Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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Media Watch 2005

29 June 2005
Source: Guardian
Author: Helena Smith
Comment: The following article appeared in the Guardian of London on 27 June 2005.
Buyer beware: how the bottom fell out of the Cypriot holiday dream
"As ever more Greek Cypriots, exploiting EU law, launch legal proceedings for properties they were forced to abandon during the 1974 Turkish invasion, many of these UK citizens have discovered that their title deeds are worthless... Alarmed by the leap in claims, the Foreign Office urged would-be British buyers to seek independent legal advice before entering into any deal... In a landmark case with possible repercussions for thousands of UK property owners, Linda and David Orams, an East Sussex couple, lost their appeal against a court order, issued in the Greek-run south, to demolish their villa and return the plot to Miltiades Apostolides, its original owner, who says he still has the title deeds 30 years after fleeing the north... The Orams face the prospect of having their home in Hove seized... But Greek Cypriots, heartened by support from the European court of human rights, show no sign of backing down. For them, the new settlers are the owners of ill-gotten gains... "The original owners never stopped having legal title to their land," said Kypros Chrysostomides, a spokesman for the Cypriot government. "What all these people have done is not only immoral but illegal.""

he following article appeared in the Guardian of London on 27 June 2005 written by Helena Smith in the occupied northern territories of Cyprus. While the article does bring to light the property issue and makes some interesting points, Lobby takes issue with the description of the occupied zone as 'Northern Cyprus'.
"Buyer beware: how the bottom fell out of the Cypriot holiday dream

For most, it is all about buying into a dream: a home from home in sunny Northern Cyprus. But instead of lapping up the sun around the pool, several thousand Britons who have rushed to invest in the pariah state are falling victim to the partitioned island's politics.

As ever more Greek Cypriots, exploiting EU law, launch legal proceedings for properties they were forced to abandon during the 1974 Turkish invasion, many of these UK citizens have discovered that their title deeds are worthless.

"It used to be Turkish Cypriots here who were made to feel like second-class citizens," said one resident who gave her name as Prudence but refused to give her surname. "Now, with all these property claims, it's us English.

"The other day a Greek Cypriot actually walked straight into my kitchen and said 'this house is mine.' It was awful."

Few issues have poisoned Cyprus's fraught politics more than the land claims. This month, the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, said the legal suits had opened new fronts of acrimony on the island.

"The prospect of an increase in litigations in property cases poses a serious threat to people-to-people relationships and to the reconciliation process," he said.

Alarmed by the leap in claims, the Foreign Office urged would-be British buyers to seek independent legal advice before entering into any deal.

The warning came just weeks after the Turkish Cypriot leadership threatened to close entry points into the territory from the south if the litigation continued.

"It's only normal that British people here are afraid of what has happened," the breakaway republic's prime minister, Feder Soyer, told the Guardian. "But I keep telling them, 'Don't be afraid. We'll try to solve the Cyprus problem and save the houses you have bought.'"

In a landmark case with possible repercussions for thousands of UK property owners, Linda and David Orams, an East Sussex couple, lost their appeal against a court order, issued in the Greek-run south, to demolish their villa and return the plot to Miltiades Apostolides, its original owner, who says he still has the title deeds 30 years after fleeing the north.

The Orams face the prospect of having their home in Hove seized if, under EU laws and regulations, the case is transferred to Britain and they fail to comply.

Emboldened by Mr Apostolides's apparent success, hundreds of other Greek Cypriots have also filed petitions with local courts to reclaim properties.

After years of living the good life in a state that fits Somerset Maugham's description of Monaco as a sunny place for shady people (with only Turkey recognising the republic, numerous fugitives have sought refuge here), many Britons say they now feel under siege.

Some 6,000 UK citizens, including a handful of former British MPs, are believed to have homes in the republic. Some, such as Lord Kilclooney of Armagh, have several cottages. Like most long-time residents, the former Ulster Unionist MP was an unabashed apologist for Rauf Denktash, the veteran leader who bowed out of politics in April after Turkish Cypriots turned against him and voted in favour of reuniting the island.

But the vast majority are newcomers. Sensing financial gains, they were drawn by bargain prices - less than £50,000 for a two-bedroom villa with swimming pool - offered by an explosion of estate agents.

Enthusiasm is such that many have bought off-plan and over the internet, often signing away their life's savings.

"Many British buyers have been very naive," admitted Sefika Durduran, a prominent local lawyer. "There's been a great deal of definite legal misrepresentation with a lot of estate agents choosing not to disclose the risks to prospective buyers."

Alarmed that they might stand to lose their homes, hundreds of Britons have formed an international lobby group to defend the rights of foreigners living in properties formerly owned by Greek Cypriots.

"We are building a war chest, and we shall put that to good use," the group declared.

But Greek Cypriots, heartened by support from the European court of human rights, show no sign of backing down. For them, the new settlers are the owners of ill-gotten gains.

"The original owners never stopped having legal title to their land," said Kypros Chrysostomides, a spokesman for the Cypriot government. "What all these people have done is not only immoral but illegal.""