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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-06

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Saturday, February 06, 1999


  • [01] Government bars charters out of Cyprus
  • [02] Church vows to challenge Dutch ruling on stolen icons
  • [03] New traffic law bans mobile phones at the wheel
  • [04] Talks under way for new site for British war games
  • [05] UN pig row turns into political issue
  • [06] Attempts at mediation fail to end Larnaca strikes
  • [07] Builders threaten action over illegal foreign workers
  • [08] Centrist merger talks forge ahead
  • [09] Missiles will be fully deployed in Crete

  • [01] Government bars charters out of Cyprus

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE TIME is not ripe to allow charter flights to operate out of Cyprus, Communications Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou said yesterday.

    A ministerial committee, involving Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) and Civil Aviation Department representatives, yesterday put a hold on applications to run charter operations from the island.

    "We had applications by charter companies who want to operate routes from Cyprus, but our view is that the circumstances are not right and we will continue our policy to protect flights," the minister said.

    He pointed out that charter and scheduled flights from abroad into Cyprus were now more or less liberalised and that there was no change of policy on this front.

    Nevertheless, certain restrictions still remain in place, such as the protected (and lucrative) Cyprus Airways routes to London and Athens. Some competition is allowed for British routes to airports other than Heathrow.

    Eventually the market will have to open up as Cyprus moves towards European accession, but the government believes that the financial cost would, for now, be too heavy to start opening windows of competition.

    Ierodiaconou also said that a request to run charter flights to Cyprus from a small airport outside Tel-Aviv had been refused, but that an application to run flights to and from the Israeli resort of Eilat had been granted.

    Charter flights from Tel-Aviv are banned - as Cyprus Airways runs schedule flights there - but flights from Haifa were agreed last year.

    Cruise giants Louise secured a licence last month to run charter flights to Cyprus from European destinations from January 2000.

    Saturday, February 06, 1999

    [02] Church vows to challenge Dutch ruling on stolen icons

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE CYPRUS Church yesterday vowed to challenge a Dutch court decision blocking the return of four icons plundered from the occupied church of Antifonitis and unearthed in Rotterdam in 1995.

    Church spokesman Father Vassilios yesterday described the Rotterdam District court ruling as a "disgrace" and slammed Holland, claiming the country was a haven for antiquities smugglers.

    "We must continue this battle," Vassilios said, referring to the Church's three-year legal fight to secure the return of the 16th century icons. The Church secured an interim seizure writ for the four icons, depicting apostles, immediately after they were found in Rotterdam in 1995.

    On Thursday, the Dutch court ruled that the icons should remain the property of an elderly Dutch couple who bought them from an Armenian collector in 1976.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides said the Church could still challenge the Rotterdam court's ruling and offered his department's active support for any renewed legal battle.

    The Church lost the case on a legal technicality.

    The court recognised that the icons had been taken from the Antifonitis church, near Ayios Ambrosios village in the Kyrenia district, but ruled they could not be returned to Cyprus because Holland had not enacted the 1954 Hague convention on the return of artifacts stolen during war.

    The Rotterdam court ruled that, under local law, the elderly Dutch collectors could keep the icons because there was no evidence to suggest they had not bought them in good faith.

    "Unfortunately, there is a strange law in Holland whereby, after the passage of 20 years, even if objects in someone's possession are stolen, the holder is considered the legal owner," Father Vassilios said yesterday.

    "Allow me to be a bit critical: unfortunately, due to this law, Holland is known as one of the countries most favourable for antiquities smugglers."

    "It is a disgrace, that this cultural heritage, which is not just ours but international, should be allowed to be destroyed in this way," he said.

    Father Vassilios said the Church would be deciding "in the next few days" how exactly to contest the Rotterdam court ruling.

    Cyprus' consul to the Hague, Tasoula Hadjitofi - who tracked the icons down in Holland in late 1995 - is to arrive on the island later this month to discuss the Church's next move, the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) reported yesterday.

    Hadjitofi, who also acts as the Church's representative for stolen arts, questioned the validity of the Rotterdam court decision. She claimed Holland had enacted the 1954 Hague convention and that there was evidence the Dutch couple had not bought the icons in good faith.

