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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-03-09
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Thursday, March 9, 2000
 Hopes fading for face-to-face talksBy Jean Christou
FACE-TO-FACE talks between the two sides do not appear to be on the agenda during the next round of talks in May, Alvaro de Soto said yesterday.The UN Secretary- general's special envoy for Cyprus told a news conference in Nicosia after his eight-day visit that proximity talks were again on the cards for the third round, slated for May 23 in New York.It had been hoped that direct negotiations on substantive issues might take place after the first two rounds of proximity talks between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktashin New York last December and Geneva last month.De Soto said the purpose of the proximity talks was to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a Cyprus settlement.Face-to- face talking Ais one way but it's not the only way," De Soto said. "The important thing is when negotiations begin is for them to be meaningful and lead to a comprehensive settlement. We hope to get to meaningful negotiations at an early date. We need to move on."
But the positions of the two leaders could not be further apart. Clerides wants a federation based on UN resolutions while Denktash continues to insist on recognition for his breakaway regime, after which he would be willing to enter into a confederation with the Greek Cypriots.
Sticking to the strict news blackout imposed by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, De Soto declined to answer questions on the substance of the negotiations, but he did say that internationally the circumstances are in place for progress to be made.
"And not only progress, but actual movement in the direction of the long- elusivecomprehensive settlement," he said. "But it will require a willingness and a spirit of co-operation by the two sides."
The UN envoy said he had achieved a much deeper and broader understanding of the situation during his visit to the island.
"Obvious metaphors and similes come to mind about the confrontational mosaic that exists on the ground, the lingering bitterness in some quarters, and the references to a powder keg. At the same time one detects the wish to solve the problem once and for all," he said.
De Soto said last December's EU Helsinki summit decision to accept Turkey's candidacy of the bloc and improved Greco-Turkish relations were central to the goal of achieving a Cyprus settlement.
Other external circumstances are more favourable to a solution than in living memory, he said: "The process is one which has the support of the international community, institutions and governments. There is a groundswell of opinion that the time has come to move towards a comprehensive settlement."
Commenting on the possibility of improved relations between both sides through bi-communal activities, De Soto said that while these form part of efforts for an overall settlement, they are not on the negotiating table.
He said there were four key issues on the agenda: security, territory, property (including compensation),
and distribution of powers. The Secretary-general believes everything can be clustered under these four headings, he added.
"It will require a willingness to compromise... and a certain amount of patience. The contribution of the two leaders is and will becrucial in determining the success of the process. Without such co-operation we will not succeed," he said.
De Soto is one of several international envoys to visit the island in the past week to assess the climate for the May 23 talks. US presidential envoy Alfred Moses and State Department Co-ordinator Thomas Weston are also here for contacts with both sides.
Yesterday Moses and Weston met Clerides and today they will see Denktash.
Thursday, March 9, 2000
 Popular Bank posts ‘phenomenal’ profitBy Jean Christou
THE CYPRUS Popular Bank Group announced yesterday that it had posted an unprecedented 294.3 per cent rise in 1999 pre-tax profits to £154.2 million.
The bank, Cyprus's second largest financial institution, also plans to issue a dividend of 20 per cent of its shares’ face value in addition to a 10 per cent payout already issued.
Operating profits rose 230 per cent to £175.4 million while provisioning for bad debts rose 50 per cent to £21 million.
Profit attributable to shareholders reached £131.3 million, a 403 per cent rise. Earnings per share rose to 85.3 cents from 17.3 cents in 1998.
Popular Bank Chairman Kikis Lazarides told a news conference the group's results were excellent from every viewpoint.
"The profits were phenomenal," he said, adding that expenses compared to income were 22.2 per cent in 1999, whereas they had accounted for 53.2 per cent the previous year.
Popular Bank's shares closed at £13.65 yesterday up 20 cents on the previous day.
The share opened at £14 but retreated during the session. It reached a low point of £13.36 but a last minute rally drove the stock back up to close at £13.65.
Lazarides said yesterday share prices should not be judged from one day to the next but "in the long term".
He also said the group intended to push all of its subsidiaries towards the stock market. Cypria Life Insurance, which comprises 30 to 33 per cent of the group's operations will also be floated, the chairman said.
Popular also has plans for the Athens stock market, but Lazarides said no timeframe had yet been fixed.
Popular Bank, which is 22 per cent owned by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, is active in the insurance, factoring and investment sectors and has offices in eight countries.
Thursday, March 9, 2000
 Shares fall to year low despite Popular resultsTHE ALL-SHARE index hit a year low yesterday, closing at 561.8 points, down 10.8 points or 1.9 per cent on Tuesday's trading figures.
The volume traded stood at £27.19 million, up seven million on the previous day.
All sectors recorded a drop, with tourism losing 5.5 per cent, insurance O.18 per cent and banking 0.24 per cent.
The top five gainers during yesterday's session included the Cyprus Popular Bank, which in mid-morning announced 1999 annual results that Bank Chairman Kikis Lazarides characterised as "phenomenal". The bank posted a 294.3 per cent rise in 1999 pre-tax profits to £154.2 million and yesterday its shares rose 20 cents to close at £13.65.
