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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-01-30

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, January 30, 2002


  • [01] Denktash and Clerides agree to extra meeting
  • [02] Denktash submits position on the missing
  • [03] Who's to blame for Paphos planning fiasco?
  • [04] Police dismiss Pittokopitis claims
  • [05] Turkish Cypriots want EU aid to come direct
  • [06] EU accession 'within our grasp'
  • [07] Homes to be evacuated as ground opens up in Nisou
  • [08] Afxentiou backs down over criticism of the House
  • [09] Illegal race bets costing millions in lost tax
  • [10] Cyprus to raise air traffic dispute at civil aviation meeting
  • [11] GM food warning from parliament
  • [12] Clerides turns down Hasikos offer to resign

  • [01] Denktash and Clerides agree to extra meeting

    By Jean Christou

    PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash will meet again tomorrow after a decision to hold a fourth meeting this week to speed up the Cyprus talks, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday.

    The two leaders agreed on January 16, the day the talks resumed, to hold three meetings a week - every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. However, Papapetrou said the leaders had decided on Monday to hold an extra meeting this week, at 4pm tomorrow. The meetings usually take place at 5pm and last around 90 minutes under a strict press blackout.

    Speaking after Monday's one-hour meeting, Denktash told reporters they had finished earlier because of the additional meeting to be held tomorrow, but he declined to answer any questions on the content of the discussions. Asked if the issue of a constitution was being discussed, Denktash said: "We do not say constitution. We say principles."

    Papapetrou told his daily press briefing yesterday that discussions were going to move to other subjects at a quicker pace. "The aim is to speed up the process because the time at their disposal is not unlimited," he said.

    The spokesman said that events themselves had determined June as a deadline. "For this reason, both sides are prepared to move quicker," he said, referring to the completion of Cyprus' accession negotiations with the EU.

    Papapetrou dismissed reports that tomorrow's meeting would take place without Clerides' and Denktash's respective advisers being present. The meeting would continue in the usual format, he said.

    Asked if there would be a meeting every Thursday, Papapetrou said the meetings were not fixed in an absolute way and that it might be possible to have one more meeting one week and perhaps two on other weeks.

    There is, however, likely to be a break in the talks from February 21 to 25 to allow for a Muslim religious holiday.

    During this period, the UN Secretary-general's Special Advisor on the Cyprus problem Alvaro de Soto may fly to New York to brief Kofi Annan on the progress of the talks so far, Papapetrou said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Denktash submits position on the missing

    TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash handed over a document on the missing persons issue to President Glafocs Clerides during their meeting on Monday evening, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday.

    The document contains the Turkish Cypriot side's views on finding practical ways to resolve the thorny issue, as agreed by the two leaders during a special meeting on January 11. The Greek Cypriot side has already handed over a document with its own views on how to move the process forward.

    Speaking after his meeting with Clerides on Monday evening, Denktash said: "We have exchanged things. We shall continue to chase this issue."

    Papapetrou told his daily press briefing yesterday that the Greek Cypriot side would evaluate the document submitted by Denktash, but that no action would be taken before the government consulted with the Committee of Relatives of Missing Persons.

    Clerides and Denktash agreed in 1997 to exchange information on the whereabouts of the remains of missing persons. The agreement collapsed when the Turkish Cypriot side withdrew six months later.

    The government nevertheless went ahead with plans to exhume remains from unmarked graves at two Nicosia cemeteries and has since identified several persons from the missing list through DNA testing at a special facility in the capital. The identifications have helped reduce the original list of 1, 629 missing persons to 1,480.

    The Turkish Cypriot side lists some 800 people missing between the outbreak of intercommunal troubles of 1963-1964 and the Turkish invasion 10 years later.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Who's to blame for Paphos planning fiasco?

    By Melina Demetriou

    PAPHOS Municipality and the Town Planning Department yesterday blamed each other for lax road safety caused by badly situated supermarket buildings.

    The issue was discussed at a meeting of the House Communications Committee.

    Briefing reporters after the meeting, committee chairman Nicos Pittokopitis said some supermarkets' exits led onto roundabouts, and insisted that the issue had to be addressed to avert the danger of serious accidents.

    Pittokopitis said the buildings in question were located on a side road of the Paphos to Limassol motorway.

    "Six accidents have occurred because of the buildings in question in the past few months," the committee chairman said.

