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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-11-29

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

November 29, 1998


  • [01] Missile madness
  • [02] Doctors' strike called off
  • [03] Saint's icon marks service in a tent
  • [04] All-clear for birds, now they're hunted
  • [05] Tulip Rally duo hurt in road plunge

  • [01] Missile madness

    By Hamza Hendawi

    PRESIDENT Clerides is adamant that the S-300 missiles he ordered from Russia be brought to Cyprus to be stored, and not go to Crete as Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis would like, senior government sources said yesterday.

    The sources, who had been fully briefed on the outcome of Friday's talks between the two leaders in Athens, told The Sunday Mail that neither Simitis nor Clerides appeared willing to change position but that both agreed not to publicise their differences.

    The two-hour meeting, the sources said, failed to reach a decision and Clerides was told in no unclear terms that Greece, on the grounds of pressing security concerns, was firmly opposed to the missiles being deployed in Cyprus. Instead, they should be stored in Crete as a compromise that would be likely to end Turkish sabre-rattling over the issue.

    Speaking to reporters after the talks, Simitis honoured the agreement that his differences with Clerides should not be aired in public. In a thinly- veiled hint that he wanted the missiles stored in Crete, the Greek Prime Minister said it was up to the Cypriots whether the missiles will be sent there.

    "There is one principle: Cyprus decides," he said. "In this case and any other case, the Cyprus government will decide and there will be consultations with Greece beforehand," said Simitis, credited at home and abroad for a pragmatic approach to foreign policy issues - especially relations with Turkey.

    This latest failure to resolve the missiles issue and Clerides' insistence on continuing the high-stakes brinkmanship he began when he first announced the purchase of the S-300s nearly two years ago pose a serious threat to the island's security, Western defence experts and analysts told The Sunday Mail.

    They also threaten to destabilise the east Mediterranean region and Nato's southern flank by stoking tension between arch-rivals Turkey and Greece at a time when regional powerhouse Israel has become indirectly involved in the traditional rivalry through its new military alliance with Ankara.

    Nato partners Greece and Turkey have come close to war at least twice in the past 11 years. Cyprus, invaded by the Turks in 1974, remains the most likely spark for an outbreak of hostilities between the two.

    In this context, the purchase by Cyprus of missiles capable of downing jets flying as far away as the southern parts of Turkey and whose radar equipment intrudes deep into the airspace of Israel, Turkey's newly-found military partner, have sent shock waves through the area and have not won any friends for the Clerides government.

    Buying the missiles may have already cost Clerides the support of friends and, depending on where the missiles end up, has put at risk both his government's credibility and his own record of 50 years in politics.

    "Initially, it was a purely defensive measure to buy the missiles," said military analyst Aristos Aristotelous. "But political statements surrounding the missiles and the discussions at the time of the presidential election strengthened the popular notion that their arrival is a question of national dignity."

    "Now it is a problem that is far beyond the island. It is a problem for Greece, Turkey, the United States, the European Union and Russia," he added.

    Some observers are convinced that Greece, despite public displays of diplomatic etiquette, will have the final say on the fate of the S-300s.

    "Eventually, the Greeks will just have to tell the Cypriots 'Don't install the missiles, please' and the Cypriots will have to comply because Greece is their only real ally," said Ed Blanche, a British analyst who writes on the Middle East for the authoritative Jane's Defence Weekly.

    Speaking to the Mail, the Beirut-based Blanche said Greece's displeasure with Clerides' insistence on continuing the missiles bluff arises from serious security concerns.

    Turkey's display of muscle-flexing that forced Syria to back down over allegations that it supported Kurdish rebels, Ankara's growing military ties with Israel and its undiplomatic handling of its quarrel with Italy over the extradition of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan are all evidence of an ominously aggressive mood in Turkey's powerful military, he said.

    "Turkey's alliance with Israel in particular has given Greece something to worry about. It is a marriage between the two most powerful non-Arab nations in the area," said Blanche, who lived in Cyprus for nearly a decade before moving to Beirut in 1996.

    "Buying the missiles would seem to be a very clumsy negotiating toy," said Ian Kemp, Jane's editor.

    Blanche, Kemp and Jane's Military Editor Christopher Foss, who also spoke to The Sunday Mail from his home in Britain, were in agreement that the missiles, if deployed, would give the island's National Guard quite a punch.

    "The missiles will make the island much more defendable," said Foss. "They will give the Cypriots a very effective air defence system and will be a major factor in the case of an outbreak of hostilities," agreed Kemp.

    With a range of 160 kilometres and radar which can accurately detect aerial movements 300 km away, the missiles are without a doubt the perfect choice for a country with no air force, the Jane's experts said.

    Turkey has repeatedly threatened to destroy the missiles if they are deployed on the island. But its own militant rhetoric on the issue has, say the experts, also boxed Turkey into a corner and left it with little choice but to run the gauntlet of an international outcry, and possible sanctions, when it attacks the missiles if they arrive in Cyprus.

