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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 03-05-22

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, May 22, 2003


  • [01] Cautious De Soto says Annan plan could rise from the dead:
  • [02] Government dismisses Turkish property compensation plan
  • [03] You try living in a wheelchair
  • [04] Hotel workers threaten strike action
  • [05] Government admits presidential car break down was driver error
  • [06] Rare monk seal makes an appearance in Paphos harbour
  • [07] Two new suspected SARS patients hospitalised
  • [08] 300 Greek Cypriots to be the first to travel to Turkey without visas

  • [01] Cautious De Soto says Annan plan could rise from the dead:

    By Jean Christou

    U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan is very reluctant to reengage in open- ended negotiations on the Cyprus problem, his special Cyprus envoy Alvaro de Soto was quoted as saying yesterday.

    In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), De Soto said Annan was not prepared to become embroiled in the Cyprus question if his efforts were to lead nowhere again.

    Annan was stung in The Hague in March, when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash killed off 18 months of intensive negotiations by refusing to put Annan’s solution plan to a referendum.

    The Secretary-general made it clear afterwards that he was not prepared to take up the Cyprus issue again unless the political will existed on both sides, and De Soto was ordered back to New York.

    De Soto told CNA yesterday that Annan would only become involved again if there was a clear framework for a conclusion. The UN was not willing to start the talks from scratch because the end result would not be much different from the Annan plan, he said.

    The only hope, he added, was that the Annan plan could be revived despite Denktash’s stance.

    “We would like to bring them back to where they were at The Hague,” De Soto said. In The Hague, President Tassos Papadopoulos agreed to continue negotiations on the plan and to put it to Greek Cypriots for referendum under certain conditions.

    “If Denktash could bring himself to do the same, which is to agree not to reopen the plan and accept it as a basis to finalise negotiations, and if he got the backing of Turkey, and we already know Greece supports this, we would really have a basis to resume the talks and for the SG to lend his assistance again,” De Soto said.

    “This would have to be with a view to actually come to a conclusion with UN assistance within a reasonable period of time in order to come back to the people through separate simultaneous referenda.

    “What the Secretary General was saying is that it would not be useful for him to become reengaged in an open ended way without a clear framework, what we are saying is let us make sure that a framework exists and it has the backing of all sides and then we can go back to the effort and do it.”

    Denktash has in the past month gone his own way with the Cyprus issue by opening up the checkpoints to the north, hoping the move would lead to recognition of his breakaway state and the loose confederal solution he has been pushing for years. He has said the Annan plan is dead and buried.

    “Well perhaps it is,” De Soto said. “But it is dead in the way that Lazarus was dead or the Phoenix was dead, I think in these matters, matters of diplomacy, usually reports of the death of one approach or another are somewhat premature and I would argue that even if the two sides were to start from scratch the negotiations, an unlikely hypothesis, but even if they were to do so, I think that the end result of the negotiations would be not too different than the kind of plan the SG.”

    De Soto acknowledged that the change in the status quo over the past month would require certain small changes to be made to the Annan plan as it stood. The plan was designed for a reunited Cyprus to sign the EU Accession Treaty in Athens in April. De Soto said there were certain things such as dates, technical aspects that may have to be looked at again, but not the substance of the plan.

    “You start reopening the fundamental trade offs and the key principles and there would be no end to it, that is why the Secretary-general is asking to accept the basis on which they had both agreed to negotiate even before that fateful night in The Hague,” he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, May 22, 2003

    [02] Government dismisses Turkish property compensation plan

    By a Staff Reporter

    THE GOVERNMENT said yesterday said it had taken all the necessary measures to counter the Turkish Cypriot regime’s plan to set up a fund to compensate Greek Cypriot refugees for the land they lost from the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    Reports yesterday claimed that Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash were planning to set up a fund to compensate Greek Cypriot refugees who had lost their properties to the invasion.

    Turkish Cypriot sources said an independent committee would also be set up to examine the Greek Cypriot claims.

    The move is viewed as an attempt by the Turkish Cypriot side to settle the property issue to their advantage and gain some sort of recognition in the process.