    Pittokopitis noted that traffic flow on the specific road should be 312 cars an hour, but was 970 instead.

    He said the committee had established that the supermarkets in question should not have been built, but did not know who had issued the construction licences.

    "The Paphos Municipality insists that the Town Planning Department had decided on the constructions and imposed its will on them.

    "But the department dismisses this claim, countering it was the municipality that gave the green light for the construction of the supermarkets and that they had even tried to warn it against it," Pittokopitis said.

    He said the Communications Committee would reconvene on the matter next week to continue its investigation and find out who was responsible for the planning fiasco.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Police dismiss Pittokopitis claims

    By Jean Christou

    THE three allegedly masked and armed men that DIKO deputy Nicos Pittokopitis claimed were staking out his Paphos home on Monday night had merely stopped in the area for one of them to take a leak, police said yesterday.

    Pittokopitis insisted, however, that the stories the three suspects gave to police were full of holes and their claims ridiculous, and vowed to continue his struggle to rid the island of illegal foreign workers.

    According to Pittokopitis, he returned home at around 10pm on Monday night and noticed a parked car with the driver's door open near the entrance to his house. He asked the two men in the car if they wanted something or were waiting for someone.

    One of the two men then told the deputy, in broken Greek, that they were waiting for a friend, but, Pittokopitis claimed, the other then pulled out a pistol and placed it on the car seat. The deputy said the men sounded like Pontian Greeks.

    Pittokopitis ran to his car to call police on his mobile phone, but a third man then appeared, headed for the car with his accomplices and the three sped off. The deputy managed to note the letters of the rental car's licence plates.

    Paphos police chief Spyros Koniotis said yesterday the three men had been arrested within the hour and questioned at length before being released.

    Nothing suspicious was found in their car or at their homes, and the 'pistol' was in fact a mobile phone, Koniotis said.

    He said the three men were from Georgia and were holders of Greek passports. "They said they stopped there by coincidence for one of them, the driver, to relieve himself, and while he was out of the car he called someone on the phone, which is why he was delayed," Koniotis said.

    "The person supposed to be holding a pistol said he was holding his mobile that he had pulled from his belt to make a call."

    Police checked the phones and established that the times the calls were made confirmed that phones had been used at those moments. Koniotis said the three men had been questioned separately and that their stories coincided.

    "Police were satisfied that their presence there was not for any criminal reason," he said.

    Pittokopitis yesterday admitted that police had the final say in the matter, but he was not convinced of their innocence.

    "They gave ridiculous statements and there were holes in their story, but of course it's up to the police and not me," he said. "I saw a pistol and I had even clarified that it was a Browning or something identical to a Browning, and as far as the gun is concerned I have no doubt. These claims are just ridiculous. Someone cannot claim to have got out to relieve himself and talked on the phone for half an hour in the dark," the deputy said, adding that the driver had been on the phone to a woman he knew who lived only 200 metres away. "He was calling from a dark plot of land in between houses because of a girl 200 metres away in a building?" he asked.

    Pittokopitis said he would not be asking for police protection or a police escort. He would be careful, he said, and he would carry on insisting that all illegal foreign workers leave Cyprus for social rather than financial reasons, he added.

    "Foreigners are welcome in Cyprus as long as they are legitimate," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Turkish Cypriots want EU aid to come direct

    TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said yesterday any financial support from the European Union, currently discussing aid for candidate countries, must go directly to Turkish Cypriots, bypassing "Greek Cypriot channels".

    Senior EU officials say the bloc could offer up to 208 million euros in special aid for northern Cyprus, currently languishing under a trade embargo, if a solution is reached.

    "For us direct aid is acceptable, not aid given through Greek Cypriot channels. That is not acceptable," the Turkish Cypriot News Agency (TAK) quoted Denktash as telling reporters.

    "As I see it, around 200 million euros will be given over five years. Naturally this is less money than Turkey gives us each year," Denktash added.

    Denktash and President Glafcos Clerides this month launched a series of open-ended and intensive talks to reunify Cyprus.

    For both sides, it is a race against the clock ticking towards European Union entry. Admitting a divided Cyprus could complicate enlargement; Turkey says it might annex the northern third of the island, while EU member Greece will boycott any expansion of the bloc that does not include Cyprus.

