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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-05-09

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

May 09, 1999


  • [01] Larnaca to Amsterdam (via Paphos, Larnaca and Paphos)
  • [02] Marathon talks on Health Scheme
  • [03] Israelis' lawyers lie low on early release
  • [04] Factory owner dies after explosion
  • [05] Mother remanded in robbery case
  • [06] Nine hurt in accidents
  • [07] J&P founder Stelios Joannou dies at 84
  • [08] March boost for tourism

  • [01] Larnaca to Amsterdam (via Paphos, Larnaca and Paphos)

    By Jean Christou

    THE CYPRUS Airways pilots' union Pasipy said yesterday industrial disputes should not be mixed up with passenger safety, following the latest delayed flight blamed on a pilot.

    Although the pilots are currently in dispute with the company over promotions, Pasipy president Chris Christodoulou said Friday's incident had nothing to do with this, and was wholly related to passenger safety.

    He was responding to reports of an eight-hour delay on the Amsterdam route on Friday morning in which more than 400 passengers were inconvenienced.

    There have been two other incidents in the past week, with flights to Amsterdam and Paris on consecutive days delayed by the reported illness of pilots.

    The company suspects Pasipy was applying pressure in the industrial dispute and is investigating. The pilots involved say they have certificates from the company doctor.

    According to reports of Friday's incident, the Larnaca-Paphos-Amsterdam flight took off as usual in the morning to pick up passengers and a new crew in Paphos.

    But before the plane could take off with the new crew the captain discovered some technical difficulties.

    By the time the problem was fixed, the captain refused to fly the aircraft on to Amsterdam, saying that because it was a same-day return journey his hours would be exceeded if he did so.

    Neither the first nor second crew was therefore in a position to fly the aircraft to Amsterdam. It was also decided not to call in a third crew from Nicosia because by the time they reached Paphos airport, then flew to Amsterdam and back, their duty time would have been exceeded as well.

    The only alternative was to fly the plane back to Larnaca to pick up another crew who could take the plane to Amsterdam.

    The passengers who had originally embarked in Larnaca were then asked to stay at Paphos while the second crew took the plane back. And because the aircraft had enough fuel on board to fly to Amsterdam, some had to be removed to ensure a safe landing at Larnaca.

    At Larnaca a standby crew boarded the plane and flew it back to Paphos to pick up the original passengers. The flight then continued to Amsterdam with the third crew some eight hours late.

    Cyprus Airways officials could not be contacted yesterday for comment.

    Christodoulou, who was himself the pilot involved, said the incident was not the 'comedy of errors' it was being portrayed as: "Industrial disputes must not be confused with safety issues," he said. "There were two very serious technical problems with the aircraft."

    He said the resulting delay would have stretched his time two hours beyond the thirteen and a half allowed under regulations. Pilots can still undertake to fly at their own discretion in such circumstances, but Christodoulou chose not to do so.

    He said reroutings around Yugoslav airspace because of the Kosovo crisis also complicated the issue.

    Christodoulou confirmed that he had flown the plane back to Larnaca where the third crew took over. Asked why the third crew was able to take the flight all the way through to Amsterdam without the usual crew changeover in Paphos, Christodoulou said that the third crew had been on standby, whereas the second crew would have been involved in a complicated rota involving flights to other destinations.

    Normally he said a crew would already be waiting in Paphos - at the five- star Azia Beach Hotel - from the previous day's schedule and they would take over. Likewise the crew who take the flight from Larnaca to Paphos would go on to other flight duties on the same day.

    May 09, 1999

    [02] Marathon talks on Health Scheme

    By Athena Karsera

    HEALTH Ministry and other government officials yesterday briefed the House Health Committee on the proposed new National Health Scheme during a marathon nine-hour meeting.

    Speaking afterwards, Diko deputy and Committee member Dr Marios Matsakis told The Sunday Mailthat the day's meeting had been "constructive", and said it and would be the first in a series on the issue.

    "We (the Health Committee) asked a lot of questions," Matsakis said, adding that further meetings would "probably go into great depth in certain aspects of the scheme, not stay limited to the government side".

