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Media Watch 2003

12 September 2003
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 12 September 2003.
Italy 'active' in getting Karpass school reopened

THE European Union’s Italian Presidency is “actively engaged” in efforts to reopen the gymnasium in occupied Rizokarpasso after Rauf Denktash this week turned down a government request to allow enclaved Greek Cypriot children to attend classes there.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday gave assurances to Karpasia Coordinating Committee Chairman Nicos Falas that the EU has “warmly embraced” efforts to reopen the school 28 years after Rauf Denktash padlocked its doors.

“I wouldn’t say I’m entirely optimistic that the school will reopen, but we’re encouraged by the fact that the European Union’s Italian Presidency has undertaken intensive efforts to see that it does,” Falas told The Cyprus Weekly after yesterday’s meeting.

Sources revealed that the Greek Foreign Minister yesterday contacted his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul to convince Ankara to pressure Rauf Denktash into reopening the school.

The school is seen as vital in maintaining the 500-strong Greek Cypriot population living in Karpass-area villages, the last of thousands who became trapped behind enemy lines after invading Turkish forces cut the island in two in August, 1974.

Children graduating from Rizokarpasso primary school are compelled to enrol in gymnasiums in the south, effectively banishing them from their birthplace since the occupation regime doesn’t allow them back once they turn 18.

European Parliament President Pat Cox pledged to raise the gymnasium issue to both Ankara and Denktash after Euro MPs denounced as “unacceptable and deplorable” last week’s expulsion of a Greek Cypriot schoolteacher couple from Rizokarpasso.

Falas said his association’s stop-gap proposal to temporarily add two extra grades to Rizokarpasso’s primary school could help keep children in the village this year.

It could also offer Denktash a convenient way to save face by allowing him to not backtrack on his decision to keep the village’s gymnasium under lock and key.

Falas also said that the Greek Foreign Minister is holding high-level contacts with EU officials in a bid to include Karpass-area villages under Greek Cypriot administration following a Cyprus settlement.