NEWS

Court bombshell on Cyprus homes

NICOSIA (Reuters) – A Cypriot court yesterday ordered two elderly Greek-Cypriot refugees to return their house to its former Turkish-Cypriot owner, a shock ruling highlighting the complexity of the problems that keep the island divided. The Supreme Court, entering a political minefield, ordered the two women to leave the house they have occupied for years, and upheld a petition from a Turkish Cypriot for its return to him. «This has created an explosive situation. I won’t look at the legal intricacies of the case, it is the political difficulties which are immense,» said Christodoulos Taramountas, a lawyer for the evicted 92-year-old woman and her daughter. «They feel like refugees for the second time,» he said. The vast majority of the estimated 162,000 Greek-Cypriot refugees shun recourse to the courts in the Turkish-occupied north of the island to claim back their property. An estimated 60,000 Turkish Cypriots lost their homes, businesses and land in the south. Most of the abandoned Turkish-Cypriot property in the south was put under administration by the Cypriot government, which redistributed it to Greek-Cypriot refugees. It includes thousands of acres of farmland and 5,500 homes. «If the Turkish Cypriots come back to reclaim their properties, we are forced to comply and you can imagine what upheaval this will bring,» Taramountas told Reuters, adding that the authorities were considering an appeal against the ruling. One of the key objections raised by Greek-Cypriot opponents of the ill-fated United Nations reunification plan – which the south rejected and the north approved in a double April 24 referendum – concerned restrictions it placed on their right to reclaim lost homes in the north.