|Sunday, 10 December 2023|
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-03-01
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Friday, March 1, 2002
 Round two: let the wrestling beginBy Ralph Boulton
GREEK and Turkish Cypriots enter the decisive phase of reunification talks today, the pace forced by the illness of veteran Turkish Cypriot chief Rauf Denktash and plans to let the island join the EU.
"If we cannot solve the issue in a mutually acceptable settlement within 2002, I think it will be impossible to come back and address the issue after the year is over," Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem told Reuters in a recent interview.
The result then, many feel, would be serious tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey and between the EU and Ankara.
Denktash adviser Mumtaz Soysal has compared the talks that began in January to a bout of "oil wrestling", the Turkish sport in which two beefy men in leather shorts, bodies glistening with olive oil, try to pin each other to the ground.
"What went before was an opening overture," he quipped. "The fighters act out a ritual, take the measure of each other."
"Neither knows what the other may give in return for what," he told Reuters ahead of today's reopening of talks in the United Nations-controlled buffer zone between the two sides. The oil wrestler image if applied directly to Denktash, 78, and Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides, 82, might stretch the cognitive powers. But the next stage of negotiations will see the two old adversaries abandon "positioning" and lunge into concrete discussion of how a government may be constituted.
What is clear is that there would be two zones, the northern Turkish and the southern Greek, with some degree of autonomy, united by some form of central government. Beyond that, all is in question, including the land each zone would occupy and what happens to property lost when Cyprus was invaded in 1974.
The northern Cypriot enclave, recognised only by Ankara, was formed on about 37 per cent of the island's territory occupied by Turkish troops in 1974.
Greek Cypriots have suggested Turkish territory be reduced to 24 per cent, more closely reflecting the population balance. Turks would lose a swathe south of a road linking the eastern port of Famagusta with the capital, Nicosia, as well as land near Morphou, a western town close to rich citrus groves.
"If such claims were applied, we calculate 57,000 Turkish Cypriots would be displaced again -- practically a third of the population," Denktash's adviser Soysal said.
One source close to the talks said losing even another five per cent of the island would be too much for Turkish Cypriots.
Denktash, pressing the pace, said on Wednesday he may need heart surgery in six to 12 months. "That's why I said from the beginning, without disclosing this problem, that June is a convenient time to finish everything we can," he told Reuters.
So much depends on Denktash and Clerides. Rivals since their days as lawyers before independence from Britain 42 years ago, agreement between them would do much to quell suspicion haunting both sides since communal violence in the 1960s and 1970s.
The European Union is also seeking signs of a settlement before Spain's six- month presidency of the bloc ends in June. The EU says it will admit Cyprus with or without a settlement.
If that happens, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has said Ankara could go as far as annexing the north to safeguard its interests on the island; something that would almost certainly put paid to Turkey's own hopes of EU membership.
"March is the month for building bridges," said one Western diplomat. "There really isn't much time left."
The sources close to the talks say Turkish Cypriots are seeking, in essence, a "state not like any other".
The unique nature would be in a complex system of rotation in central ministries. The presidency, prime ministry, finance ministry and foreign ministry, for instance, would rotate between the two communities, a balance retained at all times.
This would be reflected in a single international identity. If the Cyprus ambassador to a country was a Turkish Cypriot, his deputy would be a Greek and vice versa.
North and south Cyprus would have their own parliaments, which would seek consensus. Where conflict arose, representatives from the two zonal governments would conciliate.
Greek Cypriots want a central joint parliament of Greeks and Turks, with the Turkish minority's interests protected perhaps by a system of weighting of votes on key issues.
Turkish Cypriots seek to limit the scope of central government, thereby, in their eyes, limiting the scope for possible conflict. Security, for instance would be the domain of the constituent states with liaison between the two sides.
Greek Cypriots baulk at Turkish proposals for a union of two "sovereign states", seeing in them schemes to "pocket" the advantages of international recognition and then pull out of the union. Turkish Cypriots say unilateral secession would be out.
