Turkey finally pays Loizidou

In an historic step which acknowledged the damage caused by its invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Turkey yesterday handed over $1.1 million to Cypriot refugee Titina Loizidou, the sum which had been awarded to her by the European Court of Human Rights in respect of just satisfaction for property seized in 1974. But, in a last-minute move, Turkey managed to evade the demands of the judgment of July 28, 1998. The court will examine Loizidou’s bid to return to her home in Kyrenia in 2005, following a vote by a two-thirds majority in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Greece and Cyprus voted against the proposal «on principle,» Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis said. Ankara wanted to delay the unconditional acceptance of the 1998 decision, arguing that by 2005 the Cyprus issue will have been solved and all issues raised by the Turkish invasion will have been solved. Shortly after the vote, both Greece and Turkey expressed satisfaction – the first because compensation had been paid and the second because it achieved the delay until 2005. Ankara was afraid that the case would set a precedent, as another 450 cases are pending with the court. The committee’s decisions «are in keeping with Turkey’s approach and meet our expectations,» the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. «Although the judgment in question is considered unjust and erroneous, (compensating Loizidou) is an indication of the government’s willingness to fulfill the common responsibility for preserving the credibility of the European Court of Human Rights,» it said. «Furthermore it eliminates an obstacle in the development of our relations with the Council of Europe and the European Union.» Ankara took as part of the decision the Committee spokesman’s comment that the application of the Court of Human Rights decision would not set a precedent. Diplomatic sources in Athens, however, said that this claim was groundless. Loizidoiu began her courtroom battle in 1989, after a fourth failed attempt to walk home across the buffer zone, with other Greek-Cypriot women. «We are identified with the place we came from. I felt that by taking Turkey to court was another way of expressing my wish to go home,» she told Reuters yesterday. «I do not have any hard feelings toward the Turks… I would have taken my case against anyone depriving me of my rights.» In Athens, Yiannitsis said, «With today’s payment of just satisfaction to Mrs Loizidou, Turkey is adhering to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights… The decision awards compensation, recognizing Turkey’s responsibility for the violations of the rights of Greek Cypriots displaced by the invasion and occupation of part of Cyprus.» Yiannitsis said Greece and Cyprus had coordinated their actions over the past five years to achieve just compensation and protect the standing of the European Court. «It is also clear that with persistence, consistency and unwavering adherence to principles and values, something which five years ago appeared incredible is now materializing,» Yiannitsis said. But he said that Athens and Nicosia had voted «in principle» against the Committee decision that delayed the ownership issue until 2005. He said Turkey must «restore Mrs Loizidou’s right to property and end the enforced and illegal situation.»