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Family desires to reclaim lost Cyprus land February 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Occupied.
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In Cyprus, one family’s dream of greener pastures lies, literally, on the other side of the fence.

The Green Line had reopened. Armed soldiers manned the gate separating Greek Cyprus from the north area of Cyprus currently under military Turkish occupation since 1974. Be careful, the soldiers told them as they approached the other side. Be very careful.

Andrew Theodorou and his father showed their passports, paid 12 Cyprus pounds, and ventured into occupied territory to search for the land they had lost so long ago. Another world. Street names once in English were now in Turkish. The old tourist area of Famagusta (Varosha), once full of thriving hotels and swimmers, was surrounded by barbed wire. Buildings were vacant and crumbling.

cypriottheodorou.jpg  Andrew Theodorou with a photo of large condos that have been built on his family’s land on the Turkish military occupied side of the Republic of Cyprus. His family holds the deed but cannot lay claim to the land because of the political divisions on the island.

“We went straight up to where the barbed wire is,” said Theodorou of Trabuco Canyon. “I used to live in Berlin, so it was kind of strange. ‘Here we go again.’ Kind of scary.”

Theodorou carried a letter. This is my father’s property, it said. He bought it in 1966. We have the deed. Surely we can work out something reasonable. Here is our contact information. Please get in touch.

It’s an odd thing, to be caught in a sad, stubborn civil war that has stymied peacemakers for more than 30 years.

Cyprus is the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. Bobbing in the brilliant blue Mediterranean, the mountainous island has wrung poetry from the most pedestrian of men.

Andrew Theodorou was born in England in 1951. That’s where Joe, his Greek Cypriot father, met Helga, his mother, a German whose Jewish father had spirited the family abroad to escape the growing Nazi threat. But the island’s pull proved strong, and the whole family moved to Cyprus when Andrew was 7.

Cyprus was ruled by Britain then. Theodorou remembers long sandy beaches, fashionable European tourists and Miami Beach-style hotel towers. He also remembers pedaling his bike past police stations that had been attacked and trying to make sense of the bloodied bodies in the street. It was a time of “terrorism, ethnic cleansing, obstructionism and international intrigue,” as one scholar put it.

Cyprus is just a few dozen miles off Turkey’s coast, but its population has long been overwhelmingly of Greek origin. When some Greek Cypriots, protesting British rule, began rallying for unification with Greece, their Turkish Cypriot brethren were appalled and began calling for partition. Violence erupted, and there was much bloodshed.

The British granted Cyprus independence in 1960, just two years after the Theodorou family returned, but the new system proved unworkable. The President was Greek. The Vice President was Turkish and held veto power. The result: political paralysis.

Violence raged again after the Greek Cypriot president tried to strip veto power from the Turkish Cypriot vice president. The United Nations moved in to keep the peace.

A few years later, after things had calmed down, Joe Theodorou bought 1.3 acres of land near the resort town of Famagusta for about $4,000. It was about a block from the Mediterranean and graced with a giant, arching oak tree. Someone with a good arm could throw a stone into the water. Joe was in the hospitality business and dreamed of building a hotel there.

But not right away. Tensions on the island remained high. Young men were being conscripted into mandatory military service. When Andrew Theodorou was 15, his parents sent him to Berlin to live with his grandmother. He finished high school and college there, returned to Cyprus and followed in his father’s footsteps, working in nice hotels in Famagusta. He went abroad again shortly before the breakdown.

In 1974, Greek Cypriots seeking unification with Greece launched an Athens guided coup, overthrowing the palsied Cyprus government. A week later, Turkey responded, invading the island to protect the Turkish minority. Turkish forces reportedly killed thousands of Greek Cypriots; Greek Cypriots killed Turkish Cypriots; and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

“It was a very, very ugly episode for everyone, and it festers, this sore,” said John Tirman, executive director of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Turkish forces never left. A partition was built through Nicosia, the capital, to keep the warring parties apart. Turkish Cypriots live north of this Green Line. Greek Cypriots live south. The Turkish side eventually proclaimed itself a separate nation; Turkey is the only country that recognizes it.

The resort town of Famagusta, and Theodorou’s 1.3 acres of land, lie on the occupied by Turkish military side of the Republic of Cyprus.

Andrew Theodorou’s life progressed nicely. He went to hospitality-management school, worked in London and Berlin, came to America and settled down to raise a family. He became a citizen, worked at the Disneyland Hotel, Westwood Marquis and Balboa Bay Club before becoming vice president of the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort and Marina in Newport Beach, where he oversees a staff of 250.

