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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-03-21

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

March 21, 1999


  • [01] Complacency the main obstacle, says Hercus
  • [02] Michaelides launches broadside against accuser
  • [03] What a magic idea...
  • [04] Boat people nothing to do with us, says Lebanon
  • [05] Ship fire out
  • [06] Diko claim dismissed
  • [07] Nightmare in Ayia Napa

  • [01] Complacency the main obstacle, says Hercus

    By Jean Christou

    UNITED NATIONS success in keeping the peace in Cyprus should not lead to complacency, and letting time slip by will not help resolve the situation, Unficyp's Chief of Mission Dame Ann Hercus believes.

    On the occasion of 35 years of Unficyp this week, Dame Ann told The Sunday Mail the force has succeeded in helping both sides keep a ceasefire for the past 25 years.

    "But this success should not lead to complacency," she said. "All our efforts should be devoted to imagine and attain a more prosperous and peaceful future for both communities. Peaceful solutions have been found to other long-standing disputes - it can be done in Cyprus as well."

    Unficyp has in the past been described as a victim of its own success by keeping the two sides apart so well that they may have become complacent in their efforts to reach a settlement of the Cyprus problem.

    "The fact that Unficyp has been here for 35 years should be a constant reminder to both sides of their shared responsibility to do everything humanely possible to reach a solution," Dame Ann replied to a question on whether she envisaged a UN presence here for another 35 years.

    She believes that if Unficyp left tomorrow tension would increase, and the force is therefore "vital" in maintaining the ceasefire "as a bridge between the soldiers, but more importantly, as a bridge between both communities, until a political settlement has been reached".

    Dame Ann has been engaged in secret shuttle talks between the two sides since last October after being mandated by UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan to try to reduce tension and possibly help kick-start stalled political negotiations.

    "The international community can help in negotiations, it can provide for peace-building measures after a settlement, but it is for the two sides to take the decisions required for a settlement. Letting time slip by will not make these decisions any easier," she said.

    A western diplomatic source who did not wish to be named agreed that Unficyp was doing such a good job that the two sides had little incentive to make an effort.

    "It's not the fault of the UN, but life has become very comfortable for the two sides with Unficyp here," the source said.

    But the UN force is not immune to criticism from the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides, each of whom has accused Unficyp of partiality towards the other.

    Most recently, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has delayed the appointment of a new force commander by insisting that the replacement for the current Argentinian commander not come from an EU member country - because of the Turkish side's annoyance with the bloc over its accession negotiations with Cyprus.

    The Greek Cypriot side has also had its run-ins with the force when it perceived direct or indirect Unficyp recognition of the Denktash regime, in spite of UN resolutions which clearly spell out the international illegality of the breakaway 'state'.

    Although those on the official side who work closely with Unficyp have nothing but praise for the force, there are many who feel the UN did not do enough to prevent the 1974 Turkish invasion and still does not do enough today.

    Among them is Diko deputy Marios Matsakis. who told The Sunday Mail the UN should take a more positive role "instead of being so-called impartial observers".

    "In cases where the blame lies with one side they have to state it clearly, " he said. "They are so neutral they say nothing at all."

    March 21, 1999

    [02] Michaelides launches broadside against accuser

    By Martin Hellicar

    FORMER Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides yesterday launched an attack on his tormentor, House watchdog committee chairman Christos Pourgourides, labelling him corrupt and underhand.

    Pourgourides' persistent allegations that Michaelides had abused his position as minister for personal gain forced Michaelides to resign last week - despite his being officially cleared of any wrong-doing.

    In an midday interview on CyBC radio, Michaelides vented the frustration born of eight months of persistent attacks by Pourgourides.

    "We know Mr Pourgourides' history, we know his past, we know his present, we know his actions both as a professional lawyer and as a deputy and as chairman of the House watchdog committee. We know how he behaves as a person and a citizen," the former minister said.

