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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-01-03

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>

January 3, 1999


  • [01] Edek quits over missile cancellation
  • [02] Who's to blame for the missile mess?
  • [03] Colonels sought enosis in return for Turkish bases
  • [04] Archbishop seeks to patch up quarrel with Constantinople
  • [05] Police search for getaway driver in Aeroporos murder
  • [06] Christofias to undergo kidney treatment
  • [07] Party death mars celebrations
  • [08] The babies of 99

  • [01] Edek quits over missile cancellation

    By Jean Christou

    JUNIOR coalition partners Edek yesterday pulled out of the government of President Glafcos Clerides in the wake of the Russian missiles fiasco.

    The move had been widely expected since Tuesday, when Clerides announced that the Russian S-300 missiles would not be deployed in Cyprus, but rather sent to Crete.

    Edek's withdrawal leaves vacant the posts of Defence and Education Ministers, held respectively by Yiannakis Omirou and Lycourgos Kappas.

    The government had made it clear it did not wish Socialist party Edek to leave the ranks. The party's departure opens the door to a cabinet reshuffle within the next week. It does not threaten the government, which operates on a presidential rather than a parliamentary system.

    "We endorsed the proposal of the political bureau and will submit our resignations on Monday," Omirou said.

    Speaking two hours before the end of the six-hour meeting which began at 2pm, party leader Vassos Lyssarides told journalists that withdrawal from the government appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

    "It is obvious from what has already been said until now that the greater majority are heading towards leaving the government. The results are more than certain," he said.

    In the end, the vote to leave the government was overwhelming, with only six abstentions and one vote against, out of over 100 central committee members.

    "We felt that Edek was taking part in a government under Clerides with clear and pre-set goals, and we told the Cyprus people that our goal was to solve the national issue together. We (Edek) have stayed constant in our principles," Lyssarides said.

    The veteran socialist leader said he believed the party decision to quit the government was "completely correct", even though many outside the party believed they should stay.

    Although there had been many disagreements within the coalition on various things, "the issue today is much more serious," Lyssarides said.

    "It is not a military issue," he said. "If the S-300s had not been ordered, then we wouldn't have left the government, but the S-300s turned into a political issue because in our opinion the change in the decision (to deploy them) cannot be based on the existence of a new situation. The situation has not changed."

    Lyssarides was one of the staunchest supporters of the missile deployment and believes the two UN resolutions passed last week in exchange for cancellation did not satisfy the pre-conditions set by the government.

    Clerides' two pre-conditions were substantive progress on a Cyprus settlement and talks on arms reductions leading to demilitarisation.

    On Wednesday, the day after the missile climbdown, the political bureau of Edek decided to suggest to the Central Committee to leave the government.

    "We have to show the people that there are political parties that are not based on power but on morals... and to show the youth that all politicians are not corrupt," Lyssarides said.

    "A politician that thinks he knows everything is a foolish politician."

    Lyssarides also clarified that he had not asked for Clerides' resignation. He said Clerides did have some responsibility and that if he had been Clerides he would have resigned.

    Nicos Anastassiades, leader of Clerides' Disy party, yesterday repeated the call for Edek to remain as government partners.

    But he also threw down the gauntlet to Lyssarides, calling on him to "go to Omirou and find out the truth about the missiles and what had transpired during recent meetings with the Greek government."

    January 3, 1999

    [02] Who's to blame for the missile mess?

    By Hamza Hendawi

    GLAFCOS CLERIDES' climbdown in the standoff with Turkey over the Russian missiles may only warrant a brief mention in the history books of the future - a footnote perhaps in the centuries-old Greco-Turkish enmity.

    Put differently, the Cyprus President's decision not to deploy the long- range surface-to-air missiles will not receive the treatment accorded in the annals of Hellenism to such disastrous events as the fall of Constantinople or the Asia Minor catastrophe.

    But the Greek Cypriots living out the penultimate year of the 20th century are no historians, and Clerides' decision not to bring the missiles in the face of Turkish threats to destroy them has inflicted a fresh wound on people already experiencing the pains of inadequacy and humiliation caused by the occupation of their land by a foreign power.