    Matsakis said that similar meetings were also planned with unions and doctors' associations as well as with other parties affected by the proposed Health Scheme.

    He believed a new Health Scheme was very necessary for Cyprus, and his personal opinion was that the law should be passed "as soon as possible" - hopefully before the end of the year.

    He also noted that the Scheme was almost ready and that the Committee was currently in the process of ironing out details.

    The Cabinet in January decided to forge ahead with the new system, despite opposition from the public servants' union Pasydy.

    Non-Pasydy government doctors, meanwhile, are in favour of the Health Scheme, as are private physicians.

    The new National Health Scheme, first proposed more than six years ago, would involve employers and workers contributing about half of the cost for a free health plan that would include treatment from private doctors as well as at state hospitals.

    Health Minister Christos Solomis said in February that he expected the bill for the new Health Scheme to be approved within "a year to 18 months", and that a further five years would be needed to phase it in.

    In January, Solomis said that the cost of the new system's first stage of implementation would be approximately 187 million, or nine per cent of the gross national wage bill.

    The government wants employers to contribute 2.55 per cent and employees 2 per cent. Unions want employee contributions to be set at the 1.5 per cent mark.

    May 09, 1999

    [03] Israelis' lawyers lie low on early release

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE TWO Israelis jailed in February for approaching a restricted military zone look set to remain behind bars until next year, dashing their hopes of an early release.

    Days after Igal Damary, 49, and Udi Hargov, 37, were sentenced to three years in prison, their Cypriot lawyers confidently spoke of securing a presidential pardon before the summer.

    Earlier this week, rumours spread that a deal was being brokered to get them released quickly after top Israeli lawyer Reuven Bachar was spotted with his advisers in Nicosia.

    But their Cypriot lawyers said that, for the moment, efforts to free Hargov and Damary were "a no-go area".

    Now it seems the two alleged Mossad agents could remain behind bars at Nicosia Central Prison for another six months before their lawyers apply for a pardon.

    "There is no reason to apply for a pardon right now because the climate is very negative and the Attorney-general has already stated there is no chance," said defence lawyer for the Israelis, Michael Kleoppas.

    Kleoppas pointed to the recent debate in the House of Representatives, which criticised the government for dropping the initial spying charges during the trial, and to statements by Attorney-general Alecos Markides suggesting that Hargov and Damary would need to serve at least half of their sentence before being released. The Cyprus prison year, with time off for good behaviour, stands at around nine months.

    "I believe after this October will be the right time because Markides said he was willing to look at the application (for a pardon) once half their prison time was served," said Kleoppas.

    "We are waiting for the political climate between Cyprus and Israel to get better and local opinion to cool down," he added.

    There was public outrage over the decision to drop spying charges against the Israelis, and many people believe the "light sentence" imposed was a direct result of intense pressure from the Israeli authorities.

    The Cyprus government has denied it made any bargain with the Israelis.

    Israel made no secret of the fact that it wanted its nationals returned immediately and opposed any legal proceedings against them.

    Kleoppas said that Markides had drawn a direct link between Israel's refusal to release Cypriot journalist Panayiotis Paschalis in 1978 and the predicament of his own clients.

    "The Attorney-general gave the Paschalis case as an example of how long he thought the Israelis should stay in prison," said Kleoppas.

    Paschalis, who still maintains his innocence, was sentenced to five years on charges of spying for the Palestinians. He spent two and a half years behind bars, despite repeated protests by the Cyprus government.

    As the three Cypriot lawyers representing the Israelis decided not to appeal against the Assize court decision, a presidential pardon is their only early release option.

    President Clerides usually only grants pardons on the advice of the Attorney-general, so Kleoppas is aware that Markides needs to soften his hitherto tough stance on the issue before any progress can be made.

    Hargov and Damary have been in custody since they were arrested on November 7, 1998, in the tiny fishing village of Zygi. Their prison time served is calculated from the time they were first taken into custody.

    May 09, 1999

    [04] Factory owner dies after explosion

    THE OWNER of the seed oil factory destroyed by a cistern explosion on Wednesday has died of his injuries.

