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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-01-19

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Tuesday, January 19, 1999


  • [01] Hercus breaks her silence
  • [02] Overwhelming support for Abbot Athanasios
  • [03] Five charged with Aeroporos murder
  • [04] Cyprus seeks Lebanese co-operation to stem tide of immigrants
  • [05] Cyprus Airways blasts strike blackmail
  • [06] Police track lottery thieves
  • [07] Turkish Cypriot fined after straying out of Pyla
  • [08] Pilgrims to cross to Tekke tomorrow
  • [09] Underground Acropolis quarry could date back centuries

  • [01] Hercus breaks her silence

    By Jean Christou

    UNFICYP Chief of Mission Dame Ann Hercus yesterday broke her customary silence on the ongoing shuttle talks, saying that some progress had been made.

    "You can make a sensible assumption that as long as you see me shuttling, that means that some progress is being made," Dame Ann said.

    "When I stop shuttling progress is not being made."

    Dame Ann returned to the island on Sunday after holding meetings on the Cyprus problem, first in London with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, and then in New York with UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan.

    Hercus described her trip as a successful one.

    "Minister Cook emphasised the commitment of the government of the UK to the UN process and in particular to the Secretary-general's initiative involving the shuttle talks," she said.

    "I am therefore committed to work with determination and creativity in my efforts here, and the shuttle talks are going to continue in my confidence."

    The usually tight-lipped Dame stressed that confidentiality had been a major element in the progress which had been made so far.

    But the UN representative did make reference to the 1993 UN 'Set of Ideas', which were promoted by former President George Vassiliou, but which have been rejected by President Clerides.

    Dame Ann said the document addressed the core issues of the Cyprus problem.

    "It is a document that identifies what I believe every commentator on and off island would describe as the core issues. In that sense it is a very useful resource," she said.

    Yesterday's comments were made after a meeting that Dame Ann held with Clerides as part of the shuttle talks, which began last October.

    Asked how much longer the talks may last, Dame Ann said that depended on progress. "I don't not believe any of us will waste time and energy if progress is not being made," she said.

    However, the government did not appear to share Dame Ann's enthusiasm. Spokesman Christos Stylianides said it was difficult for the Greek Cypriot side to assess progress since it was not aware of what was passing between Dame Ann and the Turkish Cypriot side.

    The UN diplomat has kept both sides in the dark on what the other is saying.

    Tuesday, January 19, 1999

    [02] Overwhelming support for Abbot Athanasios

    By Martin Hellicar

    DESPITE the sordid attacks directed his way by the Paphos Bishop, Abbot Athanasios of Machairas monastery yesterday emerged as odds-on favourite for next Bishop of Limassol.

    Results announced yesterday showed the abbot's supporters had secured 150 of the 200 special elector positions in Sunday's first round of voting to find a successor for disgraced former Bishop Chrysanthos.

    Supporters of the other candidates cried foul, claiming, variously, that their favourites had been the victims of last-minute slur campaigns, media bias or "unchristian" campaign methods.

    In two weeks' time, the 200 special electors will vote for 50 among their number who, in mid-February, will, along with 22 electors chosen by the Church from among the clergy, vote for the next Bishop. Athanasios, thanks to his position as abbot of Machairas, will be among the 22 Church- appointed electors.

    The triumphant representative of abbot Athanasios's supporters, George Eliades, said Limassol parishioners had "turned a deaf ear" to the allegations of Bishop Chrysostomos of Paphos.

    The Bishop alleged that Athanasios' mentor, 80-year-old elder Iosif of the Mount Athos monastery of Vatopedhi, was a pervert who had molested nuns and young girls during his stay in Paphos 17 years ago. A Holy Synod investigation found Chrysostomos's claims against Iosif justified.

    "The people of Limassol have decided and have proved they have impeccable judgment," Eliades said.

    Supporters of the candidate believed to carry Chrysostomos's favour - Archimandrite Tsiakkas of the monastery of Trooditissa - won only 14 special elector positions.

    Sunday's runner-up was archimandrite Varnavas of Stavrovouni monastery, whose backers secured 23 elector positions. Supporters of Archimandrite Apseros of Agros monastery got 13 positions while supporters of father Vassilios of the Trimithounda diocese drew a blank.

    Abbot Athanasios thanked God and voters for his first round victory. "I thank voters very much for their love and support and hope God will respond to their efforts and good intentions in supporting our representatives," he said.

    Archbishop Chrysostomos yesterday came out in support of Abbot Athanasios, saying he possessed "the right qualities" to be a bishop.

    But supporters of the also-rans were not so pleased.

    Costas Tsirides, representing Vassilios's supporters, blamed his camp's disastrous showing on false rumours spread on polling day by Vassilios's detractors.

    "I would put this development down to last-minute rumours and slander against his holiness circulated in Limassol by the supporters of other candidates," he said.

