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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-07-20

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Saturday, July 20, 2002


  • [01] Villagers in new Akamas row over development
  • [02] Ministers ponder racism committee
  • [03] Clerides highlights Turkish intransigence in anniversary address
  • [04] Contractor will have to pay compensation if hospital not ready in time
  • [05] Did fatal chopper have night vision?
  • [06] CY apologises for Cretan flight glitch
  • [07] Giotopoulos the son of renowned Greek Trotskyite
  • [08] Gurel accuses Greek Cypriots of blocking peace
  • [09] Boosting ties with Lebanon
  • [10] Omirou keeps everyone guessing

  • [01] Villagers in new Akamas row over development

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    AKAMAS residents yesterday charged the Cabinet with discriminating against villagers by not allowing them enough development rights on land they own in the peninsula

    Inia community leader Sophoklis Pittokopitis said the Cabinet ruling on the Akamas was confused and vague.

    He accused the Cabinet of coming up with a decision that discriminated against the residents of the region by allowing only certain areas of their land to be developed.

    Referring to a July 3 Cabinet decision which earmarked some areas as protected and approved others for some development, Pittokopitis said 11 communities would be adversely affected by the plans, which include a limited number of pockets of land where "mild and controlled development" would be permitted.

    "How can you tell Andreas or Costas they can build on their land, but refuse Bambos the right to build a house for his children," he said.

    The Cabinet voted to protect three specific areas in Akamas - Lara, Toxeftra and Fontana Amorosa - but said it would allow "mild and controlled development" in other parts of the peninsula. Ministers also decided to freeze the issue of new safari licences to the Akamas region and to review all existing licences, which involve using forest tracks.

    Private landowners, particularly big businessmen such as the Bishop of Paphos and Carlsberg magnate Photos Photiades, are among those who own property in the designated areas and have been pushing for development.

    The government said it would exchange forest land that it owns with privately owned land on which development is ruled out or compensate owners in cash.

    Residents of the Akamas, who have been seeking development of the environmentally sensitive area, had initially welcomed the Cabinet decision. But yesterday, Pittokopitis said the plan restricted residents' use of some 130,000 donums they owned outside the state land.

    The confusion was shared by environmentalists across the island, who said they were unsure of the government's true intentions. The Green Party has reserved judgment, saying a lot of issues still need to be clarified. Green Party deputy George Perdikis said yesterday that a meeting with the Ministers of Interior and Agriculture was necessary to shed light on the situation..

    He maintained that the residents were not so hard-hit by the decision, as the protection of residents' land was restricted to areas between their villages and the sea -- everything inland of the villages was free for 'mild and controlled' development. He explained that each village was demarcated by a zone where development was possible. According to the proposal, all those zones surrounding the villages will be doubled, thereby extending land that can be built upon and raising its value.

    But many questions remain unanswered, Perdikis warned, such as, "Where will the government choose land for 'mild' development and who will get the benefit?"

    Perdikis suggested that instead of isolating pockets of land for such development it would be more appropriate to increase the size of village development zones, thereby ensuring all residents were given equal treatment.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Ministers ponder racism committee

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE MINISTERIAL Committee for Labour is in the process of assessing the appointment of a commissioner or a special committee to deal with issues of racism, a senior Interior Ministry official said yesterday.

    The Labour, Interior and Justice Ministers met on Thursday to discuss the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance's (ECRI) report on Cyprus, Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary Kyriakos Triandafyllides told the Cyprus Mail.

    The ECRI's work programme involves a country-by-country approach, whereby it analyses the situation with respect to racism and intolerance in each of the member States of the Council of Europe and makes suggestions and proposals as to how to deal with the problems identified.

    In December 2000, the Commission's second report was published, and although was critical of Cyprus, Triandayllides maintained it could not be labelled "damning".

    A lot of the issues touched upon had already been amended with the introduction of appropriate laws, he said. Others are in the pipeline.

    "You have to take into consideration that this report was published nearly two years ago and therefore is outdated," he said. "Since then, there have been a number of changes here, such as the establishment of a refugee political asylum, which we did not have before."

    The Ministerial Committee was now examining how to tackle discrimination in the workforce and what legal instruments would best accomplish this, he said, adding that similar committees existed in a number of countries abroad and that it was only natural that Cyprus should follow suit and keep up with the times.