    Responding to the reports, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said yesterday that the right to property was not an issue of compensation.

    “The right to property is a right of possession, use, exploitation, and disposal of property and not a compensation issue,” Chrysostomides said.

    He added: “No one can replace this right with any monetary compensation.”

    Chrysostomides said the government was aware of the manoeuvrings and had taken all necessary measures, adding the matter had been studied by the President together with the Attorney-general and foreign experts.

    The spokesman said the Greek Cypriot side insisted on the enforcement of human rights, adding that it was his conviction that the Turkish Cypriot regime’s plans would not yield any results.

    The reports said Turkey was planning to pay the compensation awarded to a Kyrenia refugee by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) but would not accept that case as a precedent for at least 450 similar ones brought against Turkey by other refugees.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, May 22, 2003

    [03] You try living in a wheelchair

    By Jean Christou

    THE CYPRUS Paraplegic Organisation (CPO) said yesterday it would challenge deputies to spend eight hours in a wheelchair if its long-standing demands to improve the lives of disable people was not met by next week.

    CPO president Andros Prokopiou said they were due to meet House President Demetris Christofias early next week to press for their demands, some of which have been pending since the 1980s.

    He said that if the demands were not met, the CPO would show up for a protest at the House with three empty wheelchairs and challenge any deputy to spend eight hours as a disabled person. “They have to try it and see how they can cope,” he said. “We will challenge them.”

    Prokopiou said that in 2000 the government had laid out provisions, passed by parliament, to improve the lives of the disabled; they were to have been put in place by March this year.

    “This year is the European Year for the Disabled,” Prokopiou added. “But nothing has been done. The provisions for 2003 were never enforced. More or less all our demands are being shelved.”

    Prokopiou said the CPO blamed not just the present government but all past governments for failing to deliver on promises to the disabled. “Lots of our demands date back to the eighties so we are putting them forward again and we want a solution,” he said, adding that some of the demands did not even involve financial cost to the government.

    He put more blame on the civil service than the government, which, he said had taken the political decision, passed the necessary legislation and given the instructions, but these had been ignored. “Most of the problem lies with the Ministry of Finance,” he said. “They are more or less stuck there.”

    One of the problems Prokopiou highlighted was a demand pending since 1983 for a second doctor at the paraplegic department at the hospital. “So far, no response and no one has been appointed,” he said. “We also asked for a specialist doctor and they promised that this year they would announced the post. So far we have not seen anything.”

    Prokopiou also said that the CPO had asked for a wheelchair repair service, which would have cost the government only £12,000 a year to run, but instead they are forced to pay one of their own members to do the work needed.

    Care attendants were another issue, Prokopiou said. He said while some people were allowed to employ foreign workers as carers, some were not. “In many cases, parents or wives do the caring but when you have to stay home and take care of your husband or wife that means two people in the family not working,” he said.

    Prokopiou added that disabled persons who earned over £275 a month or had £500 in the bank had their benefits cut immediately. Disabled people who do not have a job are entitled to state benefit of £250 a month. Those earning £200 a month per month are only entitled to half the state allowance “We are talking about peanuts,” Prokopiou said. He said that instead of offering an incentive to disabled people, they forced them to stay at home. “The President, ministers and members of the government increase their own salaries, double it, but all the allowances given to disabled persons date back to the colonial period,” he said.

    According to figures released to the House Labour Committee last year, 75 per cent of handicapped adults are unemployed but willing to work. Deputies pointed the finger at the Finance Ministry, “which we ended up being allergic to,” he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, May 22, 2003

    [04] Hotel workers threaten strike action

    By Sofia Kannas

    HOTEL employees’ unions threatened strike action yesterday after the continuing refusal of the Cyprus Hotel Association (PASYXE) to accept a collective agreement already approved by hotel employees earlier in the year.

    Hotel Association members were presented with a proposal drawn up by the Labour Ministry in January, but rejected it, claiming it did not include or safeguard concessions given to hoteliers in the 1998 collective agreement.

