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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-06-30

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Friday, June 30, 2000

CONTENTS

  • [01] Turkish Cypriots announce restrictions on Unficyp
  • [02] Opposition says it needs more time to consider fuel hikes
  • [03] Anastassiades: Time for new faces in the Cabinet
  • [04] Hotel fury on eve of new tourist tax
  • [05] Dangerous dogs remain a threat despite import ban
  • [06] Shares down again on new BoC Athens rumours
  • [07] Interior Ministry admits emergency fire plans leave much to be desired

  • Friday, June 30, 2000

    By Jean Christou

    TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said yesterday he will attend the third round of proximity talks in Geneva next week. His announcement followed two weeks of stalling in the wake of a run-in with the United Nations over the rewording of Unficyp=s renewal mandate.

    At the same time he announced a series of sanctions against Unficyp in retaliation over the UN Security Council=s snub after initially threatening to pull out of the talks altogether.

    AIt was a difficult decision for us to reach but we are going to attend proximity talks in Geneva,@ Denktash said yesterday.

    His decision came as no surprise to the international community with whom he had been playing cat and mouse for weeks. AWe believe he will go,@ one diplomatic source told the Cyprus Mail earlier yesterday.

    Only last week, minutes after a meeting with US presidential envoy Alfred Moses, Denktash said he was not sure if there would be a third round of talks.

    Even yesterday, less than an hour before his announcement, one of his spokesman said no decision had been reached on the Turkish Cypriot side=s participation.

    AThere is no information regarding whether or not President Denktash is going to Geneva,@ the Turkish Cypriot spokesman told Reuters.

    At the same time as the statement was being made, diplomatic sources said they had already received a list of Turkish Cypriot participants and Denktash was listed as head of the delegation.

    The proximity talks are due to begin on Wednesday and the international community is hoping that issues of substance will finally be discussed. Statements by both sides in recent months leave little room for optimism, however.

    Negotiations are likely to be soured from the outset by Denktash=s demand for a halt in proceedings to facilitate his return to the north to attend ceremonies marking the anniversary of the Turkish invasion on July 20.

    The government has already said this would be unacceptable.

    Both leaders had been asked by the UN to keep the entire month of July free for the talks.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    [01] Turkish Cypriots announce restrictions on Unficyp

    By Jean Christou

    A SERIES of restrictive measures imposed by the Turkish Cypriot side against Unficyp in retaliation over the rewording of the force’s mandate will come in to force today.

    UN spokeswoman Sarah Russell told the Cyprus Mail that the UN had received official notification from the north yesterday detailing the measures.

    She said a senior Unficyp officer met Turkish Cypriot officials yesterday morning. "We talked with them and they gave us a statement and a list of the measures," Russell said. "We are carefully reviewing them to assess the implications in consultation with UN headquarters in New York."

    Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has been threatening for weeks to either ban or restrict the movement of the force after the Security Council dropped an addendum to the renewal mandate, which registered his side’s approval of the force.

    "There is an issue of non-recognition here," Denktash said yesterday. "Thus we do not recognise the existence of them (the UN). If they do not recognise the existence of the TRNC and its laws, they should not come here."

    Under the new regime, peacekeepers will now be banned from using 12 of the 13 agreed crossing points along the island’s 180-km long buffer zone.

    From today, they will only be allowed into the north through the Ledra Palace checkpoint in Nicosia. The measure applies to both official and social visits. Peacekeepers will also be forced to take out motor insurance from a company in the north when they cross.

    This measure carries out an earlier threat by the Turkish Cypriot side that Unficyp troops would be treated like tourists.

    The third measure is a demand from the Turkish Cypriot side that Unficyp pay for electricity and water used at buffer-zone camps and observation posts. Electricity supply to the north is provided free of charge by the Electricity Authority of Cyprus, but Unficyp has been paying its bills in the south. Water bills are paid to the north already, Russell said.

    But the Turkish Cypriot ‘Foreign Ministry’ said the 1,200-strong force, which has been on the island since 1962, would have to comply with payment dates or face the services being cut off.

    Eight camps with troop numbers ranging from two to 150 are stationed in these areas, which stretch from the Turkish Cypriot enclave of Kokkina on the island’s northwest coast to Famagusta on the other side of the island.

    According to Reuters, figures published in the north show that Unficyp is frequently late in paying its bills.

    Other than the ban on crossing at agreed areas, the measures are not impossible hurdles. "They are a hindrance and will obviously slow us up," Russell said. "But we will do our best to fulfil our mandate."

    The Turkish side has not gone as far as slapping a ban on visits to enclaved Greek Cypriots, a measure that would have had severe implications both on the elderly people who live in occupied Karpasia, and on the upcoming proximity talks in Geneva.