    "But nothing has been formally decided yet," Triandafyllides said. "The ministers were merely discussing a number of possible suggestions, one of which was the appointment of a commissioner or committee to handle such matters. They will then take put their proposals to the Cabinet of Ministers and it is they who will study the suggestions and come up with a final decision." He could not outline a timeframe for when that decision would be made.

    "At present, we have a national committee that deals with human rights, which also includes abuse of foreign workers. What we are talking about here is a subcommittee on racism that would deal purely with discrimination complaints based on race, as well as drawing up specific legislation with penal offences," said Triandafyllides. An example of such a complaint could be applied to a case several years ago when two business executives from Senegal were refused entry into Cyprus at Larnaca airport despite having documentation validating their reason for being here, he said.

    "In that instance, if a commissioner or committee had been in place, the two individuals could have directed their complaint there."

    Whether a the Cabinet decides on a single commissioner or committee of members to deal with racism issues one thing is for certain, he, she or they will have to have a specific background.

    "I can't say for certain of course, but it is my evaluation that members on the committee, for instance, would have to be legal experts with a certain amount of experience and expertise in human rights."

    He added the government had already started re-educating civil servants on racism and how to deal with foreigners. "In the police force for instance, cadets are given special training so that they know how to behave in certain situations once they have completed the academy," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Clerides highlights Turkish intransigence in anniversary address

    By Jean Christou

    PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides yesterday blamed the Turkish Cypriot side for the continued lack of progress in reaching a Cyprus solution.

    In a televised broadcast to the nation on the eve of the anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion, Clerides said that during the past 28 years the various governments of Cyprus had shown good will and accepted even the most painful compromises in an effort to support the various efforts of the UN in finding a solution.

    "Unfortunately, however, the leadership of the Turkish side has always been intransigent as the international community has ascertained from time to time," he said. "Our side has always dealt with the negotiations for the Cyprus problem constructively and will continue to do so."

    Clerides said the Greek Cypriot side had learned an important lesson from the 1974 coup: "that there has to be absolute respect of the democratic institutions and constant dialogue among all of the political powers, with tolerance of the opposite view."

    "Passions hatreds and generally extreme behaviour must not have a place in our political life," Clerides added.

    He said that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots should learn another common lesson from the invasion. "The fact that both communities have committed serious mistakes. For instead of co-operating honestly and hard in order to consolidate and develop the Republic of Cyprus, building a common, bright future for the benefit of all the residents of Cyprus, we remained attached to mentalities, which damaged the Republic and resulted in exactly the opposite."

    Referring to the island's accession to the EU, Clerides said that despite several pleas to the Turkish Cypriot side to join the accession process with the government, "unfortunately we have had no response".

    "In the case of accession we shall treat our Turkish Cypriot compatriots as citizens of the Cyprus Republic in the fields where it will be practically possible for us to apply the acquis communautaire as far as they are concerned," Clerides added.

    Commenting on Turkish threats to block the accession, Clerides said the Greek Cypriot side was prepared for any eventualities and would continue to act preventively in all fields, including the joint defence pact with Greece. "I believe any possible attempt by Turkey to implement its threats will both harm itself and prevent its accession to the EU," the President said.

    Clerides has been engaged in direct talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash since January 16 this year but little progress has been made in the negotiations now entering their fifth round.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Contractor will have to pay compensation if hospital not ready in time

    By Alexia Saoulli

    JUST because the contractor responsible for completing the new Nicosia General Hospital is asking for a five-year extension, it does not mean he will get it, a senior control officer at the Ministry of Communication and Works said yesterday.

    The hospital, situated in Latsia just off the Nicosia-Limassol highway, was initially slated for completion five months ago. The contractor is now demanding an August 2007 deadline, but the government has only granted him an extra year and a half.

    "It's true that there will be a delay in completing the new hospital," confirmed Alecos Michaelides. "But what the contractor wants, and what will finally be approved, is not necessarily the same thing."

    Although there had been changes made to the original hospital plans, such as the addition of a paraplegic centre, which inevitably led to delays in the project, a 2007 deadline was deemed unacceptable by the government, he said.

    "We made changes to the plans adding parts to both the infrastructure's interior and exterior, which gave the contractor the excuse to ask for an extension," said Michaelides. However, the hospital's architect and other relevant organisations responsible for the project informed the government that an extension should only be given until December 2003.