    Savvas Savvides, 53, died at Larnaca general hospital on Friday night.

    His 20-year-old son George, who was seriously injured in the blast and resulting fire, is still in critical condition at Nicosia general hospital's intensive care unit.

    Both father and son sustained second and third degree burns to more than half of their bodies after being caught in the blaze at their Savoil factory in Kalo Chorio near Larnaca. The factory was completely destroyed.

    Preliminary investigations have shown the explosion was caused by a chemical reaction in the cistern.

    Savvas Savvides, the father of three sons including George, married for the second time only four months ago.

    May 09, 1999

    [05] Mother remanded in robbery case

    THE mother of a former suspect in a Chlorakas bank robbery was yesterday remanded in connection with the same incident.

    Her son, Gregoris Gregoriou, was arrested after the April 22 robbery but later released for lack of evidence.

    Paphos district court yesterday remanded Zoe Socratous Spyrou, 59, for four days after she was arrested on Friday.

    An armed and hooded gunman held up the Paphos village's Bank of Cyprus branch and made off with a total of 11,300 in local and foreign currency.

    May 09, 1999

    [06] Nine hurt in accidents

    NINE people were injured in three separate traffic accidents on Friday.

    Five 15-year-old boys were hurt when one of them drove their car into an electricity pole near Vrysoulles at 10pm. Passenger Philippos Georgiou was seriously injured and taken to Nicosia general hospital.

    Two other passengers were slightly hurt and kept overnight at Larnaca hospital, while driver Andreas Lambrou Michael and the fifth passenger were released after first aid treatment.

    Earlier, three people were injured in Pallouriotissa when the car carrying Andri Kapetaniou, 33, and her daughter Androniki, 12, collided with a vehicle driven by 21-year-old Athanasios Panayiotou.

    All three were treated at Nicosia general hospital, as was 21-year-old Marios Georgiou whose motorcycle hit a fence in Strovolos.

    May 09, 1999

    [07] J&P founder Stelios Joannou dies at 84

    By Athena Karsera

    THE co-founder of one of the most prominent Cypriot construction companies, Stelios Christos Joannou, died in Nicosia general hospital during emergency heart surgery yesterday. He was 84.

    The operation began at approximately 6am after Joannou experienced complications following aorta replacement surgery on Friday. He died half an hour later.

    Joannou was born in Lefkara in 1915 but moved to Nicosia as a child where he attended primary and secondary school. He created Joannou and Paraskevaides Ltd with George Paraskevaides shortly after the Second World War.

    The pair had first formed a partnership in 1940 to carry out construction work in the defence sector.

    J&P, as the company became known, extended its business overseas in 1961, attaining international recognition.

    Besides his commitments to J&P, Joannou served on the administration boards of several banks and other organisations, and he will also be remembered for his charitable work.

    Along with his wife Ellie, whom he married in 1938, Joannou set up and funded the Christos Stelios Joannou Foundation in memory of the couple's late son Christos. The Foundation provides aid for children with special needs. Joannou more recently financed a home for mentally retarded old people.

    Joannou was also one of the founders of the Ayia Skepi centre for the rehabilitation of young people with drug problems.

    He is survived by his children, Dakis and Sylvia.

    May 09, 1999

    [08] March boost for tourism

    TOURIST arrivals for March rose by 24.5 per cent compared to the same period in 1998, the latest figures show.

    The huge increase brought the number from 101,575 in March 1998 to 126,494 this year.

    More than 80 per cent of the tourists who arrived in March came from EU countries. Nearly half were from the UK, followed by Germany (15.1 per cent), Russia (4 per cent), Greece (3.9 per cent), Sweden (2.8 per cent) and Israel (2.4 per cent).

    The rise in the three months January to March show a 13.5 per cent increase in tourists and is in line with predictions of an overall 12 per cent rise for 1999.

    But this projection now hangs in the balance after the unexpected slump in hotel bookings because of the Yugoslavia crisis which has deterred many Europeans from booking a holiday.

    Hotels reported late last month that bookings for June, July and August were extremely slow.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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