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

09 May 2005
Source: Guardian
Author: Alex Efty
Comment: The following breaking news article appeared on the website of the Guardian of London on 9 May 2005.
Cypriots battle over luxury real estate
"Europeans who long bought property in northern Cyprus at bargain prices – often land confiscated from Greek Cypriot refugees who fled after a Turkish invasion 31 years ago split the island – now face the prospect of losing it because of Cyprus' entry into the European Union... The invasion forced nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriots to leave their homes in the north and 40,000 Turkish Cypriots to relocate there from the south. More than 150,000 settlers from mainland Turkey also have arrived in intervening years, taking over Greek Cypriot properties in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Now British newspapers are warning citizens not to buy in northern Cyprus... The London Observer wrote in a full page report that buying such holiday property "could become a legal and financial nightmare. Recent court rulings by the Human Rights Court of the Council of Europe and a Greek Cypriot court have reaffirmed the property restitution rights of Greek Cypriot refugees... Before the Turkish invasion of 1974, 82 percent of northern Cyprus territory was Greek Cypriot-owned and 16.5 percent Turkish Cypriot, according to Cypriot government statistics."

The following breaking news article appeared on the website of the Guardian of London on 9 May 2005 by Alex Efty, Associated Press writer. Interestingly, this article does not seem to be available on the Guardian website search facility.
"Cypriots Battle Over Luxury Real Estate

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) - Linda and David Orams carved out their own paradise two years ago in the tiny northern Cyprus village of Lapithos, building a dream villa on the side of a mountain that slopes down to the blue Mediterranean Sea.

Now, a court here has told them to tear it down - and threatened to confiscate their property back home in Britain if they don't.

The couple is caught in the middle of the latest fight in war-divided Cyprus - this time over luxury real estate.

Europeans who long bought property in northern Cyprus at bargain prices - often land confiscated from Greek Cypriot refugees who fled after a Turkish invasion 31 years ago split the island - now face the prospect of losing it because of Cyprus' entry into the European Union last year.

The Cypriot government estimates 10,000 foreigners have snapped up Greek Cypriot property in the north, including homes in posh residential villages that local people complain tarnish the coast's natural beauty.

Last week, British real estate agents and 200 mostly British foreigners who have bought property here met in the northern town of Kyrenia to engage a firm of British lawyers and launch a $2.5 million appeal fund to defend their cases.

Cyprus has been split into a Greek Cypriot-controlled south and the Turkish-occupied north since Turkey invaded in 1974. Turkey alone recognizes the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north, and keeps 40,000 troops there.

The invasion forced nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriots to leave their homes in the north and 40,000 Turkish Cypriots to relocate there from the south. More than 150,000 settlers from mainland Turkey also have arrived in intervening years, taking over Greek Cypriot properties in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Now British newspapers are warning citizens not to buy in northern Cyprus, where hundreds of billboards advertising property sales line roads that hug the pristine coast.

The London Observer wrote in a full page report that buying such holiday property "could become a legal and financial nightmare.''

Court cases against Europeans occupying former Greek properties have fueled similar cases by Greek Cypriot refugees against Turkish Cypriots living in their homes.

The first such case, to be heard Tuesday, is seen as a major test that could potentially affect thousands of people on both sides.

``We will not bow our heads in the property game and we will not allow them (the Greek Cypriots) to drag our people into a state of fear and anxiety,'' said Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer.

Soyer, quoted Monday by the English-language Turkish Cypriot daily Cyprus Times, said the Turkish side was prepared for a legal and political battle with Greek Cypriots over the property issue.

Recent court rulings by the Human Rights Court of the Council of Europe and a Greek Cypriot court have reaffirmed the property restitution rights of Greek Cypriot refugees.

In the Orams' case, a Cypriot government court ordered the couple to demolish their two-story villa in the north and pay hefty compensation to a Greek Cypriot refugee for illegally using his property.

Antony Loizou, a Greek Cypriot property surveyor, estimated the value of the Orams' villa at between $300,000 and $500,000.

With Cyprus' EU entry, the ruling has greater clout because British authorities could enforce the decision against the Orams, resulting in the possible confiscation of their property in England.

Before the Turkish invasion of 1974, 82 percent of northern Cyprus territory was Greek Cypriot-owned and 16.5 percent Turkish Cypriot, according to Cypriot government statistics.

That all changed, however, after Turkish Cypriot authorities confiscated Greek Cypriot-owned properties in the north and distributed them, with title deeds, to Turkish Cypriots and mainland Turkish settlers.

Much of the property that has been sold to Europeans - worth many millions - is land that was allocated to Turkish settlers who then sell it to developers and return to Turkey.

Lawyers and politicians from both sides warn that legal battles between Greek and Turkish Cypriots could hurt relations amid flagging U.N.-led efforts to reunite the island.

``This is a complicated issue and it can only be settled on the basis of an overall settlement of the Cyprus problem,'' said Greek Cypriot Interior Minister Andreas Christou.

Nevertheless, Christou backed legal action against foreigners.

"There is a difference between a Turkish Cypriot who has been forced by circumstances to move into a Greek Cypriot home, and a foreigner flouting the law by buying property belonging to a Greek Cypriot refugee for a holiday home,'' he said."