Following a decision by the British government and in consultation with the Greek Cypriot side in 2014, thousands of acres of land belonging to the British Sovereign Bases (SBA) in Akrotiri and Dhekelia are being released for other purposes other than agricultural use.
In June this year, the UK government launched a public consultation process to allow landowners in villages in or adjacent to the Akrotiri and Dhekelia military bases in Cyprus to comment on plans to redevelop part of the area.
The initial reaction by the Turkish Cypriot leadership was outrage at being sidelined in the decision.
Both President Mustafa Akinci and Prime Minister Ersin Tatar in June, said that “Any step taken by Britain about the [Sovereign] Bases without the approval of the Turkish Cypriot people and its officials will not be valid.”
President Akinci, in a June meeting with the British High Commissioner to Cyprus Stephen Lillie, said that the Turkish Cypriot side could not accept changes made without its approval on an issue concerning its rights and obligations.
The UK’s consultation process comes to an end on July 14.
After initially protesting against the change of usage rule, agreed without the consent of the Turkish Cypriots and the two other guarantors of the island, Turkey and Greece, Professor Ibrahim Benter, head of the Ekaf, which owns thousands of acres of land referred to in the agreement, later received a letter from Major-General Rob Thomson, Commander of the British Forces in Cyprus and Administrator of the SBAs of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, which stated that “Turkish Cypriot-owned land is safeguarded” and that “any such land which falls within designated development areas will be able to be developed by the owner, subject to all the necessary approvals”.
Professor Benter said that he had been happy to receive the letter from Major-General Thomson because “There are Evkaf properties in the bases. We have all the title deeds, proving that those properties belong to Evkaf”.
The Evkaf, which is a charitable organisation founded by the Ottoman Turks in 1590, will be able to donate funds from monies raised from its property on the SBAs
Professor Benter said: “We would like to use those properties for non-military projects, development and investments.
“These properties should not be given to anyone other than Evkaf. It would be illegal to give Evkaf properties to others, whoever they may be.
“The British authorities in [the SBAs] wrote back to us saying that all the Turkish properties, properties owned by Turks and Evkaf, will not be given to anyone without the permission of the Turkish owners or Evkaf.
“So we were happy to receive such a note because the note means that the British administration, officially, agrees not to give our properties to others.”
Prof. Benter said his organisation is now in the process of preparing a list of Evkaf properties in the SBAs to estimate the potential lease value of land and buildings, which should be completed within a month.
T-Vine, Cyprus Today