After 40 years, Turkey to pay 90 million euros
By Constantinos Psillides
THE EUROPEAN Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Monday that Turkey should pay €90 million in compensation to the relatives of the missing persons and the enclaved Greek Cypriot residents of the Karpasia peninsula due to violations arising from the Turkish invasion in 1974.
This decision marks the largest sum ever awarded by the ECHR in a case regarding Cypriot refugees and the 1974 invasion.
The ECHR requested that the amount be distributed by the Cypriot government to the individual victims under the supervision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The foreign minister of each member states sits on the committee and one of its tasks is to ensure that ECHR decisions are properly implemented.
According to the ruling, €30 million euros are to be distributed to the relatives of missing persons and €60 million to the families of the enclaved.
Turkey is required to comply within 18 months. For every day that passes after the 18 month mark, a penalty will be added.
In its ruling, the ECHR said the passage of time did not absolve Turkey from its responsibility. While the sum was only announced today, the original ECHR judgement was delivered 13 years ago, on 10 May 2001.
The government welcomed the ruling, said government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides in a press release.
Regarding the compensation awarded to relatives of missing persons, Christodoulides stressed that the government is pleased “but will not put an end to efforts aimed at exhuming and identifying the remains of every single missing person so their relatives can bury them”.
Regarding the compensation awarded to the enclaved, Christodoulides said that despite the fact that what they have been through cannot be measured in monetary terms, “the Cyprus government is pleased with the fact the court condemned once more the Turkish policy of violations and its attempt at altering demographics in the occupied areas.”
“The government expects the immediate compliance by Turkey through the adoption of the necessary measures to stop the illegal exploitation and sale of Greek Cypriot properties in the occupied areas and to pay the damages that have been adjudicated by the court,” the written statement reads.
Although the court’s decision is final, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu responded by saying that it was not binding, according to the Cyprus News Agency.
“This trial came back in the news after ten years. Definitely, when it comes to international law this decision is not binding. On the justice side, besides the fact that this decision is flawed, it comes at a very bad time since the Cyprus problem negotiations are on going,” he said. “A procedure has begun, initiated by Turkey, so from a psychological point of view it will not do the negotiations any good. This decision is not consistent with the atmosphere and climate that was spurred by the Cyprus negotiations so far.”
However, Riza Turmen, a former judge of the ECHR and now an opposition lawmaker in Turkey’s parliament, disagreed with Davutoglu saying that Ankara would be legally required to comply with the ruling.
“It’s extremely clear from Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says all signatories are committed to comply with final decisions,” Turmen told Reuters news agency.
Hugh Pope, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, said that the latest talks have progressed slowly, due in large part to a lack of trust between Greek Cypriots and Turks.
“This remains an extremely expensive unresolved problem,” Pope said, citing costs for Turkey that include military spending and financial assistance to the enclaved.
“The compensation is a drop in the ocean compared with the shiploads of costs that not solving the Cyprus solution has incurred for Turkey … since the 1960s,” he told Reuters.
In its original 2001 ruling the court had found numerous violations by Turkey, arising out of the military operations it had conducted in northern Cyprus in July and August 1974, the continuing division of Cyprus and the activities of the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’.
When Titina Loizidou, a refugee from Kyrenia, was also awarded compensation for her loss of property ($1 mil in 1998) Turkey again initially refused to comply with the court’s terms saying it would jeopardise attempts to settle similar claims. Turkey finally came to an understanding with the court, agreeing that it would pay Loizidou the money but under the condition that the case was not considered a precedent.
Monday’s ruling prompted swift reaction from political parties, although not everyone was pleased.
DISY MEP candidate Eleni Theocharous, speaking on behalf of her party, said that the ruling was a “landmark decision”. Theocharous added that it was proof that Cyprus could achieve its goals if it actively participated in all EU bodies. “The decision of course doesn’t put an end to Turkish occupation and partition but provides us with powerful legal and political weapons to keep fighting on a European level,” she said.
AKEL said that the party ws pleased with the decision, “which proves that the battles won are the ones fought”.
DIKO spokeswoman Christiana Erotokritou told the press that the ruling vindicates the relatives of missing persons, the refugees and those whose human rights were violated but “nothing can delete four decades of pain and injustice”.
EDEK said that the party was pleased Turkey had been fined by the court but clarified that “no monetary fine can make up for the consequences of the Turkish crime”.
“The ruling of course is not enough when it comes to compensate those who suffered. It cannot sooth the pain of the relatives or restore the decency of the enclaved, who were tyrannically oppressed by the occupying forces,” said EDEK.
The Citizen’s Alliance described the ECHR ruling as a “pyrrhic victory”, arguing that on the hand Turkey is being punished “for crimes committed against the Cyprus Republic” but on the other hand the party considers damages awarded as “a provocation and a mockery”. The Alliance accused the ECHR of using political criteria and not legal ones.
All parties said that they will study the ruling further.
The attorney general’s office also issued a released on the ruling, saying that it will be evaluated by the legal services and its advisors to decide on further action.
The ECHR ruling against Turkey
Reaching a decision was a long and arduous journey. Following the 2001 decision, on August 31, 2007 the Cypriot government informed the court that they intended to submit a request to the Grand Chamber for it to resume consideration of the question of just satisfaction. On March 11, 2010 the Cypriot government submitted to the court their claims for just satisfaction concerning the missing persons.