The island’s other banking heavyweight did not do so well, with Bank of Cyprus shares taking a dive. BoC Shares opened at £9.20 but fell as low as £8.95 before recovering slightly to close at £9.05.
The Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) said yesterday's sharp drop clearly indicated a weakness in the broader market to sustain prices, even after the release of such unprecedented financial results as those of the Popular Bank.
CSE Director Nontas Metaxas was reluctant to comment on the state of the market.
"As I said previously, I'm the last person to comment on increases or reductions in prices, but of course, faced with a downward trend on the market, it is a fact that the investing public is increasingly worried," he said.
Metaxas said the market was being choked by a lack of fluidity and cited the continued heavy borrowing by small investors and the fact that there were 52 new companies knocking on the door of the exchange.
He said the CSE would soon be announcing some new measures but didn't elaborate, though he commented that the exchange was now better staffed than before. Further measures to increase efficiency might be announced by the end of this week, he said.
Thursday, March 9, 2000
 What exactly lies in store for the Akamas?By Martin Hellicar
THE GOVERNMENT'S exact intentions for the Akamas appear to be a mystery to almost everyone concerned.
Last week, the cabinet decided that "mild and sensitive" development would be allowed along the Akamas coast.
The decision was greeted as anathema by environmentalists, whereas local residents gave it a cautious welcome. Greens have long campaigned for protection of the whole of the Akamas, whereas Akamas villagers are all for some form of tourism development in the unspoilt area.
But the announcement detailing ministers' decisions about the remote peninsula was distinctly obtuse in its wording, with the result that no-one seems to know quite what the state of play is.
The mukhtars of Akamas area villagers have asked for urgent clarifications on the matter. To this end, they are seeking an audience with Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous.
The Cyprus Mail tried to get to the bottom of the matter yesterday by contacting the Agriculture Ministry for clarifications.
The office of the ministry's general director, Simeon Matsis, directed the Mail to the Ministry's environment service.
But the director of the service, Nicos Georgiades, said he knew no more than what was in the cryptic cabinet announcement of last Wednesday.
"You have the announcement, don't you? Well, that's all I have got," Georgiades told the Mail.
The announcement makes clear that only the already protected areas of the peninsula will be left untouched: the Lara and Toxeftra turtle-nesting beaches and the Akamas state forest, which covers most of the peninsula proper. In all other areas, "mild, controlled, sensitive development, respectful to the environment," is to be permitted. This is a far more lax protective regime than was recommended in a state-commissioned World Bank report on the management of the Akamas.
The cabinet's decisions are less clear-cut when it comes to the largest parcel of private land in the state forest, the Fontana Amorosa area on the tip of the peninsula owned by businessman Fotos Fotiades.
"The problem of ownership of the Fontana Amorosa area will be dealt with by extending the adjacent tourism zone and re-defining the boundaries of the company's ownership with exchange of its Western part with state land between the adjacent tourism zone and the company's land," the statement reads.
This would seem to suggest that tourism development will be allowed beyond the Baths of Aphrodite tourist spot, which is West of Latchi and on the edge of the Akamas state forest.
But there was no map with the cabinet statement and Georgiades said he was not sure how to interpret the Fontana Amorosa arrangements. "I'd have to look at a detailed map of tourism zones," he said.
The three-page announcement also contains no definition of what the state means by "mild and sensitive" development.
Georgiades could not shed any light on this matter either.
The Environment service's director suggested only cabinet members knew what exactly was in store for the Akamas.
A ministerial committee has been given three months in which to speak to all interested parties and come up with a formula for implementing the cabinet decision.
"We will have to wait for our meetings with the ministers to see what exactly is being done," Georgiades said.
He avoided any comment on how his department felt about the Akamas decision.
Whatever the true interpretation of the cabinet plan might be, it is plainly not as "protective" of the Akamas as the World Bank recommended, and greens are convinced it is a sell-out to developers.
The World Bank plan - drawn up after years of state dithering about what form the promised Akamas National Park would take - suggested tourism development on the Akamas be limited to within existing village boundaries. The plan was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives in 1998.
Last week's cabinet decision makes no mention of the World Bank plan.
Akamas area villagers have welcomed the cabinet decision. It is, on the face of it, what they have always campaigned for: that the Akamas National Park be limited to state forest land.
The villagers' doubts are over what the state means by "mild and sensitive" development. They want this to mean hotels.
Environmentalists have always claimed big landed interests are hidden behind locals' objections to limiting tourism development in the area.
Both Greenpeace and the local Green party have threatened to take direct action to block implementation of the cabinet plan for the Akamas.
Eight applications for licenses to build Akamas hotels are reportedly pending.
The Akamas boasts the island's last remaining sizeable area of lowland scrub forest, sandy beaches used for nesting by endangered green and loggerhead turtles and dramatic gorges and coastal cliffs.
Greens believe the beginning of the end for the Akamas was signalled when the cabinet approved planning relaxations to allow the family firm of former Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides to build a massive hotel on the Akamas coast in 1998.
