The north’s ‘interior minister’ Dursun Oguz on Tuesday called for stricter implementation of laws regarding the sale of property to third country nationals.

“The first measure we are trying to take right now is the implementation of the current law. The reason for the current situation is a lack of implementation thereof,” he said.

Clarifying the current law, he said that third country nationals are currently allowed to buy one apartment, 1,000m², or real estate set in 5,000m² of land, and that an application to purchase property must be approved by the north’s cabinet.

Approval is only given after a background check, which Oguz said “is important for us to maintain the TRNC’s position as a safe country.”

However, he noted, “unfortunately, some people have circumvented this law and sold 10, 20, or 50 properties to only one person. Since only one of these properties can be registered legally, the others are sold without being registered and taxed. This is why the state is making losses.”

According to the north’s laws, the sales must be recorded in the land registry. “People who do not do this are defrauding the state,” Oguz said.

“What is the amount of land here? Everyone says acres upon acres of land have been sold. Have they really been sold? This is a big problem, with people taking advantage of their civil right to make a bilateral contract without complying with the relevant property laws,” he said.

One new planned regulation was the end to the 51/49 rule regarding properties, which states that all businesses in the north must be 51 per cent owned by Turkish Cypriots.

He said that following the passage of new legislation which he will submit to ‘parliament’ in the near future, only companies owned in full by Turkish Cypriots will be able to develop real estate with the purpose of selling it on.

“We want the real estate sector to grow and develop in a planned and orderly manner. We don’t want it to be done by the back door,” he said.

He then pointed out that ‘prime minister’ Unal Ustel has established a working committee on zoning plans and said that such plans must be carried out with a “long-term” vision.

Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot opposition party CTP Leader Tufan Erhurman said on Tuesday that the north’s population is “obviously not 410,000”.

Erhurman was speaking in a televised interview with TV2020, and made the remarks in response to statements from Turkish Cypriot Leader Ersin Tatar who claimed the population was this size.

He said he had visited Karpasia and seen large amounts of property on sale. He said people in the region were “not very happy” about selling their property, but that they were doing so out of economic necessity.

He said that if one takes into account the large numbers of third country nationals buying property and taking residence in the north, and “in addition to these, you add international students, those who are here with a work permit, and those who are here undocumented… the population is obviously not 410,000.”

He added that a plan to govern the north effectively can be written if there is a correctly made population projection, but warned, “the real issue is what the population will be in the next five years. We cannot know how many schools and hospitals to build without knowing how many people are going to live here.”

Speaking more on the issue of property being sold to third country nationals, he said “this issue is not only about ownership, it is about sovereignty over the land.”

He criticised the sale of 121,000m² of land in Exo Metochi to a foreign company and said, “the foreign minister did not know what the company would invest in.”

In addition, he spoke on the social impact of large numbers of third country nationals moving into the north, particularly into Trikomo, and said the ‘government’ “is not aware of the seriousness of the matter.”

Chief among the issues faced is in the education sector, as many of those moving to the north send their children to public schools, despite them not speaking Turkish.