    Tsirides said opponents had put it about that Vassilios was a free mason.

    The representative of Tsiakkas's backers, Panicos Hadjicostis, alleged "non- christian methods" had been used during campaigning, though he failed to elaborate.

    He also complained that his camp did not have the money to spend on television advertising that rival camps did.

    Neophytos Kannias, of the Apseros camp, charged television channels with favouring particular candidates during the run-up to polling.

    There was no statement yesterday from Varnavas's supporters.

    Election officials said voting at the 110 polling stations had gone smoothly.

    In total, 39,581 Limassol parishioners voted, 46 per cent of those registered. Turnout was low in Limassol town but unexpectedly high, about 70 per cent, in villages.

    The elections for a new bishop were announced in November last year when Chrysanthos was suspended from his duties after police launched an investigation into his alleged involvement in over 30 financial scams in Cyprus and abroad.

    Tuesday, January 19, 1999

    [03] Five charged with Aeroporos murder

    By Martin Hellicar

    FIVE suspects, including two police officers, were yesterday charged in connection with the murder of Hambis Aeroporos.

    Three hooded gunmen shot Hambis, 35, in broad daylight on the old Ypsonas to Limassol road on December 16 last year.

    Policeman Christos Symianos, 35, special constable Savvas Ioannou, alias Kinezos, 33, waiter Prokopis Prokopi, 35, nightclub owner Sotiris Athinis, 43, and his sister, 51-year-old hospital cleaner Zoe Alexandrou, were all brought up before Limassol District Court yesterday and charged with conspiring to murder Hambis.

    The suspects - all from Limassol except Kinezos who is from Nicosia - were also charged with the attempted murder of Hambis' cousin, Charalambos Onisiforou, who was with Hambis in his car at the time of the attack. Onisiforou survived unscathed.

    Symianos, Ioannou and Prokopi were also were charged with illegal possession and use of automatic weapons.

    The accused will reply to the charges on February 18, when they will appear before the Assizes court in Limassol.

    According to police, the suspects are linked to the murder by numbers logged in the memory of a mobile phone which the gunmen left behind in the car they abandoned at the scene of the crime.

    The phone belongs to Alexandrou, who claims it was stolen from her the day before the attack.

    Police also say Onisiforou has provided a description of the attackers and a name which he overheard one of them shout.

    The December killing is thought to be part of a long-running underworld feud between Larnaca and Limassol gangs vying for control of lucrative gambling, narcotics and prostitution rackets. The gangland turf war has claimed a dozen lives in three years.

    Hambis' 32-year-old brother, Andros, was shot outside a Limassol cabaret on July 31, just weeks after he, Hambis and their brother Panicos, 25, were acquitted of the attempted murder of Larnaca gambling club owner Antonis Fanieros, 57, on May 29, 1997.

    Police said ballistic tests carried out on cartridges and one of the automatics found at the scene of Hambis's killing had shown the same M58 had been used to shoot Hambis and his brother Andros.

    One of Hambis' suspected killers, Athinis, survived a bomb attack outside his club in August last year. His brother Melios, believed to have been a rival of the Aeroporos clan, was shot dead in November 1995.

    A month before, Onisiforou's father Foris was shot dead in Limassol. Four months before that Hambis was ambushed and shot in Limassol. He survived thanks to extensive surgery in Israel.

    Tuesday, January 19, 1999

    [04] Cyprus seeks Lebanese co-operation to stem tide of immigrants

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE FOREIGN Ministry yesterday called in Lebanon's chargé d'affaires to lodge an official complaint at Beirut's handling last week of the Republic's attempt to return a boatload of illegal immigrants to Lebanon, and to seek ways of preventing a recurrence of the gun-boat stalemate, government officials said.

    "I summoned the chargé d'affaires here today," Alecos Shambos, Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary said, "to find ways to combine our efforts with the Lebanese authorities to prevent these (boat) people from causing this damage to us. I use the word 'damage' deliberately," he said, referring to the cost of arresting, housing, and deporting the illegal aliens.

    Cyprus is still housing most of 113 boat people it rescued, sick and starving, last June from an overcrowded boat off the coast. The cost of their care is estimated at over £1.5 million.

    Shambos said his objective - "apart from expressing our displeasure at the way they (Lebanon) received the (Cyprus police) patrol boat" - was co- operation, not confrontation. "On this, I am expecting a reaction from the Lebanese government." He declined to speculate on when that might occur.

    "I repeated our suggestion that the Minister of the Interior visit Beirut in the very near future to try to discuss the whole matter, debate the problem and make suitable arrangements. I am expecting their reaction. I urged them to expedite the whole matter. We want to hear from them as soon as possible, he said.

    Meanwhile, Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides said he planned to return to Lebanon formally to sign what, to date, has been only a tacit agreement on repatriating illegal immigrants sailing from Lebanon and ending up in Cyprus.