    Turkey's distasteful gloating and its ridicule of Clerides' decision to deploy the missiles on the Greek island of Crete instead of Cyprus made the climbdown all the more difficult to swallow.

    But Clerides's spectacular turnaround has also given rise to a wave of political iconoclasm and posed soul-searching questions among Greek Cypriots. Furthermore, it emboldened many openly to express misgivings about the usefulness or validity of the historically close relations between Cyprus and motherland Greece, and the seriousness of their 1993 joint defence pact.

    Even the political judgement and wisdom of the 79-year-old Clerides, a widely respected politician who has more than four years left in his second, five-year term in office, are now called into question.

    "He and his party (Disy) must eventually pay the cost of this," said a leading Nicosia businessman who did not want to be named.

    But, perhaps more seriously, many fear that the President's sudden change of heart over the missiles might encourage Turkey and its powerful generals to get into the habit of bullying the Greek Cypriot government into making further concessions.

    "It was an act of treason by Clerides and (Greek Prime Minister Costas) Simitis," screamed House member Marios Matsakis of the opposition Diko party.

    "Today is the turn of Cyprus, tomorrow will be the turn of another Greek island," warned the maverick deputy, whose party leader, House Speaker Spyros Kyprianou, has called for Clerides' resignation over the missiles debacle.

    The deployment of the missiles had never been perceived as a way of changing the military balance on the island, which is overwhelmingly in favour of the Turks, but rather as a valuable addition to Greek Cypriot defence and, because of their long-range capability, as a potential tool to win a measure of flexibility from Ankara on the Cyprus problem.

    Greece, sensing danger in the missiles project at a time when its hands are full with a domestic backlash to Simitis' tough economic policies, had never wholeheartedly supported the deployment of the missiles.

    Simitis was all the more concerned in that the missile issue seemed poised to derail Cyprus' European Union accession process, a top foreign policy priority for Greece, and one on which Athens has devoted considerable diplomatic effort.

    But despite the concerns (and with one eye on internal political reaction - including within Simitis' own Pasok), Greek leaders continued to maintain the usual rhetoric about solidarity with Cyprus and preparedness to defend it against Turkish attack.

    In private, however, they informed the Clerides government of their misgivings about the arrival of the Russian weapons system.

    In the end, Athens prevailed and its proposal for the missiles to be deployed in Crete, which was first leaked by the Greek media several months ago, was adopted.

    "The decision will rule out the possibility of conflict between Turkey and Greece in the short term at least," said Christopher Foss, military editor of the authoritative Jane's Defence Weekly. "The Turks should be happy too," he told the Sunday Mail in a telephone interview.

    Banking on its close relations with the United States and confident of its own military capabilities, Turkey had from the start called Clerides' bluff and insisted it would not hesitate to strike at the missiles if they arrived on the island.

    Heartened by public expressions of displeasure made by Washington, London and other Western governments over the purchase of the missiles, Ankara pursued the matter in a fashion identical to that it followed in its quarrel with Syria last year over Damascus' alleged support to Kurdish rebels.

    The no-nonsense threat to use military force to impose its will worked on the Clerides government in the same way that it did on the Syrians.

    "What I am worried about most is that the Turks now realise that they can make significant political gains without doing much," said defence analyst Aristos Aristotelous.

    "In the case of the missiles, most of the work was done by the Americans and some Europeans, while Ankara only had to make threatening noises," he told the Sunday Mail, alluding to the external pressure put on Clerides not to bring the missiles to Cyprus.

    "The Crete decision will affect Clerides' political image, but the least I expect from the government now is to carefully study the whole affair and how it was handled with a view to avoiding repeats of the same mistakes," he said. "We need to examine our relationship with Greece and clarify the process of decision-making by the two countries. There has been a lack of adequate communications and co-operation between the two."

    Aristotelous' views on the Cypriot-Greek relationship contrast sharply with those of Matsakis, the Diko deputy, and others' who see the Nicosia-Athens axis as no more than a rhetorical alliance.