    Nicos Epistithiou, General Secretary of the SEK Cyprus Hotel Employees’ Federation, was adamant yesterday that industrial action would go ahead.

    “We have already decided on strike action,” he said. “The executive committees of the unions will meet (next week) to decide on the exact day of the strike.”

    Epistithiou reiterated that hotel employees had accepted the collective agreement proposal put forward by the Labour Ministry in January, but insisted that they would not be asking PASYXE to reconsider their position again.

    “We have the proposal of the mediator of the Labour Ministry in front of us and we accepted it. Only PASYXE says no, so we are not ready to renegotiate this or to reopen negotiations. It’s not our problem any more. If the Minister of Labour or Tourism or the hotel organisations want to interfere in order to make them (PASYXE) sign the agreement, then they can do that.”

    He stressed that PASYXE’s position was damaging the island’s hotel industry, which has suffered from a fall in bookings this year.

    “I am always hopeful - I hope PASYXE will accept (the agreement) in order to avoid any more problems for the industry,” he said. “If PASYXE insist on not accepting then they will be responsible, not us.”

    Zacharias Ioannides, Director General of PASYXE, told the Cyprus Mail that hoteliers still hoped the unions would review their stance.

    “We expect that the union leaders will demonstrate the prudent behaviour we are used to, especially in this difficult year for our tourism industry, and not proceed with strike action,” he said. “At the same time, we are looking forward to the Ministry’s intervention in order to avoid any such dynamic confrontation.”

    Ioannides stressed that his organisation had repeatedly turned down the proposal because it did not meet the criteria PASYXE had asked to be fulfilled.

    “PASYXE does not accept the mediation proposal because it does not fulfil the preconditions we asked to be satisfied, that would increase productivity in our industry,” he said.

    He emphasised that PASYXE particularly objected to the 25 per cent contribution fee hoteliers were to pay employees as part of their unemployment benefit.

    “It was a promise of the previous Minister of Labour back in 1998, that by the end of that year he was to make all the necessary changes in order to abolish this contribution by employers, which is not found in any other country,” he said. “It is the obligation of the government to provide the unemployment benefit and not us employers.”

    Ioannides added that PASYXE had offered its own concessions to hotel workers: “We stated our readiness to give pay rises to our employees provided these preconditions were satisfied, but they have been pending for five years now.”

    He reiterated that a resort to industrial action would not help either side.

    “We are hoping that no action will be taken because in such an event we will all be losers.”

    Union executive committees are scheduled to meet on May 27 to set a date for the planned strike.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, May 22, 2003

    [05] Government admits presidential car break down was driver error

    By Alex Mita

    THERE was confusion yesterday over government plans to replace the presidential car with a new one after it “broke down twice.”

    Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides announced on Tuesday that the President’s V12 BMW had over 170,000 Kilometres on the clock and that it had broken down twice while the President was inside.

    “The car broke down twice and one of those times was when the President was on his way to Larnaca airport to collect Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis,” he said.

    But sources at the BMW dealers yesterday revealed that the car had broken down through driver error and not through any mechanical fault. However, the dealers admitted the car had to be replaced because the mileage was too high.

    “A car with over 170,000 kilometres is not fit for driving the President of the Republic, because of the chassis wear and tear,” the source said.

    But a BMW specialist yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that the engine mileage had nothing to do with the chassis, and that if the government wished to save money it could easily replace the engine with a brand new one, instead of buying a new car.

    “If the engine has over 170,000 kilometres on it, then they could very well fit a new one instead of buying a new car,” the specialist said.

    “If you change the car’s engine, it’s like you have a new car. Engine mileage and chassis are two different things.”

    Speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, Chrysostomides admitted that the car had indeed broken down because of a mistake by the driver, but said no decision had yet been made on replacing the car.

    “This is a trivial matter. Is it that important? It is a matter for gossip, but I don’t think it’s that important an issue,” he said.

    “If there is a need to have a new car for the President then we will get a new car. The President is very conscious of expenses. The matter is under consideration,” he added.