    Michaelides tried to turn the tables on Pourgourides, claiming he was the one who was guilty of corrupt practices and abusing his position as lawyer and as House watchdog committee chairman. Michaelides complained that his calls for an investigation into Pourgourides' alleged activities had been ignored by House President Spyros Kyprianou, and he said he had launched an investigation of his own.

    Michaelides claimed in the interview that Pourgourides' attacks on him were part of a plot to scupper the presidency of Glafcos Clerides. He said the Disy deputy had threatened to 'get' members of the ruling party if they did not back his anti-Michaelides campaign.

    "I left (the ministry) when I realised the attacks were not directed against me but against the President," the former minister - who has always insisted he is completely innocent - said.

    Pourgourides could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

    Michaelides came under renewed attack from a different quarter yesterday, with Disy deputy Demetris Syllouris claiming the ex-minister had harassed a government auditor involved in last year's probe into Michaelides' finances into resigning from the investigation.

    Syllouris did not name the official allegedly maligned, but threatened to do so before the House watchdog committee.

    The Auditor-general's office was instructed to look into the then minister's financial affairs late last year following Pourgourides' accusations.

    Michaelides was candid in his response to Syllouris' claims.

    He admitted he had encouraged the auditor in question - whom he named as Mr Neocleous - to resign from the investigation team because his wife was the personal secretary of Technical Chamber chairman Nicos Mesaritis, whom Michaelides accused of being adversarial towards him. "He (the auditor) had in my opinion an interest in defending the interests of Mr Mesaritis and should have left (the probe team). He realised this after I gave him a small hint: 'Are you not Mr Neocleous, the husband of the personal secretary of Mr Mesaritis?' I said to him. This was all I said to him," Michaelides told the CyBC. He said the government auditor had not been in any way offended by his prompting.

    March 21, 1999

    [03] What a magic idea...

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE CYPRUS Association of Magicians had no illusions yesterday about the benefits of having world-famous magician David Copperfield make the Rock of Aphrodite 'disappear', even though the Paphos Bishopric staunchly opposes the plan.

    "We think it's an excellent idea to have a great magician come to Cyprus to perform," Association Chairman Dimis Michaelides told The Sunday Mail.

    "From a commercial point of view, if we can get a one-hour TV special - David Copperfield does approximately one show a year with one very big illusion, such as making the Statue of Liberty disappear, or walking through the Great Wall of China - it's an excellent public relations vehicle," Michaelides said.

    "The point is not making the rock disappear for half an hour for an audience of 1,000 people... The whole point is getting live TV coverage all over the world."

    He suggested Copperfield might want to make the rock disappear and have a beautiful girl emerge from the water. "That's the Birthplace of Venus, and I think that's the way the illusion should be structured," Michaelides said.

    "Of course, a priest might not want to watch that in public," he laughed, noting that Paphos Bishop Chrysostomos opposes the trick and is even threatening to sit on the rock to prevent it from going ahead. "How mediaeval!"

    Charalambos Hadjicharalambous, head of the Religious Enlightenment Office of the Paphos Bishopric, yesterday confirmed that the bishop opposes anyone making the Rock of Aphrodite 'vanish'.

    "First of all it has to do with the respect we give to the place. We can't play with such places that have taken on a very important meaning in our culture. And then it has to do with the expenses - the priorities some persons in the government have in their thinking," he said, noting the trick is expected to cost more than £1 million.

    Hadjicharalambous conceded that the rock is associated with the pagan myth of Aphrodite, "and of course we do not believe in such a goddess".

    "But the objection is not based on this, but on the meaning the place has taken in our culture and history. So even if it is a pagan myth and a place associated with a pagan myth, it is respected," he said.

    Having Copperfield make 'disappear' Aphrodite's Rock is one of two millennium stunts under consideration by the Ministry of Commerce, Tourism &amp; Industry.