    "The joint defence dogma has been destroyed along with the morale of the Greek Cypriots," Matsakis told the Sunday Mail. "The Greek government has done this to us before. They push us along and, when it matters, they leave us out in the cold."

    Similar sentiments were expressed by the leading Nicosia businessman. "Greek governments have a track record of selling Cyprus down the river," he said.

    Some, however, see Nicosia at fault for expecting too much from a Greece whose pursuit of joining the single European currency next year, rather than a ruinous conflict with Turkey, tops the priorities of the Simitis' government.

    "Athens does not want Nicosia to impose a war on it," said a prominent economist who did not want to be named. "Geography is destiny and we are far from Greece and close to Turkey," he told the Sunday Mail.

    "Greece cannot do much for us."

    A Cyprus university professor, who also wished to remain anonymous, said the Clerides government's negotiating tactics were also to blame. "We set our demands too high and we say a lot of things which are only designed for domestic consumption and bear little resemblance to reality."

    They and others, however, say Greece must take some of the blame for Nicosia's loss of face over the missiles.

    Participation by Greek warplanes in war games on the island, the construction of an air base in Paphos for the use of the Greek Airforce and plans for a naval base near Limassol have heightened all expectations way beyond what Athens was realistically willing to commit itself to.

    "These displays of solidarity replaced reality with myth," said the economist.

    For the moment, the anger and frustration of Greek Cypriots is genuine, and nothing Clerides can say or do to justify his action is likely to cut any ice with a people whose psyche has already been scarred by military defeats, humiliating climbdowns and a profound conviction that the world has abandoned them.

    "The prospects of the missiles coming to Cyprus had lifted the spirits of many," said sociologist Antonis Raftis. "Now they feel betrayed and defeated but these sentiments may not last very long," he told the Sunday Mail.

    "The voice of people is the voice of God and a majority of Cypriots wanted the missiles to come to Cyprus," Raftis declared.

    The disappointment is all the more bitter among people who give a great deal of themselves to matters military.

    Indeed, defence matters are not alien to most Greek Cypriots, who have closely monitored the missile saga since the deal to buy them was announced two years ago. A conscription system that calls up 18-year-old males to serve a 26-month stint in the army and keeps them in the reserves until they are 50 has maintained interest in the defence of the island.

    Furthermore, conscription, together with life under the constant threat of attack by Turkey's 35,000-strong military contingent on the island and the media's love affair with defence affairs have helped create a militarised society for which decisions such as that on the missiles cut to the core.

    There is hardly a single Greek Cypriot family that does not have a son or a relative serving in the army. Turkey's 1974 invasion alone displaced 200, 000 Greek Cypriots, about a third of the island's entire population, who together with their children form a crucial element of the Cyprus problem.

    "Those who wanted the missiles to arrive were expecting them by mid- December. To them, it would have been a nice Christmas present," said Raftis.

    January 3, 1999

    [03] Colonels sought enosis in return for Turkish bases

    By Athena Karsera

    BRITISH Foreign Office papers released under the 30 year rule has shed new light on the Greek Junta's policy towards Cyprus in the years leading up to the 1974 invasion.

    Archives covering 1967 and 1968 were made public on January 1 after 30 years, in accordance with British law.

    The papers show that the Greek Junta at the time sought Cyprus' unification with Greece in exchange for allowing Turkish military bases on the island.

    According to the documents, invasion rumours abounded from as early as 12 days after the 1967 Junta coup in Greece. The documents show that, at the time, British Foreign Secretary George Brown assured the Greek generals that Britain would take any action that would cause instability in Cyprus very seriously. The document specifically reveals that Brown gave authority to the then British ambassador to Athens, Sir Ralph Murrey, to pass on these sentiments to the Greek colonels.

    The records disclosed a telegram from Britain's Cyprus High Commission to Brown dated June 26 1967 and mentioning rumours that a Junta-engineered coup was imminent in Cyprus.

    The telegram continued that this could only take place if Athens obtained a guarantee that Turkey would not react, whatever the outcome of the Cyprus Problem.

