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Legal battles no substitute for political compromise September 8, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Occupied.

Not surprisingly, there has been a muted reaction to the London High Court’s verdict that a British court could not enforce a Cypriot court’s verdict ordering David and Linda Orams to bulldoze the house they illegally built on land belonging to Meletis Apostolides in occupied Lapithos, and pay him compensation for their unauthorised use of his property.

Seeking comfort, the media and the politicians pointed out that the High Court had not contested the fact that what the Orams had done was illegal; simply that it had ruled it did not have the jurisdiction to enforce the sentence because, under Cyprus’ EU accession treaty, the occupied areas were defined as being temporarily outside the reach of the EU’s acquis communautaire.

But there was no doubt who was celebrating. Linda Orams had a beaming smile as she left the High Court, and her lawyers lost no opportunity to point out that this would lift the threat looming over foreign property buyers in the occupied north.

The authorities in the north will without doubt play this for all it’s worth, though the case may yet return to haunt them. Apostolides’ legal team is already preparing its appeal, while, whoever wins that, the loser will undoubtedly take the case to the European court for a final verdict.

It is indeed paradoxical that the case should be lost on Protocol 10, introduced in the Accession Treaty to protect Cyprus from EU sanction for breaches of the acquis in territories under foreign military occupation, and this is the argument that is being prepared for the appeal. Deep irony indeed that under this interpretation of the Protocol, the EU is defining the north as beyond the legal pale, reinforcing its reputation as a haven for fugitives from justice.

Yet whatever the final outcome, this case has shown again the impossibility of tackling the Cyprus problem on a purely legal level. The Loizidou victory in the European Court of Human Rights was a reaffirmation of right and a certain irritant to Turkey, but it did not bring Mrs Loizidou any closer to her home. Indeed the Annan plan, had it been accepted, envisaged a suspension of all Greek Cypriot land recourses to the ECHR.

Likewise, if Apostolides is eventually successful, it will be a definite economic blow to the authorities in the north, not to mention to the hundreds of expats squatting Greek Cypriot land, but it will not bring him closer to the restitution he desires.

For that to happen there is no alternative to re-engaging in serious negotiation for a final settlement, whatever form that might take. Legal battles may score points in a war of attrition, but they bring us no closer to the essential political compromise that is the only forward.

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