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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-11-13

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, November 13, 2002


  • [01] Diplomats agree: this is a 'last chance' proposal
  • [02] Experts say medicine won't be sweet
  • [03] 'Green light with smiles and thorns'
  • [04] Reconciliation Commission would be based on South African model
  • [05] Labour Ministry to review benefits scheme
  • [06] Nitrate pollution a concern but not a danger
  • [07] Pyla minefields cleared
  • [08] Vengelis comes home

  • [01] Diplomats agree: this is a 'last chance' proposal

    By Jean Christou

    THE CONTENTS of the UN blueprint for a solution, presented to the two sides on Monday, may be negotiable but the diplomatic community yesterday made it clear this was a take-it-or-leave-it, last-ditch attempt at resolving the Cyprus problem.

    "It is not a take it or leave it deal as far as the details are concerned but at the moment they have to reject it or go along with it," said one diplomatic source.

    "There will be negotiations on the details and these will probably be tricky but in general it is indeed a take it or leave it proposal."

    With the EU summit at Copenhagen looming in mid-December, the Greek Cypriot side is already tied to making the best of what has been submitted. Going to Denmark without progress would look bad in the eyes of the EU, despite its confirmed pledge to admit a divided island.

    "This indeed would cause a great problem because the Secretary-general, who has the support of everybody in the international community has listened to the two sides for months and years now and he knows the positions of both sides. He believes the gaps can be bridged and has suggested this compromise so whoever rejects this goes against the explicit suggestions of the Secretary-general," the source said. "This is the last chance before the decision on EU enlargement and after this decision is taken there will be a totally new situation in Cyprus."

    The source said that for the moment the international community is leaving it to the two sides to make up their minds and analyse the contents of the submission for at least the next seven days.

    "We are keeping our fingers crossed that it will be accepted," the source said. "The bottom line is that they take it or leave it as a deal and negotiate on the details."

    In a brief but uncompromising statement the British High Commission in Nicosia pulled no punches on how it felt the two sides should react to the blueprint.

    "The Cyprus problem has gone on for too long," said spokesman Stuart Summers. "The parties must seize this historic opportunity to find a settlement but tough decisions will be required. Too many opportunities in the past have been missed and the parties must not allow this one to slip by. At first glance we believe the UN has come up with a fair and balanced proposal and a good basis on which to reach a final deal and we are energetically supporting their efforts."

    A second diplomatic source admitted that the EU would not look favourably on any negative rumblings from the Greek Cypriot side before Copenhagen, even though the island is guaranteed entry even if divided. "It is generally accepted that progress on the political issue would make the road to Europe much smoother," the source said.

    But President Glafcos Clerides has already said he would not agree to any unacceptable solution in order to secure EU accession.

    Commenting on what might happen if any negotiations on the plan completely break down, the second source said: "I don't think anybody is contemplating in any manner what those consequences might be." The source admitted there were aspects to the plan that would not appeal to either side.

    "How could any plan appeal to both sides when you've had such differences?" he asked. "The question is whether or not this is the best opportunity that is available."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Experts say medicine won't be sweet

    By Jean Christou

    POLITICAL ANALYSTS believe there is a lot in the UN Secretary-general's plan that should please both sides but foresee a number of sticking points, mainly concerning the issue of governance.

    "At first glance it is a federal model and I think in a broad sense does conform with UN resolutions and the EU acquis communautaire but it gets problematic in terms of the executive and also on the constitution, the Treaty of Guarantee and the compensation issue," said James Ker-Lindsay, director of the Nicosia-based think tank Civilitas Research.

    "There is a lot there that says to the Greek Cypriots 'there is a lot that ties in with the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation you have been calling for'. It is not a confederation by any means. It's a typically federal model looking at first glance and in that sense there is a lot the Greek Cypriots should be happy about."

    Commenting on the retention of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, under which Greece, Turkey and Britain are guarantor powers of Cyprus' independence, Ker-Lindsay said there was no question of abolishing it.

    "It had to be there," he said. "Any decision reached which got rid of the Treaty of Guarantee would have been rejected immediately by the Turkish Cypriots. "It's not the best thing for the Greek Cypriots because they would have been trying to disassociate Turkish involvement but they are not going to get that."

    He said the provision that Cyprus shall sign and ratify the EU Treaty of Accession was very important because it will prevent Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash from trying to hold off on Cyprus' accession until Turkey is ready. "This has been one of his arguments all along and this should please the Greek Cypriot side," Ker-Lindsay said.

    Similarly the provision that says Cyprus shall support Turkey's EU entry should please Ankara.