The powerful Turkish military, according to official sources attuned to General Staff thinking, has no objection to a deal on Cyprus, lying only 70 km off Turkey's coast. Turkish forces there, now at 30,000, could be reduced to 3,000-5,000.
But there might be some concern about the vulnerability of western areas if territory south of Morphou were ceded. "For the military it's a matter of "depth". It wouldn't take much to get to the sea over this thin strip of land," one source said.
Here again, trust is the key to any compromise. The oil wrestlers, many hope, may develop that trust as they come to grips with each other under the gaze of their world audience.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Markides: Turks must change tack if there is to be progressBy Jean Christou
ATTORNEY-general Alecos Markides yesterday expressed disappointment at the current course of Cyprus settlement talks, saying that unless the Turkish side radically changed its position there would be no progress.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) on the eve of the resumption of the talks, Markides - who is on the Greek Cypriot delegation - said it would become clear by the end of next month whether there was any progress.
"There is a general disappointment because there has not been any substantive move in Turkish policy towards the right direction and the parameters defined by UN Security Council resolutions," Markides said.
He said that as long as the Turkish side aimed at the creation of "two states" or insisted on the existence of "two states", there could be no settlement.
"The solution of the problem lies in their hands in the sense that if they ask in good faith for a solution in the framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, as agreed, then a solution can be found," Markides said.
A June deadline has tentatively been set as a benchmark date for agreement towards a comprehensive settlement. Unless progress is apparent by March, this will not be possible, according to Markides.
"Progress should start emerging in March if our goal is to find a comprehensive settlement by June," he said.
Markides said attempts should be made in the weeks ahead to establish whether assertions by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that he was ready to reconsider certain issues actually had any validity.
He returns to the negotiating table today for the second round of face-to- face talks with President Glafcos Clerides. The talks began on January 16.
Commenting on Turkish press reports that the ball was now in President Clerides' court, Markides said: "I do not feel that there is anything at the moment that our side should be doing, or that our side owes a reply to anyone."
Markides also said that Cyprus' EU accession course dictated and defined certain principles to which any agreed solution should comply, including the principle of having one state in Cyprus, which would be in a position effectively to meet its obligations to the Union.
"The contents of the solution must not violate basic provisions of the acquis communautaire, including the fundamental freedoms," he said.
He also dismissed Turkish allegations that Cyprus was "sitting on its laurels" because the EU had promised membership and that the Greek Cypriot side was lagging behind in its effort to find a settlement.
"We are making every genuine effort to reunite Cyprus and see it join the EU," Markides said. "If this position is faced with obstacles created by Turkish policy because of its insistence on two states, then I do not believe we can be accused of dragging our feet."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 It's going to be a tough year, hoteliers warnBy Jean Christou
HOTELIERS were yesterday pessimistic about prospects for tourism this year, but Minister Nicos Rolandis said it would not be a worse year than the last, either in terms of arrivals or of revenue.
Addressing the annual general meeting of the Hoteliers' Association (PASYXE), its chairman Avgerinos Nikitas said reservations to Cyprus and other destinations were not going well. "The indications are that we have an especially difficult year ahead of us," he said, adding the difficulties called for more competitiveness "to ensure survival and that of the work force".
Nikitas said the island's forthcoming accession to the EU and its harmonisation with the rules of the bloc meant that all those involved in the industry would be forced to examine the way they operated.
"The end goal of this effort cannot be other than to secure the well being of the hotel industry and its human resources on a solid foundation considering the importance of the tourist industry to the island's financial development," Nikitas said.
Rolandis also stressed the importance of tourism to the island's economy. He said growth in tourism was the most important element in the development of the economy.
But repeating statements made to the Cyprus Mail two weeks ago, Rolandis said that growth in revenue from tourism had far outstripped arrivals over the past four years. "It shows the biggest growth in any sector of the economy if not bigger than all the other sectors put together," Rolandis said.