    "The message that the European Union is sending to the Turkish Cypriots is that they can enjoy economic benefits in a unified Cyprus within the EU," said George Vassiliou, Cyprus' chief EU negotiator.

    The aid the EU is now dangling before the Turkish Cypriots would not apply if the peace talks fail, Vassiliou added.

    The residents of northern Cyprus have a per capita GDP around a third of that of the Greek Cypriots.

    Greek Cypriots have a per capita GDP of around 84 per cent of the EU average, too high to qualify for EU priority regional aid.

    But the balance would be tipped if the Turkish Cypriots came on board, knocking Cyprus's average per capita GDP below the 75 per cent threshold imposed by the EU.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] EU accession 'within our grasp'

    By Alexia Saoulli

    CYPRUS will have completed all its negotiations for EU accession by the end of this year, George Vassiliou, the head of the island's EU negotiating team said yesterday.

    Returning from meetings held in Prague last weekend with the Luxemburg Group of six candidate countries (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Cyprus), Vassiliou was upbeat about Cyprus' chances of completing the five remaining open EU chapters by the end of the year.

    The Prague talks were primarily centred on the EU chapters that still remained open, with special reference to transition periods on certain aspects of harmonisation.

    Reference was also made to the chapter on Agriculture, one of the most sensitive issues for member states and east European candidate countries with large rural populations, he said.

    This chapter is also unique in that candidate countries must wait for the EU draw up a common position against which candidates can then measure up.

    Vassiliou said only five chapters remained open for Cyprus: competition, taxation, regional policy, agriculture and the state budget.

    The chapters on competition and taxation are still extremely delicate, and will be the object of intense negotiations for a transition period, due to their importance for the Cyprus economy, he said.

    Despite the fact that most member countries intend to limit the range of tax-free products during the transition period, Vassiliou insisted that Cyprus would try to achieve the maximum range of exemptions during that period.

    The EU has asked to see the island's tax regulation bill before it decides to close this chapter. However, although the issue has been discussed at the House of Representatives, an official bill has not yet been submitted, Vassiliou said. Nonetheless, he said the government would try to close this chapter within the given time frame. The taxation chapter also includes the issue of a possible transition period for offshore companies.

    On the chapter on Regional Policy, negotiations are in their final stage, he said.

    At the moment Cyprus has a GDP of 83 per cent of the EU average, which means it is not eligible for EU development funding, only granted to countries whose average income is below 75 per cent of the average.

    Vassiliou said Cyprus was nevertheless still lobbying for this financial aid, based on the country's specific economic circumstances. And he pointed out that a united Cyprus would have a much lower GDP than the 75 per cent threshold. The EU is today expected to announce that it has earmarked 208 million euros in regional aid for northern Cyprus in the event of a solution.

    Vassiliou said the chapter on budgetary policy would be closed during the final stages of negotiation, in light of the fact that the matters it covers mainly concern economic contributions of both the free and occupied areas.

    He insisted EU harmonisation legislation should be completed within the set timeframe, and the negotiating team had been in constant contact with relevant departments of the Commission.

    Despite the fact that a huge number of bills - 400 - are still pending, the Prague meetings confirmed that a large proportion of the whole project was at an advanced stage.

    "You can only see the tip of an ice-burg, yet the largest part is underneath," he said. "In the same way, the bulk of the work has been done, it just hasn't showed yet."

    Vassiliou said this was why he and his team felt optimistic about the harmonisation project and that all negotiations would be complete by the end of the year.

    "Accession to the EU on January 1, 2004 now seems within our grasp," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Homes to be evacuated as ground opens up in Nisou

    By Jennie Matthew

    INTERIOR Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou yesterday promised compensation for six families forced to abandon their properties in Pera Chorio Nisou lest they be swallowed into the ground.

    After nine years of battling sinkholes in the Nicosia District village, the Geological Survey Department (GSD) has identified a 40-donum high-risk zone.

    They have banned all future development in the area and declared the five homes already built there uninhabitable.

    Five families are being forced to evacuate their homes and seek alternative accommodation elsewhere, while a sixth has to abandon work in progress on their new house.

    The recommendations of the scientific study were communicated to residents through a letter from the Nicosia District Officer, but the Interior Minister yesterday declared the victims would qualify to receive economic assistance.

    He is to send a formal proposal to the Council of Ministers in the next few days, requesting that the government meet the rent on alternative properties in the short-term.

