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Elderly man’s return to home in north sparks outrage

An elderly Greek Cypriot man’s quest to move to the occupied village of Larnaca tis Lapithou where he was born and grew up to build a house has prompted a strong reaction in the north, local media reported on Thursday.

Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Duzen reported that the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) set up by Turkey in the north, returned a 349-square-metre plot in occupied Larnaca tis Lapithou village to its Greek Cypriot owner Nikolas Skourides, 78. The property was returned to him last September and Skourides has started building a house there, which has caused concern for residents who are seeking the annulment of the decision.

The IPC is a body set up in the north to compensate Greek Cypriot refugees for their lost property.

Skourides, speaking to Active radio, said he started the process of claiming his property from the IPC seven years ago. He said he was born in the house and lived there until August 14, 1974.

When the crossings opened, he said, he began going to the occupied areas two to three times per week, where he met almost all the Turkish Cypriots living in Larnaka tis Lapithou, with whom he maintains excellent friendly relations.

Skourides is now 78 and has several health problems, including asthma, which he believes could be improved by living in the area.

Skourides started the process of reclaiming his property by finding out from the village’s ‘community leader’ that it had not been given to anyone else.

Skourides reportedly went to the area and started building a house last week, alarming residents.  Lapithos ‘municipality’ halted the work, saying the construction had no ‘permit’. Residents of the village reportedly started collecting signatures to overturn the decision of the IPC.

Police had to go to the area due to the tension, the daily said, adding that poles marking Skourides’ land had been removed following complaints that they were blocking the entrance to a neighbouring house.

On the reactions and scuffles that broke out in the north over his return to his land, Skourides said he has heard that there have been media reports but that he does not know Turkish.

He also said he had been able to claim his property in the occupied area with much difficulty, expense and many obligations to his Turkish Cypriot friends.

IPC Chairman Ayfer Said Erkmen told Yeni Duzen that after going through Skourides’ application, had contacted the security forces command and implemented the decision after they were informed that the return could take place.

Erkmen said Skourides had secured the necessary ‘permits’ from the ‘interior ministry’, the ‘town planning department’ and the ‘municipality’.

Erkman added that he believes the procedure concerns the ‘local administration’ and the Greek Cypriot property owner and that, just as a Turkish Cypriot can apply to building a house, a Greek Cypriot also has this right and can secure a ‘permit’ from the ‘competent authority’.

According to Erkmen, 97.7per cent of the decisions taken to-date by the IPC concern payment of compensation, 1 per cent return of property, while the rest of the applications have been withdrawn.

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