    Michaelides told Antenna TV at the weekend that he had information indicating that some 15,000 migrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East were illegally in the Lebanese port of Tripoli, eager to depart for Cyprus, Greece, Italy or other European countries.

    The case of last week's 30 boat people - mostly Arabs - fairly depicts the plight of most. Those apprehended told police they paid the boat's captain $800 to $2,000 apiece to go to Italy or Rhodes. Instead they were dumped in Cyprus, like many others.

    Besides the 113 rescued last June, 75 other boat people pitched ashore within the British Sovereign Bases last October. And police on Sunday arrested two Syrian men illegally working in Xylophagou, refugees of yet another boat trip.

    Cyprus is caught in a squeeze between seeking Lebanon's help in bolting the door on the boat-people surge, while trying to treat those who land here humanely, in both the light of international law and the glare of Cyprus-EU accession talks.

    On the one hand, some Cyprus officials conceded yesterday that, although harsh, detention camps were one option for containing what threatens to become a deluge of illegal "economic migrants," and sending a signal to others contemplating the trip.

    Such camps could send the ultimate signal to the European Union - that Cyprus is willing to go the distance to assure the 15-member Union it can curb this immigration wave, which also threatens mainland EU member states.

    Nicholas Karides, spokesman for the EU Commission delegation to Cyprus, yesterday frowned at the notion that such camps were a panacea for the island's illegal immigrant problem.

    But he also said that: "In terms of the accession negotiations, the Union has always felt that - given Cyprus' geography and proximity to all these countries, and because of the situation of illegal immigrants - the situation needs to be more closely monitored in Cyprus."

    "In a recent progress report," he continued, "there was reference by the (European) Commission concerning Cyprus' attempt to give tougher penalties to people, who either own these boats or assist people in (illegal) migration."

    The matter came to a head last weekend, when a Lebanese warship refused to let a Cyprus police boat enter Beirut waters to return 29 boat people that landed on the island last week after sailing from Tripoli.

    The police launch was forced to return to Cyprus late on Friday with 23 of the 29 illegal immigrants still aboard. Lebanon let only six of them - all Egyptians - disembark in Beirut, as only they had proper Lebanese entry documents.

    Police Spokesman Glafcos Xenos said yesterday Cyprus police were still seeking the last of the 30 boat people who pitched ashore near Ayia Napa last Wednesday.

    One Cyprus official, who declined to be identified, said that part of the problem lay in the fact that Lebanon is not master of its own house, inasmuch as Syria - with some 40,000 occupation troops - really calls the shots.

    Shambos agreed that Cyprus needed to buy more gunboats to patrol its coastal waters and give effect to the estimated £12-£13 million in coastal radar installations that Justice Minister Nicos Koshis wants to buy to scan coastal waters for migrant boats trying to make landfall.

    "If you're asking me," Shambos said, "it will cost much money to acquire patrol boats. But as to the financial means, we do have it, but we spent it on other purposes," he said. He did not elaborate.

    Andreas Philippides, Acting Director of the Interior Ministry, agreed that Cyprus's patrol fleet was insufficient to handle the seaborne illegal aliens. "The main point is to prevent the illegal boats from leaving Lebanon and getting within the 12-mile zone (of Cyprus' territorial waters). The important thing is to prevent embarkation," he said.

    Shambos also called for "stiff fines and jail terms" for mariners trafficking in human misery. Disquieted at the prospect of detention camps for their 'passengers', Shambos acknowledged the time might come when these would be unavoidable, although he added: "I don't think we've reached that point yet."

    Philippides said he also opposed the idea of detention camps as a bulwark and a warning against the human tide waiting in Lebanon to swamp Cyprus.

    "I do not think that we will enter into that kind of arrangement now," he said, "but if we have, every two or three weeks, a load of these people, we won't have the space to detain them. We might entertain the possibility of detention centres."

    Tuesday, January 19, 1999

    [05] Cyprus Airways blasts strike blackmail

    By Andrew Adamides

    CYPRUS Airways (CY) yesterday blasted the latest call to strike by its largest union Cynika.

    In a two-page statement, the national carrier said it was saddened that the union had "once again" chosen blackmail and confrontation in an attempt to have its demands met.

    Cynika is calling for a 2.5 per cent increase in wages and a two per cent boost in benefits, in line with the raises given to semi-government organisations in 1997.

    CY management responded that, in the framework of renewing its collective agreement, it had given rises of 7.25 per cent, as well as satisfying other demands. It added that while the labour costs of other airlines, notably Lufthansa and British Airways, had shrunk, CY's had risen from 22 to 33 per cent of the company's expenditure, at a cost of £10 million, over a five- year period. In the same period, the average cost of a CY employee had gone up by 50 per cent. Such costs needed to be contained in order to ensure the company's survival, the statement concluded.