    "The government will cover the rents until there is a final solution to the problem, likely to include the relocation of part of the village," he said.

    Christodoulou referred to earlier re-location projects for the villages of Stroumbi, Episkopi and Pentayia.

    Other sections of Pera Chorio Nisou have been declared safe, but future development projects will have to be approved by state civil engineers.

    GSD director George Petrides told the Cyprus Mail that extreme weather conditions had exacerbated the age-old problem that dates back to prehistoric time.

    His department is trying to minimise the problem by finding ways to control the flow of groundwater from the nearby Yialia River, with help from the Water Development Department.

    Technically called "karst", sinkholes develop when underground water channels through certain rock formations, creating underground caves.

    When the affected rock is gypsum, as in Nisou, the formations are very thin, making the roof of the underground cave prone to collapse, bringing down everything with it.

    Last year, three massive craters swallowed up a 14-metre eucalyptus tree and two lemon trees, defaced a ploughed field and a dirt track road.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Afxentiou backs down over criticism of the House

    CENTRAL Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou yesterday withdrew his call on the House Watchdog Committee to dissolve itself, describing Parliament as "the holy temple of democracy".

    Afxentiou was last week grilled by the Committee over private placement shares made available to his family, and called to resign by its chairman Christos Pourgourides. The Committee is carrying out an investigation into allegations of stock market fraud.

    Afxentiou hit back, saying the Committee and its chairman had overstepped the mark, and calling on the Committee to dissolve itself "for the sake of the people". Afxentiou also charged that many deputies and other state officials had themselves secured shares through private placement.

    On Friday, House President and opposition AKEL leader Demetris Christofias criticised Pourgourides' public call for Afxentiou to step down.

    Yesterday, Christofias met with the Governor to clear the air.

    Afxentiou was contrite after the meeting. "I would like to assure the Parliament and the committees of my unlimited respect, faith and trust in them and the institutions they represent," he said.

    "I repeat what I have just told Christofias, that Parliament is the holy temple of democracy and I am committed to these words. If I have said something which was misunderstood I withdraw it with no hesitation," he added.

    Afxentiou specified he was referring to his statement that the Watchdog Committee should dissolve itself.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Illegal race bets costing millions in lost tax

    By Jennie Matthew

    ILLEGAL betting on horse racing costs the state up to 6 million in lost tax revenue a year, the general manager of the Nicosia Race Club told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    "Information we have received from various sources suggests that illegal betting takes the same takings as the Nicosia Race Club per meeting - between 550,000 and 650,000," Panayiotis Kazamias said.

    Given the 10 per cent tax deduction on each bet, he estimates a phenomenal 5 to 6 million going missing from government coffers.

    The revelations were made after a meeting between Race Club officials and senior crime fighters at Police Headquarters in Nicosia on Monday.

    The two parties discussed ways to improve and intensify a clamp down on the black market in betting.

    The upshot is that all information relating to the illegal trade that comes to the Club's notice will be handed over to police.

    That is the extent of the Club's co-operation. "We act as a post office," said Kazamias, adding that illegal gambling was on the increase, and citing a dent in company turnover as proof.

    Apart from bypassing tax payments on winnings, the lure of illegal gambling is a strong one for those who like to place a heavy flutter.

    "If you're a heavy gambler it doesn't pay you to bet legally because of the way the odds are calculated in addition to the tax you have to pay," he said.

    Unlike in the UK, it is the Race Club - not the bookies - that works out the odds per horse, based on all the bets received.

    Given that illegal flutters are not party to the central calculation system, it means big bets won't drag down the odds, whereas, if legal, they would do so considerably.

    Kazamias said that when the Club's 120 licensed representatives fail to make their quota in takings, they blame their losses on the burgeoning black market in clubs, coffee shops and private apartments.

    He estimates there are some 20 to 30 illegal betting outfits in the country.

    "In addition, we get anonymous letters from people who place bets and don't get paid their earnings from unofficial shops," he said.

    These punters have passed on names and places to the Club, which has since passed the information on to the police.

    Monday's meeting came a day after police arrested two people on suspicion of involvement in illegal gambling in Ayios Dhometios.

    Police say they were caught red-handed taking bets for Cyprus horse racing without licence.