Thursday, March 9, 2000
 Issue of Turkish Cypriot land comes back to the foreBy Athena Karsera
THE LAW governing the management of Turkish Cypriot properties in the free areas must be updated, the House Refugee Committee decided yesterday.
Addressing the Committee, Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said he was suggesting a six-month deadline for the drafting of a proposal covering aspects of the law that were currently lacking.
He said everyone involved was responsible for improving the situation and that a first step could be to set out what exactly were a refugee’s rights in regard to abandoned Turkish Cypriot properties, and what were his obligations.
Christodoulou also called for was for a long-term development plan for the use of Turkish Cypriot property.
He said that all this should be done keeping in mind the properties' true owners, the Turkish Cypriots.
The recent wave of Turkish Cypriots crossing to the free areas has raised the issue of the possible return of properties, many of which have been used by Greek Cypriot refugees since the invasion.
The other question that has been prominent in recent years has been that of non-entitled persons receiving Turkish Cypriot property and land.
Committee president and Akel deputy Aristophanis Georgiou said the problem had been around for a long time and that yesterday's meeting had been called for the Committee to hear the results of an Interior Ministry investigation on the issue.
The representative of the Cyprus Agricultural Union, Haris Litras, said that many people who had been entitled to Turkish Cypriot property had not taken any as they believed the disruption created by the invasion would be short-term.
Litras said the majority of these were farmers, who he said were the ones most entitled to the use of Turkish Cypriot land in lieu of property lost in the invasion.
"They were told that a solution would be found in a year and thought `I can manage doing another job for a year,' but 26 years later they still have no land," Litras told deputies.
He said many old people had died feeling cheated of their livelihood, while adding that many others had grown rich taking advantage of Turkish Cypriot property to which they may not have been entitled.
Litras, who is also a member of a committee formed to oversee the distribution of Turkish Cypriot property, said the team had not been called to meet in the last seven or eight years.
Minister Christodoulou replied that he would ensure the group met soon.
Litras also wondered what could be done in the case of people who had farmed Turkish Cypriot land since the invasion and now wanted to pass on the right to use it to their children.
Savvas Mattheou of the Agrotiki agricultural association said the criteria for the allocation of Turkish Cypriot properties had to be re-examined.
And Takis Savvas of the Panagrotikos Association added that some people who had not owned property in the occupied areas had after the invasion been given large amounts of Turkish Cypriot land.
Savvas said this cold complicate a solution to the Cyprus problem as these people would be less likely to want to go back to nothing in the north, when they had obtained a home and land in the south.
To all the complaints, Akel’s Georgiou replied: "No one said this (problem) was a sick baby born in 2000." While mistakes had been made, he added, the chaotic situation following the invasion had to be taken into account.
Thursday, March 9, 2000
 All in honour of womenBy Athena Karsera
THE FEMALE of the species yesterday celebrated International Women's day in style with Cypriot women addressing serious issues along with the customary girls-only night on the town.
However, the women of Cyprus did not answer an international call to strike for the day, whether they were housewives leaving the ironing to the husband or a board president leaving her chairing to a subordinate.
Meanwhile, one nation-wide television channel answered Unesco's call for female journalists and technicians to prepare and present their main news bulletin.
While Mega stood alone in changing its usual team for Women's Day, Sigma joked that more than half of its news team was female anyway, while Alfa said it respected women's views every day.
In his Woman's Day address, President Glafcos Clerides said he appreciated all that women had offered during Cyprus' national struggles and in all other areas.
"Every day women work hard as mothers, wives, employees, scientist, farmers and housewives for the country's development, society's welfare and for the care and progress of their families."
He added that government efforts to support women included emphasis on helping working mothers and laws to bring women's rights into line with those of men.
In their announcements on the occasion of Women's Day, political parties and trade unions expressed their support for women and pledged to fight for their rights.
Disy said it supported the equal involvement of women in all areas of life and condemned any inequality while its women's organisation Godisy said that all women, regardless of their political convictions, fought the same battle against inequality.
Akel issued a "battle cry to all the women of Cyprus - Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, Maronite, Armenian and Latin."
The party also said that its women's organisation Pogo was celebrating its 50th anniversary.
The United Democrats said March 8 was an opportunity to analyse the role of the Cypriot woman and consider the steps that needed to be taken to upgrade her position in decision-making centres.
Left-wing union Peo's women's department, meanwhile, yesterday gave a tour of workplaces to a representation of female members of the Turkish Cypriot worker union Dev-Is.
The group visited the Mental Health Services in Athalassa, Nicosia, and the Laiko Coffee factory before attending a specially organised event.
An announcement from right-wing Sek said that a lot of progress had been made on women's issues in the last years but that a lot remained to be done.
The Movement for the Equal Involvement of Men and Women in Politics, meanwhile, said that they would be meeting party leaders yesterday and today to seek measures to encourage more female inclusion in the political arena.
The Movement said it would be presenting a 10-point petition to President Glafcos Clerides outlining its views on what had to be done to improve the situation.
On its part, the Cyprus Farmers Union expressed its support to the women of Cyprus, saying, "There have not been achievements and successes without the involvement of women and the women's organisations."
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000