    "As the contractor's employer, we have the legal right to demand that it is ready by the timeframe we have set. Delays over and above that will have to be compensated by him, because there will be expenses involved that we are not willing to cover, such as the manpower we have on hand to oversee the smooth running of the building on site," he said.

    But even Michaelides admitted that completing the project by Christmas next year might be difficult.

    "So far, they haven't even started building," he said. "The new road leading to the site has not been finished yet either, although there is access to it via the old road."

    In other words the contractor - whom Michaelides was unwilling to name - has an arduous task ahead of him over the next 17 months if he does not want to suffer the consequences.

    "I'm not saying that the contractor will necessarily be able to finish it by then, but I do think that we will see rapid progress over the next few months. Once he realises that he has until 2003 to deliver the new hospital or else he will have to give us money, I'm sure things will improve," he said.

    "If you hit someone where it hurts - in this case financially - they tend to get things moving."

    The reason for the strict 2003 deadline was because the contractor was to blame for being overly slow in getting the wheels in motion.

    "He can take action if he wants and it could even go to court," said Michaelides. "But we have been told that extending the timeframe any more is unacceptable and that beyond the end of next year he should start compensating us for his delay."

    The new hospital, which is expected to surpass all the island's other hospitals in terms of state-of-the-art technology and modernisation, had initially been estimated to cost the state 37.5 million. Due to the changes made to the plans over time, however, the new budget is estimated at around 52 million.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Did fatal chopper have night vision?

    By Elias Hazou

    FURTHER allegations emerged yesterday on the crash of the National Guard's Bell chopper that crashed killing the island's top brass, in what has been dubbed the worst military tragedy since the 1974 invasion.

    As experts continued to scour the crash area for more clues, Machi yesterday ran a front-page story suggesting criminal negligence on the part of some quarters in the Defence Ministry. Under the banner "They 'killed' Florakis," the paper claimed it had had access to a Ministry of Defence document proving the Bell chopper that crashed was not suitable for night flights; the helicopter carrying National Guard chief Evangelos Florakis and four other officers had been heading to Paphos in the early morning hours, shortly before daybreak.

    Machi printed a Ministry document that seemed to suggest the National Guard's Bell choppers were not qualified to fly night sorties. It read: "The Ministry of Defence (MoD or Buyer) requests Tenders for the modification of three Bell 206L-3 helicopters in order for the helicopters to gain the capability to carry out night flights with the help of Night Vision Goggles (NVG 2nd Plus and/or 3rd generation), as well as for the purchase and installation of radio-altimeters on the said helicopters." The document was dated April 4, 2002.

    The article went on to speculate that this meant at least some people in the Defence Ministry knew about the Bells' unsuitability for night flight, yet failed to inform the leadership. This omission, which was tantamount to criminal negligence, the paper claimed, had cost the lives of five people. The daily also pointed out that Defence Minister Socrates Hasikos might also have been a victim, as he had reportedly planned to join Florakis on the fatal flight.

    Possible causes for the crash include mechanical failure or a fire breaking out on board while the chopper was in flight. At least three eyewitnesses said they saw the helicopter burst in flames before it came down. Another suggestion put forward was that the chopper may have collided with electric power cables; reportedly, EAC technicians have been visiting the crash site since Thursday. Any form of foul play has been ruled out, both from official sources and the press.

    Hasikos, who from the outset has been adamant that the Bell 206s are night- time capable, yesterday slammed Machi, describing its article as "irresponsible and unacceptable". The Defence Minister countered that the tenders request had in fact been for the procurement of equipment enabling the choppers to carry out assault missions at night with the help of thermal image intensifiers, and not for pure aviation needs, as the paper had suggested. Hasikos went on to question the paper's motives and work ethics, wondering why Machi had taken just one sentence from the document and published it out of context. "Where is the rest?" Hasikos asked. He added that the document had been submitted to the House Defence committee.

    An investigative committee examining the causes of the crash will be handing over its verdict to Hasikos. Yesterday the Defence Minister said the parts of the chopper recovered may be sent to the manufacturers in the USA for further examination or to Greece, or both. Hasikos also denied allegations by some quarters that he had already received a report by two Greek experts visiting the island and that the Defence Ministry may be involved in a cover-up.

