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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-01-17

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

January 17, 1999


  • [01] Refugee row escalates
  • [02] Cyprus inches closer to clinching millennium beauty pageant
  • [03] EU urges discipline on Cyprus harmonisation
  • [04] Maronite community speaks out after new spying arrest
  • [05] CY passenger figures rise
  • [06] Limassol votes in first stage of election for bishop
  • [07] Injured man held over suspected bomb accident

  • [01] Refugee row escalates

    By Jean Christou

    SPARKS flew between Nicosia and Beirut yesterday as top officials pitched in in the escalating diplomatic row over Lebanon's refusal to take back a boatload of immigrants who washed up in Cyprus on Wednesday.

    Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said the incident - in which a Lebanese navy vessel had prevented the landing of a Cyprus police launch returning the boat people - was "very serious", adding that consultations were continuing with the Lebanese authorities over the fate of the migrants.

    In Beirut meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Selim Hoss said his government had been justified in ordering the "expulsion" of the boat from Lebanese territorial waters.

    The 29 immigrants, mostly Iraqis, were dumped near Cape Greco on Wednesday night after having sailed from the Lebanese port of Tripoli.

    On Friday, a Cyprus police launch set sail for Beirut to return them, but was barred from approaching by a Lebanese navy vessel sent to prevent its entry into Beirut port.

    Cassoulides said yesterday the Lebanese authorities had been told the migrants would be returned, citing an understanding that illegal immigrants setting out from Lebanon could be sent straight back.

    But Hoss told reporters in Beirut that the immigrants had not come from Lebanon in the first place, "so we consider ourselves absolved from any responsibility for them and have expelled them from Lebanese territorial waters."

    Diplomats from the Lebanese embassy will be summoned to the Foreign Ministry tomorrow morning to protest their government's treatment of Cypriot police.

    Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Alecos Shambos said yesterday the way the Lebanese authorities had acted towards Cyprus police was unacceptable.

    "There is going to be a protest because it wasn't the proper way to meet a police patrol ship in Beirut. There was a lack of willingness to co-operate and we didn't like that at all," Shambos told the Sunday Mail.

    "On Monday, we will summon whoever is in charge at the embassy and lodge a strong protest for the way they behaved."

    The police launch Odysseas with its 16 police officers, returned to Cyprus late on Friday night carrying 23 of the 29 immigrants. Lebanon accepted to take back six Egyptians, who held valid entry papers to the country. Hoss confirmed yesterday that the Egyptians were in the hands of Lebanese police.

    The Cyprus police launch was forced to wait off the Lebanese coast all day, waiting for permission to enter the Port of Beirut to unload the immigrants.

    Lebanon insisted there was no proof that the immigrants had started out from Tripoli and cut off all contact with the police boat.

    Shambos said his Ministry would contact its Lebanese counterpart tomorrow about the worsening situation regarding boats full of immigrants landing in Cyprus.

    "We intend to pursue our aim of entering some kind of consultation with them to find a practical solution to the problem, which is getting very serious," Shambos said.

    "We believe the Lebanese government must respond to the situation and to take practical steps to control the situation in their own country."

    Shambos said he did not believe it was a question of the Lebanese government turning a blind eye to the number of illegals leaving its shores, but rather a question of inadequate controls.

    "It's the responsibility of each and every country in the region to co- operate with its neighbours," Shambos said.

    "It's their problem and its our problem. Each country has to do what is necessary to cope with the situation in an effective way and to co-operate with each other."

    After 113 boat people were rescued last summer off the Cyprus coast - again having sailed out of Tripoli - Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides took a delegation to Beirut to get Lebanon's co-operation in trying to stem the tide of immigrants to the island.

    As in past cases, the new batch of 29 refugees say they paid the captain of their boat between $800 and $2,000 apiece to go to Italy or Rhodes but were, like others before them, dumped in Cyprus.

    The immigrants were remanded for eight days by the Larnaca court on Thursday. They are mostly Arab males; 18 were from Iraq, six from Egypt, there were two Somalis, one man from the Palestinian Territory, and one from Burundi. The sole woman among the immigrants was from Sri Lanka.

    January 17, 1999

    [02] Cyprus inches closer to clinching millennium beauty pageant

    By Andrew Adamides

    CYPRUS is still the front runner to host the 2000 Miss Universe pageant, with just the venue and other details to be decided on.

    After several meetings over the past week, Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis told the Sunday Mail yesterday that final decisions on the contest would be taken by February 15.

    The biggest problem, he said, was where to hold the event, as any venue has to comply with certain size regulations imposed by the contest's joint organisers, the American CBS Network and the Donald Trump Corporation.

    At present, the most likely venue is the Eleftheria Stadium in Nicosia, even though this is one metre below the minimum interior height.

    Aeroplane hangars, a possible alterative, have been ruled out, as the hangar would be needed for 20 days, and Larnaca Airport cannot spare any of its hangars for more than three.

    The only other alternative would be the new GSP stadium, which is still under construction. But this, Rolandis says, would only be viable if a cost- effective way could be found to put a temporary roof on the stadium, as the pageant has to be held under cover.