    The telegram said: "We do not have any evidence of an agreement with Ankara. If, however, there is such an agreement, then the (Junta) generals can feel sure their coup will be successful.

    "If such a deal has been made with Turkey, any action involving Archbishop Makarios and the National Guard will be seen as an internal Greek Cypriot issue from which we must withdraw."

    A message from the British ambassador to Turkey two days later on June 28 came to the conclusion that although Turkey would not want to seem accomplice to a coup they may feel that it would not be the worst thing that could happen. Turkey may also have felt, the letter continued, that if the Cyprus government was unable handle internal pressures for intervention, the final result would be beneficial.

    The documents also revealed that the then Greek foreign minister told the British ambassador in Athens, right after George Papadopoulos' visit to Cyprus, that the outline of a solution to the Cyprus Problem at the time was unification with Greece along with the presence of Turkish military bases on the island.

    One document said: "Makarios might cause some problems," and that the Greek government felt that Makarios' biggest worry was Turkish threats. It concluded that if Makarios gave his consent to the solution, "he would be recognised by history as a great national leader and patriot."

    Also disclosed was a meeting between Greek and Turkish foreign ministers in Luxembourg in June 1967. Turkish possession of the Dhekelia military base was discussed at the meeting, with the Greek foreign minister proposing that Turkey rent the Base.

    When the Turkish foreign minister disagreed, he Greek counterpart suggested a Turkish presence at the Base for two generations, with the Turkish minister concluding that this was not specific enough.

    January 3, 1999

    [04] Archbishop seeks to patch up quarrel with Constantinople

    By Jean Christou

    THERE are no problems between the Church of Cyprus and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Archbishop Chrysostomos said yesterday.

    Chrysostomos - speaking to journalists at a service for the missing at the Ledra Palace checkpoint - was referring to disagreements over a Mount Athos monk, whom the Synod of the Church of Cyprus claims is a "pervert" and the Patriarch defends as being "of sound character".

    The monk, Elder Iosif from the Greek monastery of Vatopedhi, was last week found guilty of being a pervert by the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus. The Synod's ruling followed allegations made by the Bishop of Paphos, Chrysostomos, that Elder Iosif molested seven nuns 17 years ago.

    The bishop's allegations are widely seen as an attempt to discredit Abbot Athansios of Machairas, a protégé of Iosif's whose candidacy to the vacant see of Limassol Bishop Chrysostomos opposes. The bishop denies any ulterior motives.

    Elder Iosif, who is now 80, last week received full backing from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, under whose jurisdiction Mount Athos lies.

    But according to Archbishop Chrysostomos, there is no rift between Cyprus and Constantinople. He said yesterday the Cyprus Church would send a letter to the Patriarch concerning the case.

    The Archbishop said the letter would be sent tomorrow.

    "Relations between the Church of Cyprus and the Patriarchate are very good, " he said.

    Lawyers for Iosif and the Monastery of Vatopedhi on Wednesday demanded that all of the documents relating to the case be handed over to them. The demand was made in a letter to Archbishop Chrysostomos.

    In the letter, the lawyers said the Holy Synod procedure had been a sham unworthy of the middle ages, let alone the dawn of the new millennium.

    January 3, 1999

    [05] Police search for getaway driver in Aeroporos murder

    POLICE are looking for the driver of the getaway car in which they believe the killers of Hambis Aeroporos made their escape, the Limassol court heard yesterday.

    Investigating officers seeking a further eight-day remand for three suspects in the case told the court more time was necessary to track down the driver of the getaway car.

    They said they believed the driver had been forced by the suspects to help them flee the scene after the shooting of Hambis on December 16.

    The court agreed to the further eight-day remand of Sotiris Athinis, 43, and his sister Zoe Alexandrou, 51, as well as police officer Christos Symianos, 35.

    Two other men, including another police officer, are also being held in connection with the case.

    Hambis was killed last month by three masked gunmen after he rammed his car into theirs on the Limassol to Ypsonas road. Passenger Charalambos Onisiforou told police Hambis had noticed he was being followed by armed men in a rented car. As the car tried to draw up to his, one of the passengers leant out of the window and opened fire. The cars collided and veered off into a ditch.

