Inaccurate reporting in both the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot press is whipping up concerns over property rights in relation to a solution to the Cyprus problem. UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide has tried to reassure those who are concerned.
Residents in the North are particularly worried about the outcome of the negotiations regarding property rights. According to Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ published on Friday, foreign nationals who purchased property after 1974 are also worried.
‘Hurriyet’ has speculated about the implications for Turkish Cypriots living in Greek Cypriot properties, estimating that it could mean that 76% of all property in the North could be returned to Greek Cypriots.
Former Turkish Cypriot finance minister Ersin Tatar was quoted as criticising President Akinci for making sweeping statements on issues that were ‘red lines’ for the Turkish side, with people left wondering what would be the implications.
President Akinci has also become the target of criticism in the Turkish Cypriot press for not giving details about what was being discussed in the talks.
Akinci responded later on Friday by saying that “along with the change there will be some pain”.
The change will promise a new future for both communities, a better future, he added”. As the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community he said he would defend the rights of the Turkish Cypriots. “But at the same time we should know that we must respect the rights of the other community. I would expect the same from the other side,” he added. He also said he was avoiding the blame game, and would continue to do so. He also promised to clarify the issue by speaking to the press and the Assembly this week.
On Friday, Eide said that though he was a believer in the importance of a free and critical press, he said it should never happen “to the detriment of truth”.
He said a number of stories that had appeared in the press recently were “completely wrong or significantly misunderstood or quoted totally out of content”.
When asked by Greek Cypriot journalists on Friday where in the EU acquis communautaire it says that “the user” of a property has rights, Eide said it had been established in legal decisions in the European Courts and in European jurisprudence. “What I can confirm is that the leaders have agreed that there is an individual right to property, that will affect both dispossessed owners and current users but which remedies and how requires a very detailed list of categories but I think another misunderstanding which has developed is that one person has a right and another person loses his right that`s a misunderstanding,” he said.
He added that current thinking holds that, in fact, “three people can have a right”.
“The question is which remedy is used to uphold that right. That can be reinstatement, it can be economic compensation, it can be alternative property or it can be exchange. There are many different remedies that can be used. The hierarchy of this has to be settled. There are of course various views exactly on the hierarchy… but when we say we have to have a European solution that means we have to have a European solution also and this is quite clearly established in modern European jurisprudence that there are right of original owners and rights of current users. And if you want a European solution you have to respect that that is modern European thinking,” he said.
Eide said that in the Turkish Cypriot press there had been a certain misinterpretation “which is when all of us insist on a genuinely European solution that in any way means that we are moving away from the idea of a bi-zonal bi-communal federation. We are not. A bi-zonal, bi-communal federation and full respect of the values and principles on which the EU is based, is the premise for the talks. And that refers to the 11th February 2014 Joint Declaration and that stands carved and stoned and there is no change to that. What I am saying they are working to fulfil all these ambitions at the same time and it is my very strong conviction that is possible”.
He said that when the two referenda for a solution are held it would be the responsibility of the press to make sure the issues are portrayed accurately.
Eide did say that during his meetings on Friday with the leaders, they had discussed how they could give more detailed information on the talks more in order to further misunderstandings. “We will be significantly more inclusive and open on what is going on because at that time there will probably be more comprehensive understanding”.
The next meeting of the two leaders is scheduled for 1st September.
Eide said: “There is still a lot of work ahead of us and there is no reason for complacency. There is no time to lose and there will be many months of hard work before eventually a final deal can be presented”.