    "The four icons were purchased by a Rotterdam couple between 1976 and 1978 from an Armenian merchant who was not, however, a certified art dealer," she said.

    "The Rotterdam couple paid some 85,000 in cash without receiving any receipt," Hadjitofi said.

    It is believed the elderly Dutch collectors bought the icons off an Armenian, who is thought to have acquired them through a network of illegal dealers in the occupied areas.

    Markides said the court ruling was disappointing, but added that the battle had not been lost, as the Church could appeal to a higher Dutch court.

    "Sadly, at this stage we have a very negative development on this issue, but it is not all over yet: the court decision is not irrevocable."

    "If the Archbishop asks us we will do everything humanly possible to help win the case," Markides said.

    Saturday, February 06, 1999

    [03] New traffic law bans mobile phones at the wheel

    By Andrew Adamides

    THE POLICE will show no mercy to bikers without crash helmets and drivers caught using mobile phones at the wheel, George Voutounos, head of the police traffic division, said yesterday.

    Voutounos was speaking after the House of Representatives on Thursday passed a law making it compulsory for riders of all motorbikes - including mopeds - to wear helmets, regardless of the size of their machines. Before the amendment was passed, only riders of bikes with engines larger then 75cc had had to wear helmets.

    In addition, children under 12 will no longer be allowed on motorbikes.

    The law also makes driving while using a mobile phone an offence in itself, whereas before, it was only an offence if a driver crashed while distracted by using one.

    The law comes into effect on July 1.

    Voutounos said the new laws would be strictly enforced, pointing out that in 1997, out of 115 people who died on the roads, 34 had been killed on motorbikes - just one of whom had been wearing a helmet. Sixteen of the 34 bike victims were aged under 25, he added.

    "The point is that most of these victims were killed by head injuries, so this is why the we insisted on implementing the law," Voutounos concluded.

    He said a new campaign to promote the wearing of crash helmets would be mounted in the run-up to implementation of the new regulations.

    The law also now provides for heavier fines for those not wearing helmets, rising from the current 5 to 15.

    Referring to the widespread practice of using mobile phones at the wheel, Voutounos said "the specific law says that every driver is obliged to have his hands free at any moment so that he can have direct and safe control of the car."

    Police patrols would be on the lookout for those breaking the law, he warned, which meant "nobody, and that means nobody" would be allowed to drive and chat at the same time.

    This new law will make it unnecessary for the police to prove the driver was negligent at the time he or she is caught using a phone at the wheel, Voutounos continued.

    "Now the fact that he was caught using the phone will be an offence in itself."

    Under the new laws, Voutounos said the police also intend to crack down on Jeeps with illegal ram-bars on the front.

    Saturday, February 06, 1999

    [04] Talks under way for new site for British war games

    By Anthony O. Miller

    FOREIGN Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides and British High Commissioner David Madden met yesterday for talks concerning the use of a site other than the Akamas Peninsula for military exercises by the British Sovereign Bases (SBA), sources said.

    But the talks did not settle the issue, so short of breakthrough in resumed discussions planned for Monday, the Akamas will be the site of dry-fire war- games planned for Tuesday by the British Forces, SBA Spokesman Captain Jon Brown said.

    The Cassoulides-Madden meeting yesterday was "good", and each side explored the other's position, a Foreign Ministry source told the Cyprus Mail, on condition of anonymity.

    "We hope to reach a compromise" in Monday's meeting. "There are different aspects of the proposal that have to be taken up with the British," he said, such as SBA approval of the suitability of any substitute site to the Akamas offered by the Cyprus National Guard.

    "We have to reach an agreement with them, and they have to reach agreement with our side before we proceed. We have to wait until Monday to see what will happen," the source said.

    Short of a quick resolution, the source said, the SBA war games would be held as planned in the Akamas.

    SBA Spokesman Brown confirmed this yesterday, saying "all I've been told is that there are further talks happening on Monday, and at the moment we are planning to go ahead with the exercises in the Akamas."

    Reports in the press have quoted Cyprus officials as saying the National Guard would let British forces use its Kalochorio firing range for military exercises, as an alternative to using the environmentally sensitive Akamas Peninsula.

    But neither the British High Commission nor the SBA has received any formal invitation from the government to use the National Guard range, spokesman for both have said.