    But the controversy raged on, as DISY deputy Sotiris Sampson, who sits on the House Defence committee, insisted the government had still not provided concrete proof the Bell choppers were qualified to fly at night. Sampson, whose family owns Machi, denied that the document in question had been submitted to the House Defence Committee, remarking "I for one have never seen it."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] CY apologises for Cretan flight glitch

    By a Staff Reporter

    CYPRUS Airways yesterday apologised for the inconvenience it caused its passengers as a result of flight security measures taken after one of its Eurocypria planes suffered technical problems.

    The plane was on its way to Cyprus from Crete when one of its three self- contained air conditioners caught fire. Although there was never any danger of any one getting hurt, the plane turned back until the problem could be fixed.

    In an announcement yesterday, the national carrier said: "Similar incidents take place at various airports daily and include all airlines, without it meaning that the passengers on board are at any serious risk or that anyone is trying to cover things up; it is merely routine procedure."

    Cyprus Airways sought to reassure the travelling public that it stringently followed the highest international standards and prescriptions as far as flight safety was concerned and that its staff were specially trained to deal with any problem. "We do not make compromises or cutbacks as far as security measures are concerned."

    Due to the peak season and an increase in flights, the airline appealed to travellers to "co-operate fully with its personnel, who handle unexpected problems responsibly and professionally, and to follow the relevant authorities instructions, avoiding expressions of behaviour that only fuel agitations and existing problems."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Giotopoulos the son of renowned Greek Trotskyite

    By a Staff Reporter

    THE man Greek police named yesterday as leader of the notorious November 17 guerrilla group was sentenced to jail in absentia by the military junta in the 1970s for organising resistance to their hardline rule.

    Alexander Giotopoulos is the son of a renowned Greek Trotskyite of the 1930s and 1940s who fought on the republican side in the Spanish civil war. Born in 1944 in Paris, where his father was heavily involved in the Stalin- era struggle for control of international communism, Giotopoulos returned to the French capital in time to take part in the May 1968 student riots.

    In the same year he went to Cuba for military training as part of a radical group named "May 29". Three years later -- at the height of Greece's 1967- 74 US-backed military rule -- a Greek court sentenced him in absentia to five years in prison for "acts against the security of the state".

    Several Greeks who went into self-exile in Paris during the 1967-1974 period have said Giotopoulos was a quiet man, soft-spoken and helpful. "He was a very polite man, a stand-up guy and always willing to help," Greek film director Giorgos Katakouzinos, who met him in Paris, told the daily newspaper Ta Nea.

    For many years after the Paris street riots, friends and acquaintances lost all trace of Giotopoulos. Many believe it was his Paris connections that led November 17 to choose the French capital as the place to announce its first killing -- that of CIA Athens station chief Richard Welch in 1975.

    The group sent its claim of responsibility for the killing to French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who passed it on to the left-wing daily Liberation.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Gurel accuses Greek Cypriots of blocking peace

    By a Staff Reporter

    TURKISH Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel, considered a hardliner on the Cyprus issue, yesterday accused the Cyprus government of blocking efforts to reunite the island.

    UN-backed peace talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriots have dragged on since January without any tangible headway despite increased urgency for a settlement ahead of the island's entry into the European Union, probably in 2004 or 2005.

    Gurel, in Nicosia this weekend to mark the 28th anniversary of the Turkish troop landing, referred to recent reports that Cyprus' military had purchased Russian-made Hind helicopters.

    "We have always desired peace, but while the Greek Cypriot administration is pushing for peace they purchase attack helicopters as if preparing for an offensive which saddens us and makes us anxious," Gurel told reporters. "They need to realise this cannot be done when embarking on the road to peace."

    Gurel was named foreign minister last week after his predecessor Ismail Cem quit along with dozens of other deputies who have fled ailing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's party amid a political crisis that forced the left- right coalition government to call early elections this week.

    Gurel, who previously served as state minister overseeing relations with Cyprus, has been described as a "hawk" for his tough stance on conditions for a Cyprus settlement and Turkey's reform efforts to further its own EU bid.

    "We desire an end to the Cyprus issue more than anyone," he said. "An end to the issue is not possible if the realities of the island are not accepted, most importantly, the separate identity of the Turkish Cypriot public and their state."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Boosting ties with Lebanon

    By a Staff Reporter

    CYPRUS and Lebanon yesterday signed three agreements on cultural, educational and scientific co-operation, return of illegal immigrants and combating organised crime and the illicit use and trafficking of drugs.