    "Turkey will want to see this written in stone," he said. "It balances out the other provision and although it might not please everyone it's not a deal breaker."

    The provision prohibiting secession is also very important for the Greek Cypriot side, Ker-Lindsay said because it has always been a concern that Denktash would take recognition and run away with it as a means to partition.

    "There is a certain looseness to the proposal even though saying the power would be vested in a central state, which implies a federal model," he added, referring to a provision, which would require both sides to discuss cooperation agreements that would involve talking to each other.

    "I think it's a way of making the Turkish Cypriots feel they have a say on this and get to bargain with the other 'state' that exists across the line. I think this could be problematic for the Greek Cypriot side. the idea of having to reach agreements with the Turkish Cypriots but its necessary to give them some sort of feeling that they must be seen to have own sovereignty," Ker-Lindsay said.

    He said however that bigger problems would probably arise in relation to the composition of parliament.

    The UN proposal provides for an upper chamber with 50-50 representation and a lower chamber with proportional representation based on the size of the populations. But Turkish Cypriot participation in the lower house should never be less than 25 per cent, the proposal said.

    When we get to the issue of parliament this is when we start getting into points that are likely to be more problematic," Ker-Lindsay said.

    "With the 25 per cent representation Turkish Cypriots would be over represented in the lower house but at the same time the limit means Greek Cypriots will always be in a majority there. In 1960 it was 70-30 so this is a reduction for the Turkish Cypriots. What's more worrying is the idea of senate with 50-50. There is lots of room for deadlock to be reached there."

    He said the rotating presidency would also be likely to pose some problems although it does recognise the numerical majority of the Greek Cypriots.

    Ker-Lindsay also believes security could pose a problem. The plan provides for demilitarisation of the island and the reduction of Greek and Turkish Cypriot contingents to four digit figures, yet to be determined. Turkish troops would also be phased out eventually but there is a provision that Cyprus will not put its territory at the disposal of international military operations without the consent of Greece and Turkey.

    "This might give Turkey a right of veto into European defence structures," Ker-Lindsay said. "Because it means that Turkish acceptance would be required for the operation of the EU rapid reaction force in Cyprus."

    As far as the issue of property is concerned, Ker-Lindsay said that Greek Cypriots have known for a very long time that they would not all be getting their properties back.

    "But anyone signing this agreement will have to be prepared to do the hard bargaining with the refugees groups here and explain this. This also ties in with the value of the property. People will say 1974 wasn't a tourist destination then and its now worth more than '74 prices. There could be a problem there and also, who is going to pay?"

    Greek Cypriot analyst Sofronis Sofroniou said the biggest issues that concern the Greek Cypriots would be the continued presence of Turkish troops and settlers on the island. He said this was the biggest "time bomb" in Cyprus.

    "People are afraid of the settlers flooding in if the north has the power to accept any settlers and give them citizenship," he said. "The Treaty of Guarantee is an issue but people realise it can't be got rid of right away. My feeling is that there is something baroque about the constitution. It seems to be bits and pieces form here and there. It will have to be simplified."

    Sofroniou said he believes that fear was the biggest obstacle to reaching a settlement. "Fear that things will not run smoothly and that we will have new adventures," he said. "Fear about the future and Turkish intentions, which are justified because Turkey changes its line a lot."

    He said he believed however that President Glafcos Clerides and Greece's Prime Minster Costas Simitis were realistic enough to accept painful compromises.

    "I think the problem again will be the Turks who are not shifting at all. Unless there is a new philosophy in Turkey I don't see any outcome out of this."

    Sofroniou said that because they are now in such a bad position, the Turkish Cypriot side has a lot to gain from the proposed settlement. "They can join the EU and prosper under conditions of freedom and economic progress," he said. "What else do they want? They have nothing to fear. That's why I don't understand. What do they fear?"

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] 'Green light with smiles and thorns'

    By George Psyllides

    THE SUBMISSION of the UN draft Cyprus solution dominated the Greek and Turkish Cypriot press yesterday with most newspapers commenting on the main points of the outline.

    Phileleftheros reported that it was obvious UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan aimed to achieve an agreement before the EU Summit of Copenhagen in December and having referendums on March 30, 2003.

    Under the headline 'Simitis said the first 'yes'', Politis reported on the plan, quoting Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis who said it was a good starting point for negotiations. Both Simitis and President Glafcos Clerides assured that they would not accept a solution that would go beyond the line drawn by the Greek Cypriot side.

    Simerini commented that Athens and Nicosia would find themselves before "nightmare dilemmas" in the next month. Under the headline 'Nightmare solution plan,' the daily said the dilemmas concerned the fate of the Republic of Cyprus, the viability of a solution, and the legalisation of the Turkish invasion and its effects.