    SBA officials have said they would have to assess the suitability of the Kalochorio range before agreeing to substitute it for the Akamas for live- fire or dry-fire drills. Under the Treaty of Establishment that ended Cyprus' British colonial status, Britain is entitled to use territory in the Republic several times a year for war games.

    Reminded that Cyprus environmentalists planned demonstrations at the Akamas site to prevent the war games - as they did with considerable success in early January - Brown yesterday replied: "If they plan on demonstrating, then that's perfectly within their rights, and we wish them all the best."

    "But we will go ahead with the exercises at the moment. Should an agreement be reached on Monday, what I can say is the situation will be reviewed."

    Brown said the exercises would involve "less than 100 troops" and no live ammunition. In the past, the Akamas has been the scene of many live-fire exercises, to the anger of environmentalists in Cyprus and abroad, who want to see the environmentally fragile area become a national park.

    George Perdikis, leader of the Green Party and one of the godfathers of the island's environmental movement, said his members planned to "face them" if the British went ahead with Tuesday's drill in the Akamas.

    "If that is the reality then we will have demonstrations at the site," he said. "We will set up road-blocks and try to prevent these manoeuvres again."

    Asked if this involved the removal of signs warning of military exercises, Perdikis laughed and replied: "There are no more signs to take out."

    Protesters in January destroyed signs and fencing and damaged portable toilet units in their campaign to stop the Akamas exercises from going ahead. The SBA threatened to seek compensation for some 50,000 in damage to the British property.

    One reason why next week's exercises involve no live ammunition is that the signs warning of its possible use were pulled down in January, Need said.

    Saturday, February 06, 1999

    [05] UN pig row turns into political issue

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A ROUTINE UN buffer zone check in Kokkinotrimithia, which denied access to pig farmers, has spiralled into a political row about the rights of peacekeepers.

    The refusal to let Greek Cypriot farmers go about their business, albeit without a valid UN pass, has prompted the government to remind Unficyp that they control the buffer zone only because it allows them to do so.

    "The Cyprus Republic has not given up the right to exercise its sovereignty in the buffer zone," government spokesman Christos Stylianides said yesterday.

    He expressed the hope that, after the recent stand-off, all citizens would be allowed access to their property in the buffer zone.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides joined the fray by suggesting the UN were skating on thin ice by closing parts of the buffer zone.

    "The buffer zone is part of the Cyprus Republic whether you like it or not. It has no special status."

    Markides said that UN Cyprus representative Dame Ann Hercus was wrong, on legal grounds, to imply otherwise.

    "Naturally there is special activity by the UN in the buffer zone... but this doesn't mean they can behave like a state within a state," Markides said.

    Although peacekeepers allowed those without passes to go through on Thursday, after the intervention of Cyprus police, the barriers were firmly down yesterday to the non-entitled.

    "The situation is as normal. Those without a pass don't get through," UN spokesperson Sarah Russell told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Assurances by Stylianides that the Foreign Ministry would meet UN officials today to resolve the situation turned out to be wishful thinking.

    "We haven't heard from the Foreign Ministry today but we are very interested to discuss this," said Russell.

    Commenting on criticism that the UN had been heavy-handed in dealing with the issue Russell said: "People have a right to go about their business, but we have a mission to ensure the cease-fire remains."

    The UN said it denied access to farmers because their employer had refused to submit an updated version of a list of names of those who would require access.

    "People have been given due warning and we've tried to show understanding," said Russell.

    She also pointed out that elsewhere along the buffer zone updated lists had been drawn up without any problem.

    Foreign ministry officials are finally expected to discuss the matter with the UN on Monday morning.

    Saturday, February 06, 1999

    [06] Attempts at mediation fail to end Larnaca strikes

    STRIKES at Larnaca harbour and two of the coastal town's hotels continued yesterday, with all indications that they would continue over the weekend.

    Harbour workers and stevedores went into their fifth day of strike action, picketing the town's main roads. The entrance to the harbour - as on previous days - remained blocked, and there was no one to load or unload waiting ships.

    The strike committee, backed by unions Sek, Peo and Deok, met at noon to decide on the next steps in the dockers' action. Details of their decisions will be released today.