    Chrysostomides also denied that the Cabinet had decided to upgrade ministerial car engines to a higher capacity.

    “There is no question of that,” he said.

    “The specifications were widened so that more companies could take part in the tender, because up to now only two companies could take part.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, May 22, 2003

    [06] Rare monk seal makes an appearance in Paphos harbour

    By Tania Khadder

    A MEDITERRANEAN monk seal swam up to the harbour in Paphos over the weekend, going and coming for the next three days while onlookers threw it fish, before disappearing for good.

    Local ecologist Martin Hellicar said the seals, which are one of Europe’s most endangered species, usually avoided contact with other mammals entirely.

    “It may have been lost or hungry, but it’s hard to say why it would swim up to the shore,” he said. “In any case, conservation-wise, it is a very interesting sighting.”

    The last time a monk seal was spotted in Cyprus was in August 2001 at Governor’s Beach near Limassol.

    The monk seal was thought to be extinct in Cyprus up until a few years ago, when a study found that they were still around the island and needed to be protected. There are reportedly five or six of them around southern Cyprus, and another five surrounding Apostolos Andreas.

    There are believed to be just 250 monk seals in the whole Mediterranean.

    The main threat to the seals is human activity causing water pollution, depleted food sources and accidental capture by fisherman.

    Tourist development also poses a major threat, as was the case at the Asprokremnos coast on the Akamas, where monk seals had bred in caves until they were driven away by explosions. The blasts were carried out, illegally, to make space for a massive hotel complex, the Ecological Movement said.

    Along with turtles and dolphins, the monk seal has been a protected species since 1971, and anyone found trying to kill or catch one can be fined £5, 000 and/or spend six months in jail.

    The Fisheries Department is now on alert to make sure the seal is not hunted down, and has asked anyone who comes across a monk seal to contact them on 22-303851, or to call the Environmental Services Department at 22- 303864.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, May 22, 2003

    [07] Two new suspected SARS patients hospitalised

    By a Staff Reporter

    HEAD OF Medical Services Constantinos Mallis confirmed yesterday that two individuals have been hospitalised with suspected SARS (severe acute respiratory sydrome) symptoms.

    Speaking to journalists at a press conference, Mallis confirmed that an 80- year-old man who displayed possible SARS symptoms was still at Limassol hospital yesterday, though medical tests showed he was not infected by the disease. Mallis added that the man would be released from hospital soon and had been asked to take precautionary measures when he returned home.

    Mallis also said a 50-year-old Cypriot woman had been admitted to Limassol hospital after she displayed SARS symptoms. He said medical test results ascertaining whether the woman was indeed Cyprus’ first victim of the disease, should be released within the next few days.

    Mallis reassured that all possible precautions were being taken by authorities in Cyprus to deal with a possible outbreak of the disease. He also revealed that a negative pressure chamber would open in Limassol Hospital in two weeks’ time.

    Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry yesterday announced that individuals coming to Cyprus from the Philippines for work will now be allowed into the country. The move follows the removal of the Philippines from the WHO (World Health Organisation) list of SARS-affected countries.

    In addition, people arriving in Cyprus from the Philippines will no longer be subject to precautionary health checks.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, May 22, 2003

    [08] 300 Greek Cypriots to be the first to travel to Turkey without visas

    By a Staff Reporter

    A 300-strong group of Greek Cypriot nurses and doctors are to cross into Turkey from Greece today to visit Istanbul, the Antatolia News Agency reported yesterday.

    Syrma Kurtogullary, an official from Plan Tours Travel Agency, said that the first Greek Cypriot tourist group would arrive in Istanbul without getting visas in line with this week’s decision by the Turkish government.

    “Plan Tours is bringing 300 members of the Nurses’ Union group from the Greek Cypriot side,” she said, adding that the group, which was attending a meeting in Greece, had decided to visit Turkey.

    “The group will stay in Istanbul for three days and visit the historical and tourist places. We expect the demand from South Cyprus to come to Turkey to increase after this visit,” she added.

    Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Greek Cypriots could travel to Turkey without visas from today.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

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