    Foss, Jane's military editor, said crippling the missiles' radar system would do the job. "Without them the missiles are blind," he said.

    If deployed, he said, they would be difficult to conceal, given their size and the size of the trucks which carry them. "You take them out of their containers and they'll stick out like minarets all over the place," he added.

    Storing the missiles in Crete, Foss said, poses no serious problems since a missile firing range facility belonging to Nato already exists on the island. "The missiles can remain in their containers, but regular maintenance work must be carried out on the radar and command and control equipment and the trucks and trailers which carry them," said Foss.

    Their storage in Crete, however, poses a serious logistical problem if hostilities break out and there is a need to deploy them in Cyprus.

    "You cannot move them without someone noticing," he said.

    November 29, 1998

    [02] Doctors' strike called off

    By Athena Karsera

    BREAKAWAY state doctors' union Pasyki yesterday announced that their planned strike on Tuesday has been cancelled.

    The decision ends the threat of an indefinite walk-out by government doctors from Pasyki and umbrella civil servants' union Pasydy.

    The compromise was reached after a Pasyki emergency general assembly yesterday. The meeting followed an statement by Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou on Friday that the government would negotiate with both unions.

    Christodoulou made the announcement after chairing a ministerial committee. Having previously insisted that negotiations would only be held with Pasydy, he said: "A chance must be given to the union side, Pasydy and the Pancyprian union of government doctors (Pasyki), to air its opinions on demands it believes the official side should consider."

    Pasyki was formed when ninety-eight per cent of state doctors abandoned Pasydy five months ago. The move was made after doctors claimed their rights were not being protected well enough.

    The state doctors want higher pay and bigger pensions and are campaigning for a Cyprus health service. A four-hour strike was staged on November 19 and a 24-hour strike the next day. Back-up teams at all hospitals provided emergency cover during both strikes.

    Some tension exists between the two unions. Pasydy's general secretary Glafcos Hadjipetrou said on Friday" "Pasydy is capable of negotiating on behalf of the doctors... and I don't know why this point has escaped the finance minister's attention." Hadjipetrou then called on doctors to abandon their breakaway union.

    November 29, 1998

    [03] Saint's icon marks service in a tent

    XYLOTYMBOU villagers yesterday gathered on the British base at Dhekelia for a special holy service which was held in a tent some 200 metres from the ruins of the Church of St Ioannis in Turkish-occupied Pergamos.

    It was in 1911 that the last service was held in the Church of St Ioannis. That was just before Orthodox Greek Cypriots decided to abandon the building and spirited away two icons of the saint to what were then thought to be safer quarters. Turks later razed the church to the ground, carting off its stones for use in building houses in Pergamos.

    One of the two icons was brought into the tent for yesterday's service. The icon is housed in a small church built for it in Xylotymbou; the other icon remains in occupied Lysi, where it was taken years before the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

    Yesterday's service was instigated by Father Kyriacos Panayiotou, who wants the old church, which dates from the Byzantine period and was built on top of the saint's grave, to be rebuilt. This would require a settlement of the Cyprus problem.

    British Bases Spokesman Captain Jon Brown said yesterday's service went off without incident.

    November 29, 1998

    [04] All-clear for birds, now they're hunted

    By Athena Karseras

    THE last farm-bred partridges for the season were released yesterday after rigorous testing for cancer-causing substances.

    On Friday, Government Laboratories gave the green light to the Veterinary Service for birds from three farms to be released for this weekend's hunting.

    Partridges from a further seven farms will be freed in January once the hunting season is over. Veterinary Service sources said the delayed release will give the partridges time to adapt to their natural environment before the new hunting season begins.

    According to the vets, the ten farms had been re-examined after routine testing showed traces of two carcinogenic substances in birds from those farms. The partridges are treated with the two chemicals, used to prevent disease, soon after hatching until they are about 12 weeks old.

    One of the chemicals, Ronizatol, is banned in Cyprus and most countries since it has been found to cause cancer. The second substance, Dimitrizatol, also believed to be dangerous for human consumption, can still be legally imported.

    In mid-November there was an outcry over a batch of partridges from one particular farm when they were found to have traces of Ronizatol in their system.

    At the time, the head of the Veterinary Service, Pavlos Economides, said the birds would not be slaughtered as they would be fit for human consumption once the chemical passed out of their system.

    November 29, 1998

    [05] Tulip Rally duo hurt in road plunge

    TWO Limassol men were injured at about 10.45am yesterday while competing in the Tulip Rally. Their pick-up truck plunged 500 metres from the road leading to Lefkara from the Limassol highway, Cyprus police said.

    The driver, Eleftherios Eleftheriou, 35, and his navigator, Phivos Christodoulou, were taken by helicopter to Nicosia General Hospital, where they were listed in stable condition.

    A hospital nurse said Eleftheriou was being released yesterday, while Christodoulou was being kept overnight in the orthopaedic ward. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known.

    Their pick-up, which was badly damaged in the crash, was left at the bottom of the cliff, police said, since the incident remained under investigation.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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