By Elias Hazou
The right to property, of dispossessed owners but in particular of current users, will be respected under the new mechanism agreed by the two communities in the reunification talks, the spokesman for the Turkish Cypriot leader said on Thursday.
Speaking on the Bayrak radio station, Baris Burcu said what is paramount is to find a solution that is fair.
“It is important that not only the original owners of properties, but also the current users, benefit from this arrangement. For us, it is on this point that discussions must focus.”
Earlier this week, the leaders of the communities agreed on the creation of an independent property commission.
UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide told reporters that dispossessed owners and current users would have various choices regarding their claims to affected properties.
The choices would include compensation, exchange and reinstatement, but exercising any of these options would be subject to agreed criteria.
Affected properties would be categorised. The property commission would be mandated to resolve property claims according to mutually agreed criteria, and would be comprised of an equal number of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot members.
Commenting on this, Burcu said equal representation ensured that neither side imposes its will on the other.
Media reports both in the north and the south can be misleading, Burcu added.
In particular, he was referring to reports in the Turkish Cypriot press suggesting that Pieter Van Nuffel, the Personal Representative of the President of the European Commission to the UN Good Offices Mission in Cyprus, would be involved in actual negotiations.
“This impression is wrong. Mr Van Nuffel shall provide technical support on issues of the EU acquis when he is asked to by the two sides and whenever the need arises,” Burcu said.
Burcu hailed the progress achieved so far on the property issue, but said that the two sides, after agreeing the broad guidelines, must now get into specifics.
It’s understood the new commission will commence operating once a settlement has been reached, that is, during implementation of reunification. However, the criteria relating to property claims are to be thrashed out during the current stage, prior to any referenda.
Similar panels dealing with mass claims by displaced persons were set up in other conflict areas, such as Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda.
Akinci has taken flak in the north over his handling of the talks, and in particular his ‘silence’ over the thorny issue of properties.
Burcu said Akinci firmly believes in candour and transparency, and when the time is right both leaders will explain to their respective communities what the agreed settlement entails.
On August 5, Akinci will be hosting a breakfast for Turkish Cypriot media, informing them of the progress so far in the talks.
“It will be a social event, sharing information on the philosophy and mentality regarding progress [in the talks],” Burcu told the Mail in a brief phone communication.
The Turkish Cypriot leader would not be revealing something new, merely explaining his approach to talks process.
This was in line with an accord between Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades to avoid leaks, and to have the UN make any major announcements.
And on August 7 Akinci plans to brief political parties represented in the north’s ‘parliament’.
“Unfortunately, sometimes Greek Cypriot media erroneously report things, which are then picked up by our press here and Mr Akinci has to answer,” Burcu said.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides likewise said the President has not scheduled a meeting with the media.
It’s understood Anastasiades will be away on holiday starting from next week. He returns to his duties on August 23.
Misreporting news appears to cut both ways. On Thursday, Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris Postasi reported that the new property commission was set up ‘in secret’ a month ago and has already been operating.
The paper even named the commission’s members, one of whom was supposedly former foreign minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis.
It prompted a denial from the United Nations in Cyprus.
The report is “false and misleading. Talks continue,” the UN tweeted.
Marcoullis likewise said the paper had got it wrong.
She said the persons named by Kibris Postasi, including herself, are actually the same individuals who are on the Working Group on property.
“The working group is totally different…so no, there is no new commission yet,” she told the Cyprus Mail.
Marcoullis heads the Greek Cypriot team on the property working group, which comprises experts from both communities. They provide support to the respective chief negotiators.