Interior Minister Nicos Nouris on Sunday urged both sides in the Akamas debate to lower the tone, saying the truth of the new plan for the environmentally-sensitive area was somewhere in the middle between conservationists and landowners.
Protests took place in Paphos on Saturday, one by environmentalists seeking hands of the Akamas and more transparency from the government about its plan for the area. The second protest was by landowners in the region who have for years said they can do nothing with their properties due to a freeze on development resulting in the death of their villages.
Nouris, speaking to the media on Sunday said: “Everything that is being said about hotels and leisure centres within the Akamas national park is not true at all.”
He said the plan prepared by the urban planning council, would be completed after all environmental studies were evaluated.
“The local plan will ensure clear protection of the Akamas national forest,” he said.
“On the other hand, recognising that communities far from the Akamas park need state support in a coordinated manner, specific suggestions have been made, which we consider to be perfectly balanced,” he added.
Nouris said if the statements by the landowners and the environmental protesters were combined, the truth would be somewhere in the middle.
“We have listened to the concerns of those who protest, about the need – which I would like to emphasise – for the protection of the Akamas national park, but at the same time there is an undertaking of the government for specific initiatives in order to grant – let me say – social justice for those whose interests are affected,” the minister said.
He said the reason the plan has not been presented to parliament is not because the government was hiding anything, but because the law, he said, does not allow it to be tabled until it is completed.
“I want to repeat for the umpteenth time, because it was said that the government refused to give the bill to the House of Representatives, that there is legislation which states that such a bill can not be presented publicly anywhere before its final draft because it simply means that anyone could then challenge the local plan and we would have legal problems,” Nouris added.
“There is no refusal on the part of the government, there is full compliance with institutions” .