But Cyprus is never far from his thoughts. “My heart goes out to that little island,” he sighed.

In November, as his parents were settling into a new home in Cyprus, Theodorou went back to see how they were doing. That’s when he and his father decided it was time to go to the other side and see what had become of their land.

It was surreal. The barbed wire. The change 32 years had wrought. They drove up and down streets on the occupied Turkish side, unsure of where they were, until his father saw it: the majestic oak tree, the crown jewel of his pristine 1.3 acres. Pristine no more. The land sprouted condominiums. They looked toward the sea. If this property were on the Greek side, Theodorou thought, it would be worth close to a million dollars.

Andrew Theodorou had the letter. He had expected to find a house, expected to find a mailbox, expected to leave the letter in that mailbox. But there were so many mailboxes. Father and son climbed in the car and went, very quietly, home. The letter stayed with them.

The United Nations recently brokered a reunification plan for Cyprus. The Greek side voted it down. “No relief in sight,” said A. Marco Turk, a former Fulbright senior scholar in conflict resolution who leads negotiation and peace-building programs at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Theodorou still hopes that someday the two communities will settle their differences. People who lost property will be compensated. Perhaps not with their original properties, but with something comparable. There’s movement in that direction, he says: Turkey wants to join the European Union, and that certainly won’t happen until it pulls out of northern occupied Cyprus and recognizes the southern Cypriot government.

“I think both sides want to see an end to this,” he said. “They want the island reunited. If this whole thing is solved, that will be a gem of a place to go. It’s so very beautiful.”


Turkey mulls oil exploration in row with Cyprus February 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Oil Crisis.
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Turkey said on Tuesday its oil company TPAO could issue tenders for international partners to search for oil in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas amid a row with Cyprus over energy exploration in the region.

The two countries, hostile neighbors since a Turkish invasion in July 1974 the result of which was occupying the northern area of the Republic of Cyprus, are already at odds over Cyprus’s offshore exploration plans.

The island, run by an internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government, is set to open tenders for offshore licensing agreements today, having signed accords to define its continental shelf with Egypt and Lebanon.

Asked whether there would be problems if the respective exploration work overlapped, Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler told reporters this would depend on the stance of the two sides.

“We in Turkey want to carry out our planned work as normal. We do not do this work to fit in with the attitudes of others,” he said, adding the planned tenders should not be seen as a reaction to Greek-Cypriot exploration plans. “We are not adopting these tactics in response to any country or incident. If necessary, we will hold talks if there is a dispute over fields. Ultimately this is a technical subject and diplomacy is one of the ways it can be resolved,” he said.

Guler said foreign countries and companies would be invited to take part in the tenders as the work would involve activities outside TPAO’s areas of expertise.

Earlier this month, Cyprus likened Turkey’s behavior in the oil exploration row to that of a pirate after Ankara urged countries in the eastern Mediterranean to avoid bilateral energy exploration agreements with Greek Cypriots. It said such deals could hamper efforts to settle the island’s decades-old partition.

Studies have suggested the seas around Cyprus could contain reserves of between 6 and 8 billion barrels of crude.

Cyprus launches oil exploration bids February 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Oil Crisis.
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Cyprus’ government opened a bidding process Thursday to license offshore oil and gas exploration, despite strong objections from Turkey.

The venture has threatened to revive tensions in the region, where Greece and Turkey contest sea boundaries. The Turkish Foreign Ministry called on prospective bidders to “act with common sense.” “Insisting on the tender process would affect peace and stability on Cyprus and in the eastern Mediterranean,” a ministry statement said.

The first round of licensing involves 11 offshore areas totaling around 60,000 square kilometers (23,000 square miles) in the south, southeast and southwest of Cyprus, the government said.

“So far, many companies from many different countries have shown interest,” Trade and Industry Minister Antonis Michaelides said. They include major companies involved in oil exploration and drilling, he said, but did not give further details.

Norwegian company PGS Geophysical AS already has completed a two-dimensional seismic survey of the area, covering some 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) to the south, southwest and southeast of Cyprus.

Turkey has warned Cyprus not to search for oil and gas in the area, where it said it also has legal rights and interests. Ankara insists that Turkish Cypriots should have a say in the island’s oil and gas rights.

Turkey does not recognize the Greek Cypriot government on the divided island, and backs a breakaway Turkish Cypriot illegal so-called state in the occupied north area of the Cyprus Republic, where it maintains more than 50,000 troops. The illegal so-called state is recognized only by Turkey, while the Greek Cypriot government is internationally recognized. The Republic of Cyprus is a full member of the European Union.