    Communist mouthpiece Haravghi said tough negotiations were expected following the submission of the plan, which contains provisions that satisfy and others, which did not satisfy the Greek Cypriot side.

    Machi described the week until the two sides reply to the UN Secretary- general if they accept the plan as a base for negotiation as 'Passion Week', while Alithia said the plan was a basis for negotiation but with time pressures.

    Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris yesterday gave an outline of the main points of the plan while under the headline 'New Phase', Kibrisli commented that a new page has been opened in the Cyprus problem and the two sides were entering a negotiation process for a new partnership. Yeniduzen also provided an outline of the plan's main points while extremist Volkan said that 70,000 Turkish Cypriots were going to become refugees for the third time. The daily published a map indicating the areas it claims would be returned to the Greek Cypriots, commenting that the issue of territory was a trap.

    Opposition daily Afrika carried its report on the developments under the headline 'The plan is new, Denktash is old'. The daily commented that Denktash would enter the negotiations with the scope of preventing Cyprus from entering the EU.

    The plan was also the main topic in the Greek newspapers with To Vima reporting that a referendum would be held on March 30 for a solution with Simitis saying the negotiations would be tough.

    Ethnos headlined its story 'Green light with smiles and thorns' while Eleftherotypia said Nicosia and Athens look like they would be discussing the plan despite their concerns.

    Kathimerini reported that the chances for finding a solution were 50-50 and Ta Nea said the rotating presidency was a minefield.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Reconciliation Commission would be based on South African model

    By George Psyllides

    ACCORDING to the UN plan, an independent and impartial Reconciliation Commission should be set up to promote understanding, tolerance and mutual respect between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

    The commission would be similar to that of post-apartheid South Africa and would be composed of an equal number of Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as at least one non-Cypriot member appointed by the UN Secretary-general after consulting with the two sides.

    Though apartheid and the Cyprus problem are two different things, the commission's task would be effectively the same: to reconcile the two communities.

    The South African Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) was a compromise solution of dealing with the thousands of assaults, kidnappings, and murders carried out during the apartheid era.

    The TRC comprised a multiracial staff of more than 60 and consisted of three committees, each charged with a separate mandate: to gather evidence, to make decisions regarding amnesty, and to determine what, if any, reparations were granted to victims.

    The commission operated on the assumption that the only way to discover the truth about large-scale, politically motivated crimes is to offer amnesty to those who committed them.

    It also operated on the belief that only by acknowledging the crimes of the past could South Africans begin to heal from them.

    In exchange for their truthful testimony, perpetrators were shielded from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits - unless the commission determined that their crimes were either non-political or disproportionately brutal.

    For victims and their families, the TRC hearings provided previously unavailable information about the death of their relatives, often including the location of the bodies, which families can then re-bury according to their religious traditions.

    Before it even convened, the TRC faced criticism from suspected perpetrators as well as victims' groups.

    The affected parties brought two separate lawsuits in hopes of retaining the right to bring criminal or civil charges against those who had tortured or murdered their relatives.

    But despite pressure from many sides, the TRC showed independence in its pursuit of the truth.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Labour Ministry to review benefits scheme

    By Soteris Charalambous

    THE ENTITLEMENT of public servants to unemployment benefits after they retire is to come under review by the end of the year, sources at the Labour Ministry said yesterday.

    At present government employees can claim employment benefits for six months from the day they retire. The wage supplement amounts to roughly two- thirds of what they were earning under government employment. The mandatory retirement age for government employees is 65, though many choose the voluntary age of 63.

    The Ministry maintains that though some retirees genuinely need the financial support as they seek new employment because of economic commitments, a large proportion take the entitlement even though they have no intention of finding new employment.

    In a recent visit from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), an advisory body on social security policy and development, actuary Michael Cichon recommended a number of measures that could be taken.

    The German technocrat pointed out that removing this benefit would be an effective method of saving money at a time when the government is looking to make savings.

    Other areas that have been considered for review included raising the pension age. At present it stands at 65, but under the law a pension can be drawn from the age of 63 if certain conditions are satisfied - which currently enables most people to take advantage of the option.

    Another area discussed was the investment of funds, looking for more profitable ways to manage the resources.

    Labour Ministry Permanent Secretary Lenia Samwell said, "All governments are looking carefully at the viability of their social benefits schemes."

    Asked about the issue of unemployment benefits entitlement, Samwell said, "This is an issue that concerns the Ministry, and according to the established procedures with the social partners within the framework of the social insurance board."

    Samwell added that the matter is scheduled as an issue for discussion in December when the actuary was due to visit.