    So that leaves Eleftheria; but apart from the interior height quibble, the stadium holds no more than four to five thousand people, while such a contest ideally needs capacity of at least eight to 10 thousand.

    The other problem is over the timing of the contest, which would

    have to be held at 4am if it were to be broadcast live at 9pm Eastern Time in the United States, as demanded by the sponsors. A compromise of 2am Cyprus time is, however, thought to be on the cards.

    Once these glitches are sorted out, it remains for the Council of Ministers to approve the candidacy.

    Clinching the deal would be a major coup for Cyprus, as it would boost its image abroad, especially in the all-important American market, which the island is currently trying to tap for more tourists.

    Rolandis says the cost of staging Miss Universe would be around four to five million dollars, but that the benefits will far outweigh this in terms of both cash and publicity.

    To start with, Cyprus will own TV rights to the pageant, valued at between $3 and $5 million, and huge sums of money will be brought into the country by the influx of people during the contest.

    Those involved in the organising and staging, will, along with contestants, their families and chaperones, number at least 500. The same number of journalists, and between 200 and 300 TV companies will also be expected in to cover the event, which attracts a worldwide TV audience of around 2.2 billion.

    Miss Universe is the third biggest TV event on the face of the globe, behind the Olympics and the World Cup.

    Final meetings on the matter are to be held in the last 10 days of the month. Cyprus isn't the only country in the running, but has right of first refusal, having refused an offer to host the 1999 event, preferring instead to apply for the millennium pageant.

    The contest is held every year at the end of May. If it goes ahead, Rolandis says it will be one of Cyprus' main millennium events.

    The organisers apparently feel that Cyprus would be particularly apt for the millennium pageant: "They already feel that the island of Aphrodite would be a good place for the competition in such a landmark year," said Rolandis.

    January 17, 1999

    [03] EU urges discipline on Cyprus harmonisation

    CYPRUS must liberalise its telecommunications sector earlier than it wishes to, EU Chief negotiator Leopold Maurer insisted yesterday.

    Maurer who heads a seven-member EU team was speaking at a joint press conference with George Vassiliou, Cyprus' chief negotiator in the accession talks.

    Cyprus has asked for a one year transitional period in harmonising its telecommunications sector until the year 2003.

    But Maurer said the guidelines given by the EU states were that there should be no transitional periods, no deviations for harmonisation to the acquis communautaire.

    "You are treated as if you are already a member of the EU," Maurer said, adding that when Cyprus joined the EU it would have to undertake all the obligations that other member states have.

    The Austrian negotiator congratulated Cyprus for already presenting five chapters, while the five Eastern European candidates have completed only three.

    But he said the second round of accession talks will deal with more difficult issues such as competition and state aid. He said Cyprus was being treated as an "external border country" of the EU.

    "You have to become aware that you will become part of a union of 400 million people and we are keen that a country which is an external border fulfils all the requirements we have in our legislation," Maurer said.

    He mentioned issues such as immigration and veterinary controls, and also underlined the important role of parliament for the early adoption of the acquis.

    Maurer repeated the EU's stance that accession ought to benefit both communities in Cyprus and welcomed President Clerides' long-standing invitation to the Turkish Cypriot side to participate in the EU negotiations.

    The government has also launched a new web page on the internet at to help inform Turkish Cypriots on accession progress. "We think this process could contribute to the solution of the Cyprus problem," Maurer said.

    Vassiliou said Maurer would be presenting a progress report in mid-February and would be preparing the ground for substantiative negotiations in April and May.

    "This was not a difficult negotiation but it was very important because the report will be prepared on the additional information gathered here," Vassiliou said.

    January 17, 1999

    [04] Maronite community speaks out after new spying arrest

    By Jean Christou

    THE MARONITE community has condemned the actions of those of its members allegedly caught spying against the Republic.

    The reaction came after Thursday's arrest of a Maronite from occupied Kormakitis, suspected of spying on behalf of the Turks - the second such arrest in the past four months.

    In a written statement issued after a meeting to discuss the issue, community representatives said they "unanimously and strongly" condemned acts of treason and espionage against the Cyprus Republic by members of the Maronite community.

    Maronite parliamentary representative Antonis Hadjiroussos and Akel deputy Avraam Antoniou took part in the meeting, along with Maronite religious leaders.

    "Isolated actions like the ones reported from time to time are unacceptable, illegal and are carried out by people with no morals or principles," said the statement, signed by Hadjiroussos.

    It also said that Maronites stood by the struggle for justice and freedom in Cyprus and for a country where all communities can live freely and enjoy human rights.

    Over 2,200 Maronites live in Cyprus, but less than 200 still live in the north of the island.

    "The Maronite community, which has been completely uprooted and whose human rights are violated by the Turkish invading forces, is carrying out its own struggle to survive," the statement said.

    On Thursday, police arrested Maronite Avgoustinos Skoullou, 25, after documents about National Guard installations and weapons systems were found in his possession as he prepared to cross to the north, police said. He has been remanded for eight days.

    In October, another Maronite, Georgios Josephides, was arrested. He faces charges of supplying Turkish Cypriot intelligence with Greek Cypriot military secrets.