    Ministers from the two countries signed the agreements after the conclusion of official talks held earlier in the day between the two countries' delegations, headed by the Presidents of Cyprus and Lebanon, Glafcos Clerides and General Emile Lahoud.

    In their statements to reporters after the signing ceremony, the two Presidents spoke of the close ties and co-operation between the two countries and assured of their willingness to further upgrade and enhance them.

    After their talks, the two Presidents exchanged decorations. Clerides decorated Lahoud with the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III while Lahoud decorated Clerides with the Grand Cordon of the Cedar Order.

    Lahoud said he had expressed gratitude to Clerides "for his efforts on behalf of the Cypriot people, the cause of people in general and those on behalf of every righteous cause."

    "I also reiterated to his Excellency the gratitude of the Lebanese people for the safe haven they found in Cyprus during our years of hardship and strife," he added.

    "We discussed Middle Eastern issues, namely the serious escalation in the occupied Palestinian Arab territories, I informed President Clerides of the Beirut Arab Summit deliberation, and the Peace Initiative that we adopted", he added.

    Regarding bilateral relations, Lahoud said "we were in agreement that all the treaties between Lebanon and Cyprus are but a first step towards the consolidation and furthering of our bilateral relations", adding, "these treaties have laid the ground work for our future cooperation."

    He also noted he had confirmed that Lebanon would fully support Cyprus' application for EU accession, "allowing this brotherly neighbour to make full use of opportunities to further its social and economic agendas, while preserving a genuine Cypriot identity."

    "We are very happy that Cyprus is going to get into the EU for many reasons. One of them is that you will be accessible to Lebanon. It is only half an hour's flight and when you get a visa you have it for all Europe. At the same time I think that many Europeans will come to Cyprus and will extend their visit to Lebanon," Lahoud said.

    Lahoud added he conveyed to President Clerides an invitation to visit "his second home", Lebanon.

    Clerides said the bonds between Cyprus and Lebanon were governed by mutual feelings of love, friendship, trust, understanding and consolidation in all fields.

    He noted that "a tangible example that reflects the friendship and co- operation between the two countries is the massive arrival in Cyprus of thousands of Lebanese civilians during the tragic events that took place in the recent past", adding that many of these people were still in Cyprus.

    Lahoud arrived in Cyprus early yesterday morning on a three-day state visit.

    Today the Lebanese President will travel to the Presidential Residence on Troodos and will visit Limassol.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [10] Omirou keeps everyone guessing

    By Elias Hazou

    POLITICAL pundits yesterday were still second-guessing how election alliances would shape, following what was termed a "critical meeting" between the bosses of communist AKEL and socialist KISOS.

    Earlier this, week ruling DISY dropped a bombshell, proposing to KISOS co- operation in the upcoming presidential elections. The blitz move was seen as breaking up - at least temporarily - the entente reached among AKEL, KISOS and centrist DIKO. The three parties had struck an alliance in the recent municipal elections, and speculation was widespread there would be a repeat in 2003.

    But while AKEL and DIKO dismissed outright DISY's call for a government of "national unity" or "wide approval", socialist KISOS adopted a more moderate stance, its chairman Yiannakis Omirou evidently keeping his options open; he has been slated as the likely candidate in the event DISY and KISOS join forces.

    Following yesterday's meeting between Christofias and Omirou, the two party leaders reiterated their parties' respective positions. Christofias again described DISY's proposal as a ploy, saying such tactics debased political life.

    Omirou's response was less negative; he said KISOS would study DISY's proposal and would make its final decision at the party congress scheduled for 4 August. "Not since 1960, the establishment of the republic, has a centre-left politician run for president," Omirou remarked, adding that "we have always supported the nomination of a progressive (i.e. non- conservative) candidate running on a progressive political platform. I think we really need to think about this."

    For his part, DISY chairman Nicos Anastassiades criticised AKEL and DIKO for dismissing the proposal out-and-out, accusing the two parties of being dogmatic.

    Meanwhile the results of an opinion poll conducted by RCI were published in AKEL mouthpiece Haravghi yesterday, giving DIKO chairman Tassos Papadopoulos a clear lead over other possible presidential candidates. The objectivity of the survey was questioned by Anastassiades, who said it had been carried out at the behest of DIKO associates.

    Behind-the-scenes negotiations among the parties are expected to peak over the next couple of weeks, as further surprises cannot be ruled out.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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