    "I have followed very thoroughly what is going on in other countries," said Samwell, "We need to take some very, very responsible decisions in order to save the social security system for future generations."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Nitrate pollution a concern but not a danger

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    NITRATE POLLUTION in groundwater is a major concern, especially in regions of agricultural activity, given that costs of treating contaminated water are extremely high.

    According to a Geological Survey Department official, the European Union is prepared to subsidise farmers in areas of high nitrate pollution in order to monitor and contain the level of pollution.

    The department is preparing a category of 'vulnerable zones' to submit to the EU by December, concentrating on regions where large doses of agricultural fertilisers are used. These zones will indicate where nitrate pollution goes beyond the maximum permissible level of 50 parts per million.

    Department official Antonis Charalambides told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that France and Germany, boasting agricultural activity on a massive scale, have such high levels of nitrate pollution that each country is categorised as a "vulnerable zone", creating astronomical costs for the full treatment of their contaminated drinking water.

    "All vulnerable zones, usually characterised by the level of agricultural activity, need to be fully identified so that action plans can be made to reduce and monitor the nitrate content," said Charalambides.

    He added that all areas of high agricultural activity and animal husbandry, especially those using nitrogen fertilisers, are expected to be listed as vulnerable zones, including Peristerona, Astromeritis, Ayia Napa, Paralimni and the Kokkinochoria region, Kiti, Pervolia and Polis Chrysochous.

    Charalambides did not rule out the possibility of pollution coming from intensive domestic development in certain regions.

    Once the vulnerable zones have been identified, work will begin to reduce nitrate pollution through various programs and fertilisation plans. "Relevant departments will monitor the level of crop cultivation and give farmers the fertilisation quantities that they really need," he said.

    "The aim is to identify the problem and then educate the farmers to adopt fertilisation programs that minimise nitrate pollution. By subsidising the process, inspectors, in turn, are allowed to monitor the fields, take samples of soil and analyse them for nitrate."

    Nitrate itself is not a health problem, but when ingested in the stomach, it can be converted into nitrite. Charalambides explained that nitrites can be highly carcinogenic. "If you have a lot of nitrite in the body, it creates nitrous haemoglobin and myoglobin which obstructs the transfer of oxygen to the blood vessels and tissues. This can lead to blue baby syndrome where the baby dies from asphyxia."

    He said vegetables like broad beans and spinach were high in nitrates and usually avoided as baby food.

    However, he insisted that drinking water is strictly checked and controlled for nitrate pollution. Groundwater polluted from agricultural activity is treated, said Charalambides, but warned that high nitrate levels in water could lead to problems. "High concentrated areas, where the quality is sub- standard for drinking water, are used for agricultural purposes. But what we and the EU are concerned about is polluting all the groundwater, leading to huge costs in treatment of the water."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Pyla minefields cleared

    THE NATIONAL Guard's minefield clearing operation for the mixed village of Pyla was completed yesterday. Three minefields were cleared, freeing up the land for housing.

    The UN had hoped to carry out their own mine-clearing programme in the buffer-zone but were prevented from doing so by the occupation forces, a Defence Ministry Official said yesterday.

    "All three minefields (under our control) were cleared," said Defence Ministry Spokesman Andreas Yiorgas.

    The programme of mine clearing has been stepped up in recent years with over 3,000 removed since 1992.

    The clearing operation in Pyla was part of the overall programme and will enable the village to expand, with land used to develop property.

    "The mine clearing was carried out over two phases," said Yiorgas, "This area is now cleared for the community of Pyla to build their houses."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Vengelis comes home

    By a Staff Reporter

    AN EIGHT-month-old Griffon vulture which was found exhausted in the occupied Famagusta area last week was yesterday given to a Forestry Department official by Turkish Cypriot veterinarians to be returned to its original nesting grounds in the Troodos mountains.

    The bird, named Vangelis, had escaped from an animal shelter in Limassol where it was being treated after falling from a nest in the cliffs near Episkopi.

    Vangelis was found was found by Turkish Cypriot bird watchers in Famagusta last week, exhausted and unable to fly and was handed to local officials, who decided to return the bird to its original nesting grounds.

    "Because of the need to return the vulture to its family, our department has decided to hand it back on condition it is returned to its original environment," a statement from the Turkish Cypriot authorities said.

    The vulture is one of the 40 remaining Griffon vultures in Cyprus that are protected under a project funded by grants from the United States and UNDP through UNOPS and executed by the Forestry Department.

    Griffon vultures were abundant in the past but are now at risk of extinction in Cyprus after years of hunting and poisoning by humans.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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