Sunday, June 25, 2006

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The first tangible Turkish-Cypriot offer to compensate the victims of a 1974 invasion has caused a storm of derision among Greek Cypriots, who denounced it as a ploy.

Some politicians on the Greek-Cypriot side of the dividing line demanded that those accepting the proposed settlements by the Turkish-Cypriot property commission should be tried on charges of treason. Already one potential beneficiary has refused an offer of $500,000.

Yannakis Omirou, who heads the Greek Cypriot Socialist Party EDEK, said the Turkish-Cypriot offer is “an illegal act, which strengthens the chances of the occupation regime of gaining legal recognition.”

Greek-Cypriot government spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis spoke of “opportunistic Turkish tricks” intended to “rid their guilt of the continuous crime of embezzling Greek-Cypriot properties.”

The reaction has shattered the hopes of some diplomats that the process would ease the climate of suspicion and hostility on the east Mediterranean island.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey, was established after Turkish troops invaded the northern portion of the island in 1974 and occupied about 40 percent of it.

For the past 32 years, the cornerstone of Greek-Cypriot policy has been the unconditional return of the refugees to their homes, although given the animosity between the two ethnic groups, few Greek Cypriots could envisage living under an administration they consider hostile.

According to a recent opinion poll, 63 percent of Greek Cypriots between the ages of 18 and 24 are against the idea of living with Turkish Cypriots.

The Turkish Cypriot property commission was created after the European Court of Human Rights called on Turkey in December to find “effective domestic remedies” for the mass displacement of Greek Cypriots.

The Greek-Cypriot government speaks usually of 200,000 such refugees.

The United States estimates the figure to be between 140,000 and 160,000 at the time of the invasion. Since then, the number of “refugees” has grown as their children and grandchildren are also considered refugees.

Sumer Erkman, head of the property commission, said 13 Greek-Cypriot families have applied for compensation. So far, two were authorized to return to a village now in Turkish hands, and one was offered financial compensation.

“All three applicants got what they wanted,” Mrs. Erkman said. “They have accepted our offers without need to apply to the courts.”

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