    Cyprus Airways said calling for rises in line with other semi-government organisations was incongruous, as these worked on a local basis, whereas CY has to work internationally, in competition with other airlines. The statement also pointed out that, although the company had made a profit in 1998, after two years of consecutive loss, this profit came from just three or four routes, while the others were still running at a loss.

    CY said that, despite all its difficulties, it hadn't refused to discuss matters with the union, but that in spite of this, Cynika continued to issue ultimatums. It also claimed that the call to strike was contrary to the industrial relations code and that it was "saddened" that the decision to strike had been taken prior to a January 15 discussion.

    If Cynika does not heed the call for talks, it will be responsible for all consequences, the CY statement concluded.

    Cynika also issued a statement yesterday, in which it officially called on all its members to strike on January 28. The proposed strike will involve 1, 200 staff, including cabin crew, ground staff and 27 out of the airline's 120 pilots. It will take place from 7 to 11am.

    Tuesday, January 19, 1999

    [06] Police track lottery thieves

    POLICE are searching for thieves who might have hit a winning streak after nearly 14,000 scratch cards were stolen from a Paphos petrol station.

    The state-issued scratch cards, which offer winnings of between £15 and 50, 000, were reported stolen yesterday by Paphos petrol station owner Andreas Karageorgis.

    Thieves used a power-drill to force their way into the petrol station on Evagoras Pallikarides avenue, which was closed on Sunday, and then cracked open the metal safe containing the 13,800 scratch cards, police said.

    It seems the culprits were feeling lucky because little else was taken except for £57 in petty cash.

    The total value of the scratch cards, priced between 50 cents and five pounds, is £12,650.

    "Maybe the best chance of police catching the criminals is if one of them hits the jackpot," a police source said yesterday.

    All big money claims must be submitted to the state lottery authority and all cards have a traceable serial number.

    Tuesday, January 19, 1999

    [07] Turkish Cypriot fined after straying out of Pyla

    A TURKISH Cypriot student was fined £100 yesterday by a Larnaca district court for straying into the free areas after driving to watch a football match in Pyla.

    Ozgur Vehit, 22, was fined for driving a car in the government-controlled areas, which was not registered with the appropriate authority, or possessing a recognised license or insurance.

    The student, along with three of his friends, set out from occupied Bogazi to watch a football match in the mixed buffer zone village of Pyla on Saturday afternoon.

    The lost group of Turkish Cypriot football fans were spotted in their Nissan Sunny on the Larnaca to Dhekelia road by a police patrol soon after the game.

    Vehit was arrested and taken into custody, but his three passengers were handed over to Irish UN civilian police and returned home.

    In court yesterday, Vehit pleaded guilty to the charges and his father, who had travelled from the occupied areas, was on hand to pay the fine.

    There is no checkpoint from Pyla into the government-controlled areas.

    Tuesday, January 19, 1999

    [08] Pilgrims to cross to Tekke tomorrow

    MUSLIM pilgrims living in the occupied areas are expected to cross the Green Line tomorrow to visit the Hala Sultan Tekke.

    Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Takis Christopoulos told the Cyprus News Agency yesterday that around 1,200 Turkish Cypriots would be bussed over at around 7am. They will return to the north at 4pm. The names of those making the trip have already been given to the government by the Denktash regime.

    Christopoulos said the police will be taking all necessary security measures for the trip.

    Muslims living in the free areas meanwhile yesterday celebrated the end of Ramadan at a 7.45am service at the Omerieh Mosque in old Nicosia. Wednesday's pilgrimage will also mark the Ramadan Bairam at the end of the Muslim holy month.

    For two years now, groups of Turkish Cypriot pilgrims have been allowed to cross to Tekke outside Larnaca, while Greek Cypriots have made regular pilgrimages to Apostolos Andreas monastery in the occupied areas.

    Tuesday, January 19, 1999

    [09] Underground Acropolis quarry could date back centuries

    WERE sandstone rocks taken from a recently discovered underground quarry used in the Venetian walls surrounding Nicosia?

    Civil engineer and Strovolos Municipality's construction and works supervisor Neophytos Christodoulides yesterday told the Cyprus Mail it was too soon to tell.

    "Some people say the man-made caves are from this century, 1940 or 1950, but there are rumours that quarries in this area supplied stones for the walls."

    Sandstone was until recently widely used for building houses, as well as being chosen by Cyprus' Venetian overlords for the 4.8km-long walls dating from 1567-1570.

    "We had started construction on the Acropolis Park when we discovered the caves two months ago," Christodoulides said, adding that building was immediately halted.

    He said the Municipality was currently discussing ways to incorporate the caves into plans for the Park.

    Christodoulides added that the sandstone quarry was being cleared to discover it's full extent.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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