    "He (Denktash) is not going to let the Greek Cypriots in the Karpass become martyrs," a diplomatic source commented yesterday.

    The source believed Denktash was merely flexing his muscles before the talks, since he had backed down on his earlier threat not to go to Geneva in anger at the Security Council’s decision.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 30, 2000

    [02] Opposition says it needs more time to consider fuel hikes

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE HOUSE of Representatives yesterday refused to consider a Cabinet proposal for pump price rises, but parties promised the burning issue would be debated at next week’s House plenum session.

    Faced with having to subsidise oil imports because of the sky-high price of crude and a weak pound, the government has been trying since the turn of the year to get parliamentary parties to back unpopular pump price rises.

    The government wants to raise the price of petrol by four cents a litre and of diesel by two cents a litre.

    The issue was again discussed by the Cabinet yesterday morning, and reports after the meeting suggested Ministers were confident parties would back fuel price rises at yesterday afternoon’s weekly plenum session.

    But this government optimism evaporated following a meeting a party leaders ahead of the plenum session. Opposition parties Akel and Diko said they needed more time to consider a compromise proposal tabled earlier this month by President Clerides.

    Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis put a brave face on things, saying he was hopeful the issue would be resolved next week.

    "The proposals will be studied by the two parties (Akel and Diko)… and I believe there will be decisions next Thursday," the Minister said.

    House president and Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou agreed that next Thursday would be fuel price decision day. "Everyone has promised that next Thursday morning, at the meeting of party leaders here, various proposals will be tabled and we will arrive at a final decision," Kyprianou said.

    Details of Clerides’ compromise package have not been announced, but reports suggest it provides for a shake-up of the whole fuel price fixing system. Pump prices would be automatically adjusted to track crude oil prices rather than having to be set by Parliament. The government would also re-examine a gentleman’s agreement with oil importing companies, which guarantees them a 12 per cent profit. The arrangement has been criticised by opposition parties.

    Akel is expected to discuss the Clerides package today, while Diko will look at it on Tuesday.

    The government is desperate to avert a fuel crisis.

    With reserves on the island almost dry, oil importers are threatening not to import any more crude unless their income is boosted in some way. The companies say their takings have been down by an average of £5 million a month since January.

    With Parliament refusing to approve fuel price rises, the government has been forced to subsidise fuel imports since the turn of the year, draining some £14 million from already depleted state coffers.

    The state is loath to continue these subsidies, which would cost an estimated £50 million by the end of the year.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 30, 2000

    [03] Anastassiades: Time for new faces in the Cabinet

    By Martin Hellicar

    GOVERNING Disy yesterday cranked up the pressure on President Glafcos Clerides to reshuffle his cabinet.

    Before yesterday, the party had not taken sides in an ongoing debate between Disy members who want new faces in the Cabinet, and the government, which does not.

    But Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades showed his hand yesterday, saying there was a need for the government to "make changes" to its image, dropping a heavy hint that some Ministers had exceeded their shelf life.

    Though Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou yesterday repeated that the President was happy with his Cabinet make-up, the pressure for change appears to be growing.

    Observers suggest Disy fear the government’s low popularity rating could drag the party down in next year’s parliamentary election.

    These fears are apparently fuelled by a recent report from the right-wing party’s Greek image consultant, Yiannos Loullis.

    Loullis’ report, which has not been made public, has been heavily criticised by Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou, who, on Wednesday, insisted the government was doing fine.

    Anastassiades took issue with Christodoulou yesterday, insisting Loullis was a man whose opinions should be listened to.

    "It is not the mirror’s fault if we have put on weight; we do not break the mirror to destroy our image," Anastassiades said.

    The Disy leader added that Loullis’ expertise had been instrumental in getting Clerides re-elected President in 1998.

    "I am given to believe that he has also helped Ministers with their image," Anastassiades said.

    Clerides’ government relies on Disy support in parliament, so Anastassiades’ concerns about the government’s image could be bad news for the President.

    But Government Spokesman Papapetrou yesterday insisted Clerides was not fearful of loosing Disy’s support. "The President is not at all worried about such an eventuality," he said.

    "I repeat that the President of the Republic is very satisfied by the government’s image and does not consider that there is any issue of a reshuffle," Papapetrou stated.

    Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis weighed in on Clerides’ side yesterday, saying the government was doing "good work".

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 30, 2000

    [04] Hotel fury on eve of new tourist tax

    By George Psyllides

    HOTELIERS yesterday expressed their anger at the reintroduction of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) levy set to take effect tomorrow, saying it would add considerably to their expenses for the current summer season.