    Josephides claimed police had coerced him into confessing, and that he was in fact an informant of the Greek Cypriot side. Avgoustinos also claims that he was in fact spying for the National Guard.

    The Maronite community enjoys free movement between the two sides under the 1975 Vienna agreement on the enclaved. The Maronites are Uniats, Roman Catholics who have kept their oriental ritual while recognising the authority of the Pope.

    January 17, 1999

    [05] CY passenger figures rise

    By Athena Karsera

    THERE has been a marked rise in the number of passengers flying on the beleaguered national carrier, giving hope that Cyprus Airways might yet claw its way out of trouble.

    A press release issued yesterday said the number of passengers carried by the Cyprus Airways group had risen by 7.7 per cent in 1998.

    Cyprus Airways and its charter subsidiary Eurocypria carried 1,719,000 passengers, compared to 1,596,000 the year before.

    Apollo class was especially successful, with a 16.3 per cent increase in business travellers, crowning a 20 per cent rise the previous year.

    Such success, however, is marred by strike threats from the airline's largest union, Cynika.

    On Friday, Cynika announced a four-hour strike for Thursday January 28.

    Taking place between 7 am and 11 am, the strike will involve 1,200 staff members, including 27 pilots.

    The union wants a 2.5 per cent pay rise and a two per cent hike in benefits. These increases fall in line with those given to other semi- government organisations two years ago, the union claims.

    Meanwhile, independent studies have shown that Cyprus' two airports effectively lost between 18 and 20 million a year by undercharging landing and service fees.

    The two studies, by the Cyprus Development Bank and the Civil Servants' Union, Pasydy, showed that Cyprus charged a fraction of the amount paid for similar services in other countries.

    Specifically, the studies showed that Larnaca Airport charges 241 and 20 for landing and service fees respectively.

    London charges 472 for landing fees and 1,790 for service. Frankfurt follows with total fees of 2,028 compared to Cyprus' total of 261. Rome charges 1,920, Paris 1,231 and Athens 1,183.

    The island's two airports host on average 60 flights per day or 21,900 a year. The studies show that, if the government charged smaller planes at total of 600 in services and 950 for larger aeroplanes, it would make more than 17.5 million a year.

    The Development Bank said such "giving away of money" was unheard of.

    The Pasydy report continued in a similar vein: "The inexcusably low fees at Larnaca and Paphos Airports deprive the government of important income."

    The Bank report concluded that "airports should regulate their fees based on an independent financial system separate from political and other interests." The report noted that fees were currently regulated in a complicated process involving the intervention of the Council of Ministers and the House of Representatives.

    The Ministries of Finance and Communication and Works have been briefed on the findings of both studies.

    January 17, 1999

    [06] Limassol votes in first stage of election for bishop

    LIMASSOL goes to the polls today in the first step towards the election of a new bishop.

    Some 87,000 Limassol residents are entitled to vote in this primary phase to elect 200 electors from 869 representatives of the five candidates.

    Today's election will see the elimination of the three candidates whose representatives fare the worst, while the two front-runners go on into the next round.

    In two weeks' time, the 200 representatives chosen today will vote for a further 50 representatives, of whom 33 must be laymen and 17 clergymen.

    In the third and final round a week later, the final 50 representatives will be joined by another 22 members of the clergy to chose the new Bishop of Limassol from among the two remaining candidates. The additional 22 clergymen are drawn from members of the Holy Synod and others chosen according to the Church's charter.

    The elections are taking place following the controversial resignation of former Bishop Chrysanthos.

    Chrysanthos was found guilty of improper behaviour by the Holy Synod and resigned in November last year.

    He has been implicated in fraud allegations involving millions of pounds both in Cyprus and overseas.

    The five candidates standing to replace Chrysanthos are Archimandrite Kyprianos Apseros, Archdeacon Vassilios of Trimithounda, Archimandrite Varnavas of Stavrovouni, Archimandrite Christoforos Tsiakkas of Trooditissa and Abbot Athanasios of Machairas.

    The campaign has been marred by repeated sexual allegations by Bishop Chrysostomos of Paphos, widely seen as seeking to discredit the candidacy of Abbot Athanasios.

    The allegations were directed at Elder Iosif, an 80-year-old Mount Athos monk associated with Athanasios, whom Chrysostomos accuses of molesting nuns at a convent near Paphos 17 years ago. The Paphos Bishop denies his claims have anything to do with the Limassol election.

    January 17, 1999

    [07] Injured man held over suspected bomb accident

    A MAN was arrested yesterday after being injured in a suspicious explosion.

    Limassol police arrested Christos Costas Christou at the town's general hospital on suspicions that his injuries had been caused by a bomb which accidentally went off as he was making it.

    The previous night, 29-year-old Christou had been taken to Casualty with injuries to his left shin, hand and face.

    He told doctors that he had been in a car accident. When the police arrived, Christou changed his story, telling them he had been injured while trying to mend his car at his home in Kivides village.

    He underwent surgery to remove metal parts from his hand, and one of the doctors noticed burn marks round his wounds.

    Police believe Christou was injured in an explosion.

    Christou has remained in hospital for treatment, while Limassol police continue their investigations.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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