Greek Cypriots see partial victory in Loizidou case

NICOSIA – Greek Cypriots yesterday welcomed Turkey’s unprecedented decision to comply with a court order to compensate a refugee for property seized when Turkish troops invaded the island in 1974, but said it should have gone further. Turkey, which hopes to join the European Union, was given several deadlines to meet a European Court verdict to respect the property rights of Greek-Cypriot Titina Loizidou before it paid her 1.12 million euros on Tuesday. However, a second part of the verdict – which would have given her the right to return to her home in the Turkish-held north of the divided Mediterranean island – was put on the backburner, prompting a mixed reaction among Greek Cypriots. «Compensation yes, returning no,» was the headline in the mass-selling daily Politis, where one columnist said political horse-trading stood in the way of human rights’ enforcement. Any debate on execution of the second element in the verdict, unfettered access to her property, was deferred until at least 2005. Turkey hopes to start EU accession talks after an end-2004 review and political analysts in Nicosia said the date was a deliberate inference to Turkey’s EU membership bid. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the payment showed Turkey accepted responsibility for rights violations in Cyprus. «With the 2005 date, there’s a clear message that Turkey must clear up these issues in 2004. There’s a message that these property issues are important,» he told reporters in Athens. «That Turkey paid up is great news… but they managed to hold off on the right to return until they get a clearer picture of the EU’s intentions,» said analyst James Ker-Lindsay. «Essentially, Titina Loizidou’s right to physically go back is now going to be held hostage to grand European politics.» The case has taken on a wider importance because of Ankara’s concern that a payout could block a general settlement of thousands of claims on both sides of the divided island. The divided island is home to an estimated 167,000 Greek Cypriots and 30-40,000 Turkish-Cypriot displaced people. Lawyers for the Loizidou, a 53-year-old tourist guide, put a positive spin on the verdict. «Turkey was essentially forced to comply with the court verdict after five years and this is a big concession on their part,» said lawyer Achilleas Demetriades. «Restitution will come in time, there is absolutely no doubt about that.»