Tourism revenue last year increased 7.0 per cent to £1.27 billion, even though arrivals showed only a small rise of 0.4 per cent due to the fallout of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US.
Rolandis said that had it not been for September 11, Cyprus tourism would have grown 60 per cent over the past four years instead of the 51 per cent he quoted.
For this year, Rolandis repeated that during a recent meeting of tourism ministers in Madrid the indications had been that the first half of the year would show a fall in arrivals but the second half of the year would buck the trend.
"The indications are that it will not be worse than last year, either in terms of arrivals or revenue," Rolandis said. He added early reports suggested the European market was down but that the British market, which accounts for over 50 per cent of arrivals to Cyprus, was picking up.
The Minister added that a new plan of action was being drawn up following a meeting last week with all the organisations involved in the sector. The plan is expected to be ready by early next week, Rolandis said.
Some 2.69 million tourists visited Cyprus last year, compared to 2.68 million in 2000. Forecasts had been for five to eight per cent growth to around three million visitors, and had been on target until September 11.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Looking at Cyprus' place in EuropeBy Melina Demetriou
HOUSE President Demetris Christofias and European Affairs Committee chairman Tassos Papadopoulos said yesterday they believed Cyprus would join the EU irrespective of a solution to the Cyprus Problem.
Their comments came as the House of Representatives convened to discuss the EU and its future on the occasion of a convention on the future of Europe taking place in Brussels.
The plenary session was also attended by President Glafcos Clerides and the Head of European Commission's delegation for Cyprus accession, Leopold Maurer.
In his speech, House President and AKEL leader Demetris Christofias said Cyprus belonged to Europe and had a place in the EU regardless of a solution.
"This is a time for European institutions to be improved," he added.
House European Affairs Committee chairman and DIKO President Tassos Papadopoulos went further, charging the EU had failed to give a role and a say to its citizens.
"This is why the block has invited candidate countries for accession to participate in the discussion on the future of Europe," he said.
Papadopoulos stressed that a solution of the Cyprus Problem was not a precondition for accession.
After the Parliamentary assembly, President Clerides said: "Today's event has kicked off an effort to raise awareness among people and politicians about the EU's future form."
Ending a three-day visit to Cyprus, Maurer said Cyprus had reached the final stage of its accession negotiations, adding that it was now important to implement the EU acquis communautaire and make the necessary adjustments enabling the state mechanism to apply harmonised legislation.
He noted there was room for improvement in areas such as the free transport of goods.
But Cyprus' chief EU negotiator George Vassiliou boasted that, "our progress in fields like state subsidies, communications and anti-trust policy has been described as impressive by EU officials."
Maurer said that the European Commission would conduct a report assessing each candidate country's progress and submit it to the EU Seville Summit in June.
"In this report, we will suggest which countries should join the Union," he explained.
Cyprus is expected to become a full member of the EU by 2004.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Unrest in the police over top appointmentTHE MAN who has led criticism of the appointment of Charalambos Koulendis as the new deputy chief of police will fill his shoes in his former post as director of Limassol police today. Former chief of marine police Theodoros Stylianou will be sworn into his new job today, just days after his predecessor Koulendis was promoted to second-in-command.
Stylianou, the President of the Senior Police Officers' Association, publicly condemned the selection board for ignoring "qualifications, ability and police hierarchy" in appointing Koulendis at the expense of eight rival candidates.
He said on Wednesday that the other candidates were bitter and indignant, but insisted that the dispute was "not personal".
Some of the eight hopefuls took immediate leave of absence and contemplated handing in their resignation to protest against the promotion of someone they said was lower in the pecking order for the post.
Instead most will appeal against the decision to the Supreme Court.
Justice Minister Nicos Koshis, who along with police chief Andreas Angelides has defended Koulendis' appointment, said it was people's democratic right to appeal to the justice system.