“Since the Greek Cypriot administration does not represent the entire island, it has no authority to sign deals on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said.

It called on companies and countries who might be interested in the venture “to act with common sense, concerning the sensitivity of the Cyprus problem, and not to harm efforts to find a solution within the framework of the United Nations.”

The Mediterranean island has been divided since Turkey invaded the north in 1974, and occupies the northern part of the Cyprus Republic. A U.N. peace blueprint was rejected by Greek Cypriots and approved by Turkish-Cypriots during simultaneous referenda in 2004.

Cyprus signed a deal with Lebanon last month to mark out sea boundaries and facilitate future oil and gas exploration. It has a similar deal with Egypt. Turkey has warned both countries not to proceed with the deals. But Egyptian Petroleum Minister Amin Sameh Samir Fahmy, who attended Thursday’s ceremony, promised close cooperation with Cyprus.

“I assure you that the Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum is fully committed to work very close with the Cypriot side, offering all necessary support and experience, to help Cyprus achieve its oil and gas future plans and objectives,” Fahmy said.

French petroleum consultant Beicip-Franlab, which analyzed the seismic survey data, said it was encouraged by the results. “We are pretty sure that there are active petroleum systems presently in existence in the area,” Beicip-Franlab’s Lucien Montadert said. The bidding process ends July 16.

Metallica to perform live in Greece February 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Metallica will headline the 11th edition of the Rockwave Festival, set to take place 1 – 3 July at Terra Vibe in Malakasa, Greece.

Metallica will perform on July 3. Pre-sale for the concert will begin on February 21. General admission tickets will cost 60 euros, Pitch A 80 euros and Distinguished Area 100 euros.

Metallica said in a statement: “We haven’t been there for eight years and looking very much forward to coming back to Athens, Greece.”

Related Links > http://www.metallica.com 

Mine clearing project to be launched in Greece February 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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A private contractor will undertake mine clearance on the mountains of Grammos and Vitsi, northwestern Greece, within the framework of an initiative announced on Wednesday by the Western Macedonia Region authority.

Thousands of landmines, grenades, munitions and makeshift explosive devices remain buried in the region since World War II and the Greek civil war.

The company will undertake to clear mines over 30 hectares, replacing the Greek Army which was exclusively responsible for such operations until now. U.S. and British satellites will be used to locate minefields that are not on the map while local shepherds, hunters, and loggers will be asked to point out areas that they know are dangerous from experience.

According to Athens News Agency, the 4.47 million euro project will be launched immediately and will be completed in November 2008.

Cyprus and Greece renew their Sports cooperation February 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Sports & Games.
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Cyprus and Greece signed here today a memorandum renewing their partnership, covering a total of 29 sports, for 2007.

The memorandum was signed by Greece’s Deputy Minister of Culture, responsible for Sports George Orphanos and by Cyprus Sport Organization Vice President Rikos Theocharides.

Orphanos described the memorandum as ”strongly expanded and aggressively developmental,” adding that this would ”give the Greek and Cypriot sports the capability to make even more steps of progress, which the two countries are showing during the last years.”

The memorandum covers cooperation in football, sailing, shooting, athletics, tennis, badminton, volley bal, show skiing, gymnastics, wrestling, karate, squash, table tennis, basket ball, boxing, archery, fencing, triathlon, modern pentathlon, judo, paragliding, swimming, cycling, water ski, weight lifting, rowing, handicap athletics, handball and canoe-kayak.

According to Theocharides, the memorandum is based on three axles. The first covers issues of education, from science to training and the organising of joint seminars, the second covers exchange and training of high performance athletes of the two countries and the third axle covers the participation of athletes of Greece and Cyprus in the major sporting events hosted in the two countries.

Cooperation between Greek, Cypriot hoteliers February 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hotels Cyprus, Hotels Greece.
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Joint action and cooperation on further utilising the strategic advantages that Greece and Cyprus have in the tourism sector, as well as resolving basic problems facing the tourist products of the two countries, were decided by the boards of the Hotels Chamber of Greece and the Cypriot Hoteliers Federation, in a joint meeting held in Cyprus attended by Cypriot Trade,Tourism and Industry Minister Antonis Michailides.

It was an initiative by the board of the Hotels Chamber of Greece in the framework of a series of acts scheduled by the Chamber’s board to boost the extroversion of the Greek hotel sector and, consequently, of Greek tourism.

The representatives of the two agencies reached the conclusion that Greece and Cyprus are tourist destinations having considerable prospects, particular characteristics and competitive advantages.