    Minister Nicos Rolandis is still working out what facility on the island is capable of staging an international beauty pageant. And he has yet to sign any deal with Copperfield about making Aphrodite's Rock disappear as a complementary event to the beauty contest.

    March 21, 1999

    [04] Boat people nothing to do with us, says Lebanon

    By Anthony O. Miller

    CYPRUS may soon have even more boat people to house, if a Lebanese official's claims prove true - that none of the 89 illegal immigrants who arrived in Cyprus late on Thursday by boat came from Lebanon, but were loaded into their craft at sea off boats from other countries.

    Cyprus and Lebanon have an agreement to repatriate promptly all boat people arriving in Cyprus from Lebanon. But Khalil El-Habre, Lebanese Embassy chargé d'affaires, raised the prospect that none of the 89 boat people rescued at sea on Thursday came from Lebanon, in which case they could not be returned there.

    The 89, including 17 children and 18 women, who were brought into Larnaca Port on Thursday were said to have tossed their documentation into the sea when Cyprus police helicopters and a coast guard boat apprehended them in stormy seas off Cape Greco.

    El-Habre conceded that this may have happened, but said some of the boat people told him their papers were kept by the 'mother boats' that off- loaded them into their small craft at sea.

    "No Lebanese was on board" the 89 immigrants' boat, which was freshly painted with the Lebanese flag, El-Habre said. "We did not register this boat in Lebanon. We don't know where it is registered," he said.

    "Even the supposed-Lebanese captain is not Lebanese. He is Syrian," he added. This means the captains of two of the last four boat-people crafts to land in Cyprus were Syrian.

    The boat people said their boat was "a companion one. It does not contain any compass to direct them. So they were directed by another boat, which left them off the Cyprus coast," El-Habre said. He said the other boats "returned", but "we do not know where to".

    "They put this boat on to the high seas, and they loaded people into it from boat to boat, or from the shore - which is supposed to be near Tripoli, in Lebanon - by small boat," El-Habre said. "So it was not necessary for the captain to have been on shore" in Lebanon to pick up his 89 passengers.

    "People (among the 89) coming from Somalia, Sierra Leone and Iraq said they were on two or three boats before getting into this boat that arrived in Cyprus. This means it is a big operation and involves many people. I believe it is a large international smuggling operation," El-Habre said.

    Police said 76 adults went on a two-hour hunger strike yesterday aboard the government-chartered cruise boat Royal Prince, where the 89 illegal immigrants are being kept dockside under police guard. Police did not know why they began fasting - or why they stopped.

    El-Habre said it would be up to Cyprus whether or not to call in the UNHCR. Police had little or no additional information on the boat people at all yesterday.

    March 21, 1999

    [05] Ship fire out

    A FIRE on board a Cyprus-flagged cargo vessel stranded off the northwestern coast of Scotland with 1,750 tonnes of inflammable chemicals on board was put out yesterday, the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency said.

    The fire broke out on Friday and the crew of the Multitank Ascania was airlifted off by helicopter. Some 600 residents in a five-kilometre exclusion zone on the Dunnett coast were evacuated as officials feared the ship, anchored 2.5 nautical miles off the coast, might explode.

    March 21, 1999

    [06] Diko claim dismissed

    ATTORNEY-GENERAL Alecos Markides has dismissed Diko claims that House of Representatives deputy Katerina Pantelidou violated the constitution when she jumped ship to join rivals Disy last year.

    "Your positions evidently have no legal standing," Markides states in a ruling on an appeal submitted to him by a lawyer for Diko.

    March 21, 1999

    [07] Nightmare in Ayia Napa

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THIS IS the time of year when the sleepy fishing village of Ayia Napa shrugs off its winter coat and transforms itself into a bustling, sprawling, hub of tourist activity.

    Ayia Napa may have a gaudy reputation for being a kitsch dayglo strip with a summer population of brawling beer-swigging louts, but it's still one of the island's most popular destinations for the millions who arrive searching for sun, sea and sex - if they can get it.