Stylianou was also due to discuss the matter with the second deputy chief of police George Voutounos yesterday.
Promoted two months ago from chief of traffic police, Voutounos is thought to have been instrumental in the Koulendis' appointment.
He was yesterday unavailable for comment.
But the marine chief, who until Koulendis' promotion was his superior officer, accepted his rival's former job.
He promised to strengthen law and order and consolidate the development of good relations between the police force and the public.
He will be sworn in as the new director of Limassol police today. Stylianou's replacement at the helm of marine police in Limassol will be Yiannakis Eliades.
Koulendis yesterday escaped from the continuing row about his appointment. He flew to London to testify in a trial brought by a New Zealand businessman, allegedly defrauded out of $3.7 million at the hands of former Bishop Chrysanthos of Limassol.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 End in sight to budget row?By Melina Demetriou
PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides was last night believed to have finally ratified the state budget, CyBC radio reported, ending a weeklong row with Parliament, which came close to leaving the government with no cash.
Clerides last week refused to ratify the budget in protest at Parliament's decision to reduce the salary of cabinet secretary Chrysostomos Sofianos, who was supposed to resign three years ago.
The President tabled a proposal before Parliament asking it to revise the contentious amendment to the budget.
But the House stuck to its guns yesterday, voting down Clerides' proposal in its plenary session. Opposition parties AKEL, DIKO and KISOS opposed the bill with 27 votes, while ruling DISY voted in favour of it with 15 votes. One-seat parties the Greens and New Horizons abstained from voting.
But according to CyBC, the President backed down on his demands last night and signed the budget, which it said would published in the official gazette coming out today. If the budget had not been ratified within the next two days, public works would be suspended and civil servants would stop receiving their salaries.
The contentious provision of the budget provides that the Cabinet's secretary, Chrysostomos Sofianos will stop receiving his monthly salary in full as he is past retiring age and get a reduced pension when he stops working.
Sofianos had been due to retire in 1999, but the Council of Ministers extended his term of office until February 2003.
But the House gave an alternative to Sofianos, adopting a compromise proposal tabled by DIKO yesterday.
The proposal provides that Sofianos can continue to work until the end of March and then start receiving his monthly pension in full. If he chooses to work until the end of his term of office, then he shall receive a smaller pension.
However, Sofianos has rejected the offer.
Opposition parties yesterday were critical of the President for freezing the budget for the sake of an employee. Some deputies accused Clerides of serving personal interests.
DISY leader Nicos Anastassiades shared the views of the other parties but asked them to avoid personalising the debate.
"If the opposition's stance concerned all pensioners who work in the public sector we would probably side with you," he said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 News in brief
Call charges rise todayCALL CHARGES across Cyprus have been streamlined, effective today.
The House Plenum yesterday approved a relevant to increase the price of local calls and decrease the price of trunk calls after months of refusing to vote on the bill.
The amendment gives the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) the green light to liberalise fixed-line telephone call rates.
The rate for fixed line calls across the island is now two cents for two minutes in peak hours and two cents for four minutes off-peak (nights, weekends and banks holidays)
The fee to obtain a landline connection also increases from £4 to £5.
The reforms bring Cyprus telephony into line with EU practices and demands.
CyTA has the power to change rates in the future if the EU deems it necessary, an official said yesterday.
Synod condemns abortionTHE HOLY Synod yesterday denounced the practice of abortion as murder in a meeting intended to be on euthanasia.
In an announcement after the meeting the Synod charged that abortion is a sin and constitutes the 'killing of a human life'.
The gathering conceded that in the case of a pregnancy putting a woman's life in danger, she could terminate it only after consulting her spiritual adviser.
The Synod also condemned suicide, describing it as 'the biggest sin of all' and officially expressed its view that the Church should not hold funeral services for those who commit suicide.
Kykkos Bishop Nikiforos said after the meeting that the Church allowed organ donations as 'people can donate their organs with love if it does not endanger their lives.'
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002