    A further Monday meeting will decide whether they will accept a Communication Ministry invitation to talks.

    The 105 port workers and 45 stevedores are protesting against their uncertain future. They complain of being underemployed and demand more working hours.

    They are also protesting against a delay in voluntary redundancy packages for those willing to leave their posts. In addition, the port employees are calling for the implementation of a Development Committee decision to modernise the harbour, which would guarantee them work for two to four more years.

    Meanwhile, workers from the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels lost an opportunity for negotiation yesterday, the seventh day of strike action.

    Constantinos Lordos, the president of Lordos Holdings, the company that owns the hotels, cancelled a Labour Ministry meeting with the unions after protestors stopped tourists from entering the hotels.

    An earlier meeting on Thursday night had ended without result.

    Lordos Holdings announced that they would only return to the negotiating table if no trouble was caused at the hotels for at least 48 hours.

    Protestors were yesterday handing out flyers when the trouble broke out at about 11 am, with pickets barring tourists, other members of staff and delivery men from entering the hotels.

    The flyers, printed in Greek, English, Russian and German, explained the reasons behind the protest.

    Staff are striking following the dismissal of 73 of their colleagues after a management decision to turn over sections of the hotels to outside contractors.

    Saturday, February 06, 1999

    [07] Builders threaten action over illegal foreign workers

    CONSTRUCTION workers yesterday threatened unspecified industrial action unless the government did something about what they said was a flood of illegal foreign workers stealing the bread out of their mouths.

    The builders' branch of the Sek union made its position clear in a letter sent on Thursday to Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides, Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas and Justice Minister Nicos Koshis and released yesterday.

    The union claimed unemployment in the sector had reached an unprecedented 10 per cent. Official figures said about 1,500 of the island's 23,000 builders were out of work, but the real figure was well over 2,000, the terse letter stated.

    "As you yourselves have repeatedly admitted there are in Cyprus today a few thousand illegal foreigners working in various sectors with the result that Cypriot workers cannot get jobs," the union told the ministers.

    "It is in our opinion unacceptable for there to be such a high unemployment rate in the building sector and for appropriate measures not to be taken to halt the illegal hiring of foreigners."

    If the right measures were implemented by the government then unemployment among local construction workers would be a thing of the past, Sek argued.

    "If however in the coming two months effective measures to prosecute foreigners and employers violating the law are not taken, we inform you that we will call workers in the construction industry to action."

    The government admits there is a high number of foreigners illegally employed as builders, but says the sector is also in the throws of a recession.

    Saturday, February 06, 1999

    [08] Centrist merger talks forge ahead

    EFFORTS for the formation of a merged centrist party are steaming ahead, Edek party spokesman Marinos Sizopoulos said yesterday.

    Speaking ahead of an afternoon meeting of a merger co-ordinating committee, Sizopoulos said only "minor technicalities" remained to be sorted out before merger.

    The five interlocutors are Vassos Lyssarides' socialist Edek, George Vassiliou's United Democrats, Nicos Koutsou's New Horizons and the less well known Movement for Political Renewal and Movement for Restructuring of the Centre.

    Sizopoulos said agreement on a common policy on the Cyprus problem - seen as the major sticking point for any merger - was close, with common "principles" already adopted.

    Edek, who have led merger efforts, have left the door open for Spyros Kyprianou's centre-right Diko party to join merger talks but Kyprianou is playing a waiting game.

    Saturday, February 06, 1999

    [09] Missiles will be fully deployed in Crete

    GOVERNMENT spokesman Christos Stylianides yesterday confirmed that the S- 300 missiles would be fully deployed in Crete, not just stored there.

    Speaking at his daily press briefing, Stylianides said that

    "the decision of Greece and Cyprus stands that these missiles will be installed in Crete and will be fully deployed."

    Bowing to sustained international pressure and repeated Turkish threats, President Clerides in December announced that the missiles would not be deployed in Cyprus, but instead delivered to Crete.

    Stylianides said yesterday Cyprus was still in the process of negotiating the exact details of the deployment with Greece and Russia, but that all the details would be made public once the negotiating process was complete.

    Until then, issues of defence and security, and the details of weapons systems had to stay out of the public eye, he added.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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