressure groups have run out of steam because of the lack of funding. The Cyprus Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CySPCA) has had its government funding cut from £2,000 a year to just £200," she said. "What can you do with that?"
She also referred to the plight of wild animals in Cyprus, saying local attitudes saw them as a nuisance that had to be controlled. "People consider themselves in charge of nature," she said.
But there is plenty that can be done to improve the plight of animals on the island.
To start with, there's the four-point CySPCA campaign on behalf of Cyprus' pets. The CySPCA is actively campaigning against the continued sale of poisons and for a neutering programme. In addition, the organisation wants better methods of identifying animals in case they stray, and more rehoming.
Responsible ownership, Koudounaris says, includes making sure dogs do not foul public walkways, neutering pets and making sure they have daily companionship to ensure they don't make a nuisance of themselves by barking.
In addition, she says, those who have had pets poisoned should stand up for their rights and protest to the relevant authorities. For pets' protection, owners should be aware of the danger, carry an emergency first aid kit and in some cases be prepared to muzzle dogs in order to prevent them from eating poisoned food.
World animal day, she says, is a time to reflect as humans on our position in nature - and how to live in harmony with it.
Anyone interested in helping out can volunteer to help out at one of the many private shelters on the island, make donations of either money or supplies, or adopt or sponsor an animal.
Among the organisations operating are the CySPCA, which can be reached on 02-350530, the Nicosia Dog Shelter 02-269568, Diana's Animal Welfare of Limassol, which operates an anti-euthanasia policy, tel: 05-356426, and CCATS, which operates a spaying and neutering programme for strays in the Limassol area, tel: 05-720790.
World Animal Day occurs every year on October 4, which is also the feast of St Francis, patron saint of animals.
POLICE yesterday arrested a 43-year-old Maronite man on suspicion of spying against the Republic and endangering its security.
Police said they arrested George Josephides from Ayia Marina Skyllouras in the occupied areas after he was found in possession of official documents relating to National Guard weapons systems.
The suspect was taken to a Nicosia district court later yesterday afternoon, where he was remanded in custody for eight days.
Josephides is employed in the free areas by the Electricity Authority and was recently staying at a Nicosia hotel, police said.
Following a tip-off, police searched Josephides at the Ledra Palace checkpoint at 9.15 yesterday morning as he was about to cross over to the occupied areas.
Police said the classified military documents found in his possession posed a security threat to the Republic, as they believe he intended to pass them on to the Turks.
The Nicosia court was told by police that the suspect had confessed the documents were destined for the Turkish secret services in the occupation areas.
A search of the suspect's home in the free areas also uncovered other material, including a catalogue listing names and addresses of National Guard top brass, the court heard.
Josephides had been under surveillance since June following information received by police intelligence.
Nicosia CID are continuing their investigations.
Clerides said this week the media's fascination with sleaze was making Cyprus look like a "banana republic". Now, he wants Auditor-general Spyros Christou to finish collecting evidence as soon as possible.
Christou launched his probe last week, following the 14 counts of bribery brought against Michaelides by Disy deputy Christos Pourgourides.
Clerides is understood to have met with Michaelides since his return from New York for a first-hand briefing from the minister.
Disy's political office meanwhile held a meeting yesterday at which it called on Pourgourides to inform the party of the evidence he had against Michaelides.
And Pourgourides was taken to task over other allegations accusing a Disy member of unlawful enrichment.
Pourgourides has so far refused to name the Disy member and a Diko official, who he says are guilty of corrupt practices.
During yesterday's four-hour meeting, Disy served a gagging order on party members, banning them from public comment on the Michaelides affair until the Auditor-general's investigation is complete.
Christou has said his probe will take until the end of the month.
The report is 2,000 pages long and is understood to address all the charges against the Bishop.
There are currently over 30 charges of conspiracy to defraud foreign investors of millions levelled against Chrysanthos, and the report contains 50 chapters.
The Bishop has professed his innocence, claiming he was raising money for charity.
Matsakis junior was born on August 29 to Jackie Grivas, who had been in a long-relationship with the outspoken Diko politician.
The couple chose not to marry and are now separated, but Marios Matsakis said this week he would take full responsibility as father of the child, who would now inherit his name.
Mother and father have also decided to call their son Nicolas, the name of Matsakis' father.
It is understood that Marios is a doting father and visits his son nearly every day.
Both Marios and Jackie told reporters they were happy with their current arrangement, and said that at no time had they consider terminating the pregnancy.
Outgoing rector Miltiades Chacholiades has announced that he will not run for re-election for "personal, family reasons."
Spanos is a lecturer in economics, a member of the university senate and its council. He stood against Chacholiades in the 1994 elections.
His rival Papamichael is currently vice-rector, a position he won back in 1994. He is also a senate member and lectures in mathematics and statistics.
The only candidate standing for Papamichael's current position is Andreas Demetirou, head of applied sciences, and also a member of the senate and the university council.
Lecturer Andreas Zenios would have stood against him, but would only agree to run if the rules were changed to create a second vice-chancellor post.
Candidates have no political affiliations, and the elections are to be held on October 16.
This Thursday, students will choose 18 representatives from the boards of each department, 16 of whom will vote in the elections. Another six voters have already been chosen.
The student unions will also meet next week to discuss their proposals for improvements to the university.
The warning came after a pancyprian general meeting of port workers in Limassol on Friday. Among workers' concerns are the signing of a new collective agreement and the possible transfer of the authority's headquarters from Nicosia to Limassol.
The poor performance of Limassol port has prompted the authority to consider ways of improving its fortunes, and as part of the greater plan for relocation, bosses have suggested that administrative staff be transferred from landlocked Nicosia to Limassol. They have also complained of a surplus of personnel.
At Friday's meeting, port workers also called on unions to take a tougher stance against the threat of privatisation, which they fear would cost jobs.
No deadline was given for any strike action.