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Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Epitaphios walk at St. George Exorinos church in Famagusta

People, mostly refugee, flocked by the thousands to attend Good Friday mass at the Church of St. George Exorinos in occupied Famagusta for the first time in 58 years.

The video, just uploaded on my YouTube channel, depicts people with candles walking with the Epitaphios -- which symbolizes the tomb of the body of Christ in the Orthodox traditions.

Notable was a local Muslim Cleric joining church service in a sign of interfaith harmony.

Also in attendance was Alexis Galanos, the Greek Cypriot mayor-in-exile of the sprawling coastal city who told a packed church that the ceremony sent a message of reconciliation and hope.

“Famagusta is the key.  Good Friday is the day between Christ’s crucifixion and the hope of resurrection. We have hope. And we hope next year to return to our city,” he said.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ground-breaking Good Friday mass in occupied north

(Reuters) - For the first time in more than half a century, a church in northern Cyprus will host Good Friday mass in a sign of a thaw in relations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

Off limits to Greek Cypriots for 58 years, the Church of St. George Exorinos in the medieval city of Famagusta will host a liturgy on what is one of the most important religious dates in the Greek Orthodox calendar.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Washington is Pressing Turkey on the Ghost Town of Varosha

( - Washington is pressing Turkey to allow experts funded by the US to carry out reports on how the ghost town of Varosha can be transformed into a livable eco-friendly resort.

But the Turkish side continues to raise conditions that cannot be met, insiders told The Cyprus Weekly yesterday.

"They won't even allow the experts funded exclusively by the US to get in and start the project which will take at least six to nine months to be completed, anyway," one source said.

"They want to get conditions met first, and their conditions seem to always lead to the same unacceptable demand for recognition (of the breakaway regime in Turkish-held north)," added the inside source.

One of the Turkish demands is that Famagusta port comes under their control once it opens, and not under the European Union's as proposed by President Anastasiades.

Also, when it comes to the occupied airport of Tymbou or 'Ercan', Nicosia agrees to its full operation but under the condition that it is under the Cyprus Republic's FIR.

Except for the last 20 kilometres when it would be under Turkish Cypriot guidance and this is due to safety reasons and a standard procedure for most regional airports.

"For example, a plane landing in Perth, Australia, is under the FIR of the federal state until it is 20 kilometres away from its destination. Then it comes under Perth, Western Australia's FIR, for safety reasons," an informed source said.

Anastasiades insists on the immediate return of Famagusta to its lawful Greek Cypriot inhabitants and its re-opening under UN and EU auspices. He argues that this is a confidence-building measure that will certainly boost recently re-launched UN-brokered efforts to reunite the island.

A master plan on the re-opening of the port city - whose infrastructure has crumbled over the years - was drafted by the island's Technical Chamber a few years back.

But technocrats agree that the Chamber's master plan would need to be updated.

Nonetheless, the Chamber has been kept completely in the dark when it comes to this new initiative by the US, informed sources said.  

"A group of US experts were on the island recently, visiting Famagusta and holding workshops but that's all we know, the Chamber was not asked to contribute with ideas or relevant information," a source said.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Some Hope for the Greek Cypriots Enclaved in the Occupied North

A landmark case at the European Court of Human Rights has safeguarded the rights of relatives of Greeks in Istanbul to inherit property even if they are not Turkish nationals.  And this raises hopes for the Greek Cypriots enclaved in the occupied Karpas peninsula where the non-inheritance policy is also applied by the Turkish regime.

This is the view of Achilleas Demetriades - one of the lawyers in the case of late Polyxeni Foka whose blood brothers were awarded five million euros by the Strasbourg-based Court on October 1, 2013.

“I believe this is an important case because it repeats the rights of ‘Romioi’ in Istanbul to have their properties inherited by their heirs who may not necessarily be of Turkish nationality.”

He added: “And it also has a link to Cyprus because a similar policy of non-inheritance was applied with the Karpas enclaved persons who, when they pass away, their relatives living in the government-controlled areas are not allowed to inherit.”

Ekaterini-born Polyxeni was adopted by Apostolos and Elisabeth Bitsika, wealthy Greeks of Istanbul, or Romioi (Greek: Ῥωμαῖοι/Greek: Ρωμιοί, "Romans") as they were branded by the Turks, back in the mid-50s.

She lived there happily and in very comfortable surroundings and when the father died in 1981, the mother inherited the family property.

The mother died in 1987 and Polyxeni actually inherited the property – both movable and immovable property.  But later on the Turkish state decided that this inheritance was contrary to the existing law because she was not a Turkish national.  By that time, she was not very well and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital called Zentiburul with the authorities appointing a guardian.

Meanwhile, her two blood brothers from Ekaterini wanted to help and began contacting Polyxeni who passed away in hospital in 2000.  That’s when the brothers’ interest in the inheritance led to the launch of a litigation in Turkey but their bid was unsuccessful.

So, in 2002 an application was submitted before the ECHR claiming the inheritance rights of the brothers.  The case was successful in 2009 when the Court accepted that a violation had occurred and their right to the property was established.

On October 1, 2013, the judgment for just satisfaction was announced awarding the brothers the sum of €5 million for loss of use and for expropriation and moral damages they had suffered because of these violations.

---Applicable to the enclaved---

Amendments to the ‘inheritance law’ in the occupied areas are already underway and the matter is being discussed before the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, said Achilleas Demetriades.

“It is expected to be finally resolved in June 2014. That is when the Committee of Ministers will issue a decision whether the ‘law’ is in fact adequate remedy to satisfy the actions taken by Turkey remedy the breaches which have been established by the 4th interstate application,” Demetriades said.

“I understand certain memos were generated but it’s a matter handled by the Attorney General’s office…I think the properties in Istanbul may very well be the subject matter of a new immovable property commission set up by Turkey to deal with this dormant for quite some time issue,” he added.

Demetriades wondered whether any of the enclaved people will initiate legal proceedings to challenge the new ‘law’ in the occupied areas and then in Strasbourg.  “The matter of the enclaved is part of the interstate application and the government should deal with it,” he said.