NICOSIA (AFP) – A Turkish Cypriot-dominated panel has offered to settle the property claims of four Greek Cypriots in a landmark move to ease one of the most contentious problems facing the divided island, Turkish-Cypriot media reported yesterday. In 1998, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Turkey to compensate a Greek-Cypriot woman for denying her access to her property in the north, stoking concerns in Ankara that an avalanche of similar cases would follow if a legal remedy is not found at the local level. Greek Cypriots living in the north moved south after the invasion and Turkish Cypriots went in the opposite direction, with both communities abandoning their properties. Displaced Greek Cypriots outnumbered Turkish Cypriots by around four to one, or by roughly the same proportion as the island’s population at the time. Among the four claimants to which the panel made proposals is Myra Xenides-Arestis, whose case at the Strasbourg-based ECHR was adjourned in December to allow time for a settlement at the local level, the public BRT television reported. The commission in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus offered Xenides-Arestis 460,000 Cypriot pounds (798,000 euros) to compensate for her being unable to use her property in the eastern resort of Varosha, which is now an off-limits military zone. She has yet to reply to the proposal, under which her property’s restitution is postponed until a political settlement is found to Cyprus’s partition. The commission, comprising seven lawyers (five Turkish Cypriots, a German and a Swede) also ruled to return real estate near the eastern port of Famagusta to its two Greek-Cypriot owners, BRT said. A settlement was reached with a fourth applicant who accepted compensation, it said. If the European rights court rules that the commission created in December constituted an efficient reparation mechanism, it will call on some 1,400 other Greek Cypriots currently suing Turkey in Strasbourg to pursue their claims in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus. The reparation legislation says only ownerless, unused properties whose return does not endanger either national security or public interest can be restored to their Greek-Cypriot owners. Legal experts say very few properties qualify.