    Hambis was gunned down as soon as he stepped out of his car.

    January 3, 1999

    [06] Christofias to undergo kidney treatment

    AKEL general-secretary Demetris Christofias has suffered kidney complications as a result of pneumonia.

    Akel yesterday announced that its party leader would be undergoing treatment for this new affliction.

    Christofias was allowed to spend New Year's Day at home, but went back into hospital yesterday.

    He was first admitted to hospital on December 22 after being diagnosed with pneumonia following a visit to England.

    January 3, 1999

    [07] Party death mars celebrations

    By Athena Karsera

    A SUDDEN death and a fatal car accident gave a tragic start to 1999.

    Twenty-year-old Yiannos Iacovou died during new year's celebrations at a Nicosia club on Friday morning. An autopsy yesterday showed that he had suffered from a blocked artery.

    Iacovou was at a night club with cousins and friends when they noticed he was missing from the table at about 5 am. They found Iacovou collapsed outside the club's toilets and gave him first aid. He was pronounced dead at Nicosia General hospital a short time later.

    Before going out Iacovou had spent the changing of the year with his parents and other relatives. He was studying in Greece and had come home to be with his family over the holiday period.

    Iacovou had previously not suffered from any health problems.

    Meanwhile, an 18-year-old British soldier yesterday succumbed to injuries suffered in a New Year's day accident.

    Steven Kevin Radcliff was serving at Episkopi Military Base.

    He was riding a motorcycle at dawn on Friday along Limassol's Amathounda Avenue when he lost control and smashed into a rubbish collection bin. He was thrown from the bike and suffered serious head injuries. He was not wearing a crash helmet.

    Another four people were seriously injured in separate car accidents on New Year's day.

    In Paphos, 56-year-old Evgenia Klimenko from Russia survived two brushes with death. Klimenko was hit by a car while waiting for traffic police after being involved in a car accident.

    She was standing behind her car's open door after the first accident, when two other cars collided, one of them skidding into Klimenko.

    Paphos General Hospital yesterday said the Russian woman was out of danger and would be released in four to five days.

    In the early hours of Friday morning, 19-year-old National Guardsman Constantinos Alexandrou was injured after a car driven by fellow soldier George Makriyiannis crashed on the Aradippou to Dhekelia road. Makriyiannis lost control of his car under unknown conditions, ran into an electricity pole and landed in a one-metre deep ditch.

    Larnaca's Makarios hospital said yesterday that Alexandrou was out of danger and would probably be released tomorrow. Makriyiannis was not injured in the crash.

    Just after midday on Friday, two cars collided on the highway near Kofinou, with one of them, driven by Shalda Kabandze, 23, from Georgia, smashing into the central reservation. Fellow Georgian passenger Vlada Natahim, 16, was injured and taken to Larnaca General Hospital.

    Larnaca's Makarios hospital yesterday said that Natahim was being treated for concussion but was out of danger.

    January 3, 1999

    [08] The babies of 99

    THE FIRST baby of 1999 was born in Limassol at 2.30am on New Year's day.

    Baby Marios was born to proud parents Alexandri, 22, and Yiorgos Antoniou, 25, at the Dr Marios Liasides' maternity clinic. Impatient to greet the new year, little Marios surprised his parents by arriving two weeks early at 2.30 am on Friday. He is the couple's first child.

    One hour later, Michalis Charalambous made his debut at Limassol's General hospital. He joined parents Yiota and Mouskos and a four-year-old brother.

    The year's third baby and first girl was born in Nicosia. Costa and Melina Costas got their extra Christmas present at 7 am.

    The second girl of 1999 was born at Larnaca General Hospital at 8.35 am. Baby Maria is 17-year-old Elizabeth and 21-year-old Andreas Frangou's first child.

    Nikitas and Monique Nicolaou had Paphos' first 1999 baby.

    He is their second child and was born at 1.35 in the afternoon at Evangelismos Clinic.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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