    Officers confiscated six televisions, a decoder, three remote controls, 158 in cash and six wads of chits.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [10] Cyprus to raise air traffic dispute at civil aviation meeting

    CYPRUS is to appeal to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) over difficulties between Nicosia and Ankara concerning the country's Flight Information Region.

    The Nicosia FIR, which extends to southern Turkey and to the Middle Eastern coastline, is recognised as the sole responsibility of the Nicosia Air Traffic Control Centre (ACC) in Strovolos.

    But Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots insist the control centre in occupied Tymbou deal with all aircraft flying above northern Cyprus.

    Turkish interference with Nicosia radios causes distractions, which officials at the ACC say could cause an accident.

    Cyprus has made repeated representations to the United Nations about the problems over the FIR, but to no avail.

    The ICAO top-level ministerial conference in Montreal on February 21 will be the first time since 1974 that Cyprus will be able to present the problems caused by Turkey over civil aviation so forcefully and at such a high level.

    The meeting is to discuss measures to improve aviation security in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

    Communications and Transport Minister Averoff Neophytou will head the Cyprus delegation.

    According to an article in Phileleftheros yesterday, ICAO President Dr Assad Kotaite will oversee the Cyprus-Turkey dispute himself.

    The conference is expected to endorse an action plan to reaffirm governmental responsibility to provide aviation security in their territories.

    Delegates will also take a fresh look at the adequacy of existing aviation security conventions and consider a financial and human resource plan to enhance safety.

    Participants will be asked to assess additional security measures, offer resource commitments and strengthen cross-border partnership.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [11] GM food warning from parliament

    By Melina Demetriou

    THE HOUSE Environment Committee yesterday sounded the alarm about what it said was a lack of policy on genetically modified (GM) products, vowing to introduce legislation to regulate the issue.

    The acting president of the Committee, Eleni Mavrou of AKEL, said yesterday that no one really knew whether GM products were available on the market.

    "There is no labelling to indicate whether a product is genetically modified or not and Cyprus does not have the necessary equipment to run such checks," Mavrou told reporters after the Committee meeting.

    The deputy charged that there was no mechanism to monitor imports of GM seeds and products, and cited possible health risks related to their consumption.

    "Studies on this issue are currently being conducted abroad, but have not produced any results yet," she said.

    Representatives of various environmental groups attending the meeting insisted that there was a risk to eating GM food, and called for legislation banning the import of such products altogether.

    Mavrou said Cyprus' chief EU negotiator George Vassiliou would be asked to give his opinion on the matter.

    "There is a big debate going on in Europe about the whole affair. The Committee is planning to submit a proposal that would regulate the issue, either banning the import of GM food or allowing it provided products are labelled accordingly," she said.

    She conceded that Parliament had a long way to go before adopting such a law.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [12] Clerides turns down Hasikos offer to resign

    By Rita Kyriakides

    DEFENCE Minister Socratis Hasikos yesterday submitted his written resignation to President Glafcos Clerides, but the President refused to accept it.

    Hasikos, who met Clerides yesterday morning, said he had offered to resign in the wake of the embarrassing theft of arms from an army depot in Evrychou on January 19.

    "I handed in my resignation out of political sensitivity. I would not be able to serve a government that did not trust me. It was a political need, if you like," Hasikos told reporters.

    The minister insisted his offer to resign had nothing to do with weekend speculation about foreign pressure on the government to remove new weapons systems from the island. Clerides has denied the government came under any pressure from anyone.

    Hasikos said he actually submitted his resignation on January 21 while on an official visit to China. But Undersecretary to the President Pantelis Kouros advised him to submit his resignation in person when he returned home. The minister flew back to Cyprus on Monday.

    Asked whether National Guard Commander Charilaos Florakis had also offered to resign, Hasikos said the Commander's position had never been an issue.

    "I chose Florakis myself. It was not a case of Greece sending over a soldier to take the post. It was a personal choice, and I have complete trust in him, so I would never consider accepting his resignation" said Hasikos.

    On January 19, three hooded men overpowered the soldier on duty at the Evrychou guard post. Three G3 automatic weapons, one HK11 light machine gun, one MG3 machine gun, a Russian-made RPG anti-tank rocket launcher, along with six missiles as well as 1,445 7.62mm rounds and 1,000 machine gun rounds were stolen.

    The weapons were all recovered and three men are in custody in connection with the case.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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