Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
Print this page Print Bookmark and Share
Media Watch 2005

02 June 2005
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Menelaos Hadjicostis
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 2 June 2005.
Sales of GC properties in north slashed
"SALES of Greek Cypriot property in the occupied north have been slashed by half this year over last, thanks to a government campaign warning foreign nationals of the legal troubles they could face, Interior Minister Andreas Christou said... the campaign’s central message was that selling off property in the north is of no benefit to either community as it would complicate settlement efforts. "...these actions are illegal, they poison the atmosphere and create more problems in the search for a Cyprus solution,"... Nicosia has mounted an international diplomatic offensive to persuade foreign governments that property sales in the north are in breach of international law and UN resolutions... "Foreigners are responsible. We should send the message that this country is not for sale," said Christou."

SALES of Greek Cypriot property in the occupied north have been slashed by half this year over last, thanks to a government campaign warning foreign nationals of the legal troubles they could face, Interior Minister Andreas Christou said.

Christou told the House Refugee Committee that, far from being vindictive, the campaign’s central message was that selling off property in the north is of no benefit to either community as it would complicate settlement efforts.

"Such actions don’t serve the interests of the Cypriot people...there needs to be a continual reminder that these actions are illegal, they poison the atmosphere and create more problems in the search for a Cyprus solution," said Christou.

Disy MP George Georgiou quoted sources saying that the breakaway regime issued 2,900 property sale ‘permits’ to foreign nationals between April, 2004 and April, 2005.

He said Turkish, Turkish Cypriot and Israeli companies are behind beachfront construction projects in Famagusta and Vokolida worth an astonishing ?2.5b

Georgiou said he recently persuaded a Greek Cypriot man living in Athens not to put up for sale 5.5 acres of land he owns in Ayios Therissos.

"There’s little optimism that the occupation regime and developers will move to suspend mass development of Greek Cypriot property," said Georgiou.

Results

Nicosia has mounted an international diplomatic offensive to persuade foreign governments that property sales in the north are in breach of international law and UN resolutions.

Christou said the campaign has produced results. Contributing to that have been official government advisories in countries such as Ireland warning citizens that they could face legal action by Greek Cypriots if they proceed with dubious land purchases.

Two Russian daily newspapers with a circulation of three million each have also carried articles warning against purchases.

Moreover, scores of Greek Cypriots have started taking legal action against foreign nationals, contractors and real estate agents implicated in illegal property development.

Christou said the legal barrage in the form of court summonses or arrest warrants has also unnerved Turkish Cypriots who are seeking advice on how to shield themselves from possible Greek Cypriot court challenges.

Last week, warrants were issued in 118 countries for the arrest of three Turkish Cypriots and a Briton in connection with illegal property development in the north.

Christou said the watershed Orams court case was pivotal in discouraging foreign nationals from buying up Greek Cypriot property in the north.

A court last November ordered Linda and David Orams, from Hove, East Sussex, to destroy their villa in occupied Lapithos and pay damages to the Greek Cypriot refugee who owns the property it’s built on.

However, the minister said even a drastic drop in illegal land deals can be considered as positive as long as Greek Cypriot property in the north continues to be plundered.

He said some illegal deals may never come to light until a settlement is reached.

Georgiou said his committee would investigate persistent rumours that Greek Cypriots have made off-the-book property deals with Turkish Cypriots.

"A final settlement to this issue will come with a Cyprus solution, but this doesn’t mean that until then, we should create more problems beyond those that already exist," said Christou.

The minister said appealed for "wisdom and calm" so that bitter feelings over the property issue don’t prevail to turn both communities against each other.

"Foreigners are responsible. We should send the message that this country is not for sale," said Christou.

No qualms

Meanwhile, a leading real estate agency in the north has reportedly trawled the Middle East for more foreign nationals with "no qualms" about buying up property there.

According to Turkish Cypriot daily Cyprus Times, Hillcrest Estates staged exhibitions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in search of clients willing to invest in property.

The paper quoted Hillcrest director Simon Jocham as saying that "hardly no one" expressed concern about the legal ramifications of property sales in the north over three "very busy" days.

"Those who know the recent history of Cyprus are happy to invest in a country that offers such outstanding value for money," said Jocham, who pitched the occupied north as the "slumbering goldmine" of the emerging property market.

Hillcrest is behind such development projects as a hotel apartment complex in Akanthou and a golf course in Ayios Amvrosios.

Moreover, Turkish Cypriot daily Halkin Sesi reported that 24 British businessmen are in the north looking for investment opportunities, particularly in real estate.

The 24, representing companies including Singh Building Construction, Davies Developers and Charles Sinclair & Co said the British High Commission in Nicosia had offered to cover all their expenses if they entered Cyprus through Larnaca Airport.

However, they refused and opted to fly from Gatwick to illegal Tymbou through Antalya instead.

The businessmen will meet with tourism ‘minister’ Kemal Dervis."