    They say they will have to foot the bill for increases in certain services and alcoholic drinks, which, coupled with a VAT hike also taking effect tomorrow, will add an extra 13 per cent in cost.

    VAT currently stands at eight per cent but will rise to 10 per cent tomorrow, ultimately reaching 15 per cent in line with EU averages.

    The CTO levy was scrapped in 1991, to compensate for losses caused to the industry by the Gulf War.

    But hotel owners say the re-introduction of the levy along with the VAT rise will have serious effects on their business.

    According to the law, hotels and restaurants which now charge eight per cent VAT will from tomorrow charge five per cent VAT plus three per cent CTO tax.

    But the cut in VAT for hotels does not cover alcoholic drinks, or services like television rental, gym use, and the like.

    Thus with the new hikes, alcoholic drinks will carry a 13 per cent surcharge on top of their actual cost.

    The Chairman of the Hotel Association, Zacharias Ioannides told the Cyprus Mail this was a serious cost, for which the hotels had not planned.

    He said prices for this and next season had already been set and tour operators were already selling packages according to existing prices.

    "We cannot change the prices now," he said.

    "Contracts have been signed and brochures for next summer are already in circulation," Ioannides said.

    He added that hotels were not given enough time to prepare before the introduction of the tax.

    "Software needs to be updated and menus and price lists reprinted," said Ioannides.

    The association has already issued a written statement complaining about the decision to hike taxes and urging the government to reconsider.

    "We will examine the issue next week," Ioannides said, "and depending on the reply we will decide our next move.

    "With such tight time limits there should be some flexibility until certain aspects are reconsidered," he added.

    The CTO tax also affects restaurants.

    One Nicosia restaurateur told the Cyprus Mail the tax would cost her business a lot of money because they had already booked parties at specific prices, which included drinks.

    "This way, it’s as if like we are working for free," she said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 30, 2000

    [05] Dangerous dogs remain a threat despite import ban

    By Noah Haglund

    CYPRUS does not have the means to crack down on banned breeds of fighting dogs, despite legislation that forbids their import.

    The issue has come to the fore in Europe this week after a gruesome pitbull attack that killed a boy of six in Germany on Monday.

    On Wednesday, Germany imposed a nationwide ban on the breeding of pitbulls and other fighting dogs and prepared to ban their import.

    Several serious dog attacks occur every year in Cyprus.

    Only two weeks ago, a 52-year old Strovolos shop owner and father of three shot his hunting dog and then killed himself after it mauled the six-year old daughter of a close friend. The girl required a four-hour operation to try to repair wounds inflicted to her face and head.

    "This issue is a difficult one. We have dangerous breeds that are recognised by some countries, such as the UK… and their breeding is banned, " Pavlos Economides, Director of the Veterinary Department, told the Cyprus Mail.

    Despite a ban on the import of four breeds of fighting dogs, Economides admitted little or nothing was being done about those already on the island.

    "In Cyprus, our policy is not to give import permits to dangerous breeds, but we have not gone around the island to seek out these breeds. When local authorities make complaints, we give them recommendations," he said.

    "My personal opinion is that we shouldn’t punish any animal, it is not only the animal, it is also the training", he added.

    Current Cyprus laws on licensing require owners to renew a dog’s license every year, but Economides said this rarely happened.

    The law also says dangerous dogs should be muzzled and held on a leash in public places, but police admitted it was not enforced.

    The veterinary department has no proper registry system, no centralised computerised records to consult and no provision that owners should notify the department when a pet dies.

    The Veterinary Department, therefore, does not even have the basic tools to track potentially threatening animals already in the country or proactively address problems they might create.

    Because of these deficiencies, the Department has helped to draw up a proposal for new legislation in order to develop an efficient registry system and regulate animals in accordance with standards set by the EU.

    According to Clitos Andreou, Senior Veterinary Officer at the Animal Health and Welfare Division of the Veterinary Department, the four banned breeds are the American pitbull and the nearly identical pitbull terrier, the Japanese tosa, the dogo argentino and the fila brasilero.

    These breeds are also banned in Australia and New Zealand, while the UK has only banned the importation and keeping of the pitbull terrier or American pitbull.

    But many of these dogs are already present in Cyprus, and the bill submitted to Parliament therefore stipulates that they should be sterilised or neutered 30 days after the enactment of the legislation.

    The passage of this crucial legislation, however, has been delayed by confusion over which parliamentary committee would take jurisdiction.

    It now lies with the House Interior Committee, but is not certain how much longer it will take them to process the draft proposals.

    Other breeds of dogs not banned in Cyprus, but with a bad record for attacks include the rottweiler, the bull mastiff, the American bulldog, the Akita, the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier and the Tosa Inu.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 30, 2000

    [06] Shares down again on new BoC Athens rumours

    By Michael Ioannou

    SHARES continued a slippery slope yesterday, weighed down by weak banking stocks as the saga on Bank of Cyprus's listing in Athens rumbled on.

