Turkish Cypriot groups in the north are speaking out against a decision by the Immovable Properties Commission that granted permission to Greek Cypriot Nicolas Skourides to build in his native town.
The case made headlines a few weeks ago, following reports in the Turkish Cypriot press that Skourides had been trying to build a home in his native Lapithos (Larnaca tis Lapithou/Kozankoy) but was facing some obstacles.
Skourides, aged 78, filed his case with the IPC, a committee that was set up by Turkey in order to examine property grievances from Greek Cypriots who were being denied access to their properties due to the division of the island.
“Without a solution, this kind of decisions are very dangerous and do not help advance the cause of peace” Bayar said
The IPC ruled last year that Skourides had the right to build his home in his native land, foregoing the two remaining options of monetary compensation and land exchange.
Shourides, whose house construction is at the very early stages in Lapithos, has yet to obtain a number of necessary permits for the project to continue.
Previous reports said some Turkish Cypriot groups were being inhospitable to Skourides while other locals in the area said they did not have any issue with the Greek Cypriot living there.
Djelal Bayar, the president of a Turkish Cypriot resistance fighters group (TMT), issued a written statement saying that the decision by Skourides to build has caused a lot of tension in the village.
In early June, Turkish Cypriot police were called to the construction site when people protested against diggers who attempted to work on the project.
“Without a solution [to the Cyprus problem] this kind of decisions are very dangerous and do not help advance the cause of peace,” Bayar said.
Technical reasons behind delay too
But the TMT fighter also added that that the decision was problematic for technical reasons too.
He said that a young Briton with Cypriot origins married a local girl and built their home in the area, but Skourides’ house would end up cutting into the couple’s yard and blocking access to their home.
Regulations in Cyprus on both sides provide for the right of access in such situations, so affected persons could seek legal ways to solve the problem.
But Bayar pointed out that at least three families would be affected by the right of access situation, adding that “the entire village is upset” over this.
“The IPC took a decision to return a plot of land to this ol’ EOKA fighter,” Bayar said, adding that without solution to the Cyprus problem it is not feasible to put together such agreements “piece by piece.”
Lack of trust
The statement, which was supported by other Turkish Cypriot groups including war veterans, added that problematic decisions should not be implemented while there is a “lack of trust”, echoing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who oversaw the failure of peace talks last summer and cited a lack of trust.
Bayar also criticised Greek Cypriots for insisting on “zero troops and zero guarantees” in a possible federal solution.
Turkish Cypriots say they want the Turkish military to be present on the island to act as deterrent, a position which is anathema to Greek Cypriots, who argue a modern EU state does not need outside guarantors.
Cyprus has been ethnically divided for half a century, split in two following a Turkish military invasion in July 1974 in response to a short-lived coup engineered by Athens. The Republic of Cyprus represented by Greek Cypriots in the south is a recognised state in the UN and EU while a self-declared state in the north is not recognised by anyone except Turkey.
Talks to reunite the island are currently frozen, with the latest negotiations collapsing one year ago in Switzerland’s Crans Montana and UN officials trying to explore whether there is a possibility to restart the process.