Turkish Cypriot newspaper reports destruction of churches

May 29, 1999

On May 20, the Turkish Cypriot newspaper "Avrupa" criticized the destruction and desecration of churches in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus and wondered how the T/C would react if the Greek Cypriots destroyed mosques in the Government-held areas of the Republic.

Daily "Avrupa", which is often critical of the illegal regime in the areas of Cyprus occupied by Turkey since 1974, said "either the churches are protected or they should be completely destroyed so that the Turkish Cypriots are not internationally portrayed as vandals."

It is estimated that more than 500 churches in the Turkish occupied areas, some of them dating back to the Byzantine era, have been destroyed, looted or used for other purposes such as stables or store-houses.

"Avrupa" referred to the issue after photographs were published in T/C newspapers showing the desecrated interior of a church and a second church which has been turned into a stable.


Foreign experts from the international, non-governmental organization "Physicians for Human Rights" arrived in Cyprus late May and started the work of exhuming and examining remains belonging to Greek-Cypriot and Greek war dead of the Turkish invasion in July and August 1974.

The organization "Physicians for Human Rights" in 1997 shared the Nobel Peace Prize with another organization. The team of experts, headed by Professor William Haglund, would carry out exhumations at two cemeteries, one in Nicosia and one in the suburb of Lakatamia, seven kilometers south of the capital.

According to the Co-Chairman of the Committee of Relatives of Missing Persons, Nicos Theodosiou the "infrastructure work is in its final stages and we are well on the road to implement the political decision to establish the identity of these people."

The government of the Republic has announced its decision to begin the process of exhumation and identification of remains, through scientific means, belonging to Greek Cypriots and Greeks killed during the Turkish invasion, whose identity was not verified at the time of burial.

As part of their preliminary work, the team of experts started examining the soil in a cemetery near Nicosia. Professor William Haglund who leads the team said " we are digging a test trench and the test trench offers us a window to look into the ground, we are not going to encounter any human remains."

Meanwhile on May 29 UNFICYP in Nicosia welcomed this new development and said that that any steps which help implement an agreement reached between the two sides in Cyprus, regarding humanitarian issues, are welcome.

An official of the United Nations peace-keeping force told the Cyprus News Agency that "any steps which help to implement the July 31 agreement are welcome".


On May 6 Cyprus signed a protocol of the European Convention for the protection of human rights concerning the abolition of the death penalty.

Protocol Nr 6 was signed on the occasion of the extraordinary meeting of the Council of Europe's (CoE) Committee of Foreign Ministers held in Budapest. The protocol was signed on behalf of Cyprus by Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides.


Britain's new High Commissioner Edward Clay on May 12 presented his credentials to President Clerides and said that his government remains engaged in efforts aiming at establishing a bizonal, bicommunal federation in Cyprus. Mr. Clay had served in Nicosia as counsellor in 1985.

Both the Cyprus President and the British High Commissioner pointed to the importance of Cyprus' bid to join the European Union (EU) and referred to the close ties and commercial relationship between the two countries. Clay said he takes up his appointment at an "important juncture" and recalled Prime Minister Tony Blair's commitment to "a sustained effort this year in support of the UN in the search for a settlement to the Cyprus problem."

"We want to help Cyprus to a future which ensures the security and prosperity of all those who live on the island. We believe that a bizonal, bicommunal federation based on political equality remains the best way to achieve that end and to meet the legitimate concerns of both sides," he added. Expressing support to Cyprus' application to join the EU, the British High Commissioner said "we believe that membership would be in the interests of both communities."

"The best possible outcome would be accession by a re-united Cyprus," he said, adding Britain is working to achieve steady progress and a positive outcome in the accession negotiations which got underway last year.


On May 28 the US President Bill Clinton announced his intent to nominate Donald Bandler to be US Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus. Bandler, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is currently on the National Security Council staff where he has been special assistant to the President, senior director for European Affairs, and counselor to the National Security Advisor for the NATO Summit. He is to replace Kenneth Brill, who is expected to leave in July. Bandler, a native of Pennsylvania and resident of Maryland, has served in Paris and Bonn.

The new Ambassador designate studied Political Science and he speaks fluently French and German.


A Cyprus parliamentary delegation headed by the President of the House Spyros Kyprianou in May paid an official visit to Iran at the invitation of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and held meetings with the First Vice President Hassan Habibi and other Iranian officials.

During all meetings the Iranian officials stressed Iran's support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus and underlined that Iran favors a peaceful solution to the Cyprus problem based on relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.

Upon his return to Cyprus the President of the House Mr. Kyprianou said that a visit to Iran by a multi-party parliamentary delegation has paved the way for increased cooperation in all fields and has established that religion is no obstacle to closer links between Cyprus and Iran. He described his visit as "excellent and very successful", noting that "it was made clear that Iran wishes closer cooperation with Cyprus."


The Third All Trade Union Forum, which took place on May 28 and May 29 in Nicosia with the participation of 17 Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot trade unions, adopted a declaration, which calls on all parties to work towards a peaceful solution of the Cyprus problem.

The declaration was signed by 16 of the 17 participating trade unions, representing the whole spectrum of the working class of Cyprus. Delegates reiterated the "unanimous declarations" of the previous two Fora, which took place in 1995 and 1997, and declared that "they aim at a speedy and just solution of the Cyprus problem, based on a federal democratic system."

They also stated that "the high level agreements (between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides in 1977 and 1979) and the relevant resolutions of the UN must be realized with full respect of the human rights of all the citizens", calling also for "the establishment of a unitary economy without any form of discrimination".

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