    A sour mood from a liquidity crunch and rumours putting a dampener on scenarios for an early BoC listing in Athens knocked seven points off the all-share CSE index yesterday, pulling it down to 485.03.

    The market opened weaker and continued on a downtrend for the majority of the session, with buyers emerging literally the last two minutes of trading, drawn by lower prices. "The market is in a downturn cycle and to a great extent still in the hands of speculators. Institutionals are not around," said Cisco’s Stavros Agrotis.

    Traded values were up slightly on Wednesday at £35.7 million and on 22.4 million shares traded.

    However, traders said that the booming primary market was continuing to absorb liquidity from the secondary market, even though a recent downturn had made it more appealing to remain on the bourse.

    "The primary market was attractive for many months but now many companies in the secondary market have better PE ratios than those who are on their way in," one analyst said.

    All sectors with the exception of fast-moving investment shares ended south.

    The heavyweight banking sector, which has a strong impact in the calculation of the all-share index, lost 1.26 per cent.

    The weakness in banks was led by BoC, which was down 14 cents to £7.64.

    Traders said sentiment was jarred by persistent rumours of possible delays in BoC's parallel listing of shares on the Athens bourse, and speculation about its listing price.

    However, some suggested that it could simply be fatigue.

    "The BoC issue started 18 months ago and this prolonged period has created doubts in some investors' minds if there are problems with the listing or not," trader Omiros Nisiotis told the CyBC.

    Publicly, the bank has recently distanced itself from making projections of when it would list its shares in Athens after earlier predictions of its ASE entry first in January, then March and then June never transpired.

    Bank of Cyprus plans to list 39 million shares on the Greek stock market, with the strike price calculated through book-building.

    When the bank took its decision to list in Greece, the ASE was riding a wave of euphoria similar to the one that grabbed the Cyprus bourse last year. But a correction on a liquidity crunch and muted buying interest has curtailed equity demand.

    That climate has drawn widespread speculation on the prices the Greeks would be willing to pay for BoC stock, and in some cases it is lower than the currently quoted price on the Cyprus market.

    "All this is speculation and totally unserious. Nobody knows at what price Bank of Cyprus will list because the price will be determined through book building," said Agrotis.

    Elsewhere on the market, Aiantas dominated turnover with 4.15 million shares changing hands, jumping three cents to 41.3 while Kyknos was second in terms of turnover with 2.3 million shares changing hands.

    It climbed three cents to a close of 85. Yesterday associate firm White Knight announced that Kyknos shareholders would be eligible for its shares at a ratio of one White Knight share for every five Kyknos shares held.

    On 111 issues traded, 69 dropped, 29 rose and 13 were unchanged. There were 9,010 transactions.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 30, 2000

    [07] Interior Ministry admits emergency fire plans leave much to be desired

    THE Interior Ministry yesterday conceded that recent forest fires had exposed serious weaknesses in its emergency fire-fighting plans.

    Speaking before the House Agricultural Committee, which convened to discuss the handling of emergency situations in the light of the recent fires, Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary Kyriacos Triantafyllides admitted state plans did have certain shortcomings.

    He said emergency teams were operating according to plans drafted in 1996.

    But Triantafyllides stressed that the scale of the blaze had been unprecedented.

    The fires, which burned out of control for three days, destroyed 50km of pine, carob, and olive trees, along with orchards and shrub.

    They were put under control with the help of Greek and Israeli fire- fighting aircraft.

    Two helicopters from the British bases also contributed to the efforts.

    Reinforcements from overseas arrived after an urgent plea from President Glafcos Clerides.

    The government has come under fire from critics claiming the emergency units were slow to react and showed a worrying lack of co-ordination.

    The government rejects the charges, saying it was the first time the emergency services had to face fires of such scale.

    The issue was fiercely debated during the committee session yesterday, after the Chairman, Akel deputy Christos Mavrokordatos, claimed in his opening speech that President Clerides’ intervention to co-ordinate efforts highlighted the total lack of organisation and co-ordination.

    Disy deputies Evangelos Samoutas and Stelios Yerasimou fiercely objected to the allegation, interrupting the session.

    Once order had been restored, Triantafyllides said a committee had been appointed by the ministry to study ways of better handling of emergency situations.

    The committee would be meeting today to study immediate measures, Triantafyllides said.

    Representatives of the fire-service and the Forestry Department said their units operated according to plans, but noted there was no radio communication between the two services, while there were no access roads to the blaze despite the plethora of men and equipment.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail


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