On November 25, 2011 the government sent the court a document concerning the procedure before the Committee of Ministers for execution of the 2001 judgement, requesting the court take certain steps in order to facilitate the execution of that judgement. In response to some further questions and an invitation from the court to submit a final version of their claims, the Cypriot government on June 18, 2012 submitted their claims under Article 41 concerning the missing persons, and raised claims in respect to the violations committed against the enclaved Greek Cypriot residents of the Karpasia peninsula.
UN first as woman appointed UNFICYP commander
THE United Nation’s first ever female commander of a UN peacekeeping force is to be appointed in Cyprus.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday announced the appointment of Major General Kristin Lund of Norway, as the force commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
Major General Lund will replace the outgoing force commander, Major General Chao Liu of China on August 13.
According to a press release, the secretary-general paid tribute to Major General Liu´s service with UNFICYP, “where his dedication, professionalism and leadership greatly contributed to the United Nations efforts in Cyprus”.
Born in 1958, Major General Lund has had a long military career, with over 34 years of military command and staff experience at national and international levels. As brigadier general, she served as deputy commander of the Norwegian army forces command from 2007 to 2009.
In 2009, she was the first female army officer to be promoted to the rank of Major General and was appointed chief of staff of the Norwegian Home Guard.
Her previous experience with the United Nations includes service with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR).
Major General Lund has extensive experience in multinational operations, including deployment to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Headquarters in Afghanistan.
Major General Lund graduated from the Norwegian Defence Command and Staff College, the Norwegian Defence University College, and the US Army War College where she obtained a Master of Strategic Studies.
Famagusta at the centre of Biden’s visit
By Elias Hazou
US VICE PRESIDENT Joe Biden is due on the island next week, the government confirmed on Monday.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said Biden was visiting at the invitation of President Nicos Anastasiades.
The visit was confirmed by the White House, who issued a press release on Monday saying that the vice president will visit Cyprus on May 21, following a visit to Romania. Biden will be escorted by his wife, Dr Jill Biden. The US vice president is to meet with “political leaders from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, civil society representatives, and faith leaders”, according to the press release.
Describing Biden’s upcoming visit as “extremely significant”, Christodoulides said it would be substantive, not ceremonial.
During his stay here, the US vice president is to discuss developments in the Cyprus peace talks, confidence-building measures and natural gas issues.
Christodoulides added that Biden is well-versed in the Cyprus problem and on the issue of Famagusta.
The United States has an interest in natural gas in the region, and is therefore keen on a settlement of the Cyprus issue, he added.
Noting that Nicosia was “making the most” of this US interest, the spokesman referred to Anastasiades’ statement that natural gas should be used an incentive, particularly where Turkey is concerned, for solving the island’s decades-long dispute.
Anastasiades had said energy cooperation between Cyprus and Turkey was possible provided that a political solution is reached first. Turkey has warned of repercussions should Greek Cypriots begin monetising their natural gas without sharing the wealth with Turkish Cypriots.
During his stay on the island, the US vice president is also set to meet with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu. Christodoulides said arrangements are being made in advance to rule out any actions during Biden’s visit to the north that might upgrade the status of the breakaway regime.
It’s understood this is the first visit to the island by a US vice president since Lyndon Johnson travelled here in 1962.
Local media are reporting that during Biden’s trip the United States is set to announce the financing of a master plan for the occupied town of Famagusta, including the fenced-off area known as Varosha.
One of the pending issues is to clarify the prospect of the return of Varosha under UN administration, as the Greek Cypriot side is proposing.
Sources told the Cyprus News Agency that experts will be allowed to enter Famagusta for inspection and to facilitate their studies on the master plan.
The United Nations has called for the return of Varosha to its lawful inhabitants but so far Ankara has refused to comply with such calls.
Reports said that during Biden’s visit an announcement should also be expected on a de-mining agreement in three areas, two in the government-controlled areas and one in the north.
Meanwhile the issue of Famagusta as well as Biden’s visit to Cyprus are expected to be discussed in Washington on Tuesday at a meeting of US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides.
The agenda of those talks would feature the Cyprus question, energy, the unfolding situation in the Ukraine and other issues of mutual interest, the government spokesman said.
Washington had informed Nicosia of Biden’s trip last week. The US government was planning to announce the visit on Monday, but were beaten to the punch by the Turkish Cypriot leader.
Eroglu apparently spilled the beans to Turkish newspaperHabertürk, forcing Nicosia to acknowledge Biden’s trip ahead of time.
According to reports, the Habertürk journalist, in the north to interview the Turkish Cypriot leader, spotted US Ambassador John Koenig as the latter was departing from Eroglu’s ‘presidential’ residence. When the reporter inquired about Koenig’s visit, Eroglu proceeded to reveal that he and Koenig had talked about Biden’s planned visit to the island.
Habertürk ran its story on Sunday. On Monday, however, Eroglu’s office released a statement denying that he had disclosed, on the record, the details of Biden’s visit during the interview.
In the same interview, the hard-line Eroglu was quoted as saying that the best solution in Cyprus would be the creation of two separate states. Eroglu also conveyed the impression that he was not happy with Biden’s visit, adding that the Americans were primarily concerned with the interests of the Greek Cypriots.
Asked to comment on Eroglu’s remarks, the government spokesman said UN resolutions spell out what form a solution should take – a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
It has been three months since the latest round of peace talks got underway. Commentators say lack of progress in the Cyprus negotiations has elicited more active US involvement, with Washington eager to facilitate a peace deal in at least one troubled region of the Middle East.
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