    Tourism is the lifeblood of the area, with hundreds of families dependent on the tourist economy for employment and survival.

    But enter the all-important introduction of a £7 million sewage system, à- la-Limassol, and Ayia Napa is turned from a sun trap into a huge man hole.

    Hoteliers, shopkeepers, and local residents are none too pleased that the work, which started in the winter, is continuing unabated into the spring.

    Despite this, Ayia Napa mayor Barbara Pericleous says all the gaping holes will be filled in and things will be back to normal by the end of March.

    "We started last October and we will finish the work on March 31. There have been no complaints," Pericleous told The Sunday Mail.

    "Everybody knew this was going to happen and everybody was happy. In six months, we did work on a sewage system that normally takes years to do," she added.

    But the locals are not exactly overjoyed at their livelihoods being put at risk by a huge public works project that has turned Ayia Napa and nearby Protaras into no-go areas resembling a huge set for Oscar favourite Saving Private Ryan.

    "This project will never be completed this month or even next month," said local resident Demetris Christou.

    Moreover, it is no exaggeration to say that the sprawling village has become a death trap, as in January a Norwegian tourist was killed when he fell down an open road ditch in Ayia Napa.

    It is difficult to get a grasp of a how a network of road works and dangerously deep trenches can scar the daily lives of the tourists and locals in Ayia Napa unless you venture in person to the south eastern coast.

    Approaching the Famagusta district village, you're not struck by the sun- soaked horizon, but by the endless pyramid-shaped heaps of ballast and sand stretching for miles.

    The next test is actually finding a way into the place, which isn't blocked by a no-entry sign, barriers, or huge boulders.

    Once on the scene, the scars on the road tell their own story as do the forlorn figures of shopkeepers whose faces are seemingly wishing the road workers and bulldozers would disappear into the trenches they have dug.

    "As soon as they open one road they close another; it takes for ever to get to work and then when I open the shop there is nothing because tourists won't venture down here; it's a shame," said souvenir shop owner Maria Mavrou.

    The endless rows of bric-a-brac shops selling kitsch souvenirs, dodgy music tapes and the odd lace tablecloth are - besides the neon discos and ubiquitous theme pubs - what give Ayia Napa its ugly duckling's charm.

    It is also what sells to the hoards of Finns, Brits and Russians who gingerly make their way round the cones and rubble on road work avenue.

    Even the scenic harbour with its fishing boats and tavernas has not escaped the demolition man. Access to it is rather difficult, what with the road being closed off and completely ripped up.

    Unluckily, Maria has her souvenir shop washed up between the nonexistent road and something called a pavement - three metres above sea level.

    "Everybody is complaining about the situation, but nobody is listening. It's too risky for the elderly tourists to walk around, especially at night because they might fall down a hole."

    Maria says her earnings have slumped from the usual £200-a-day at this time of year to big fat zero.

    Other shopkeepers had the same story to tell, but expressed the wish the nightmare would end before the "English invasion".

    "This has caused us lots of problems, but we hope it will be fixed in a month," said an Ayia Napa mini-market owner, who didn't want to be named.

    A group of Scandinavians cyclists seemed oblivious to the dangers until they started looking for a piece of tarmac that hadn't been dug up. In the end they fled to the safety of the pavement.

    "Ooh it's very bad, too dangerous for us," said one of the cyclists in broken English as the group sped in search of a comfortable ride.

    A British couple who took a more conventional means of transport - they let their feet do the walking - were not too happy with the sight of bulldozers and the thumping din

    of men at work.

    "It didn't say anything like this in the brochure. I've come here for a quiet two weeks and it's a complete mess," said Sean Carter.

    It seems he got the wrong travel agent, because at the moment no sightseeing tour worth its weight in holiday snaps would include Ayia Napa as part of the scenic route.

    Meanwhile, cars are legally allowed to roam the pavement for a change, and those hapless tourists just have to keep ducking and diving for cover.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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