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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05NICOSIA1886
2005-11-30 09:31:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Nicosia
Cable title:  

TURKISH CYPRIOTS UNVEIL NEW SCHEME FOR GREEK

Tags:   PREL  CY  TU  PHUM  PREF  COE  ECON 
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Tim W Hayes  01/23/2008 02:12:14 PM  From  DB/Inbox:  Search Results

Cable 
Text:                                                                      
                                                                           
      
C O N F I D E N T I A L        NICOSIA 01886

SIPDIS
CX:
    ACTION: POL
    INFO:   CONS TSR PMA ECON DCM AMB RAO FCS PA MGT DAO

DISSEMINATION: POLX /1
CHARGE: PROG

VZCZCAYO256
PP RUEHAK
DE RUEHNC #1886/01 3340931
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 300931Z NOV 05
FM AMEMBASSY NICOSIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5184
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0411
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 NICOSIA 001886 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/29/2015
TAGS: PREL CY TU PHUM PREF COE ECON
SUBJECT: TURKISH CYPRIOTS UNVEIL NEW SCHEME FOR GREEK
CYPRIOT PROPERTY CLAIMS

REF: A. NICOSIA 728

B. 04 NICOSIA 1869

C. NICOSIA 1737

Classified By: CDA Jane Zimmerman, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 NICOSIA 001886

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/29/2015
TAGS: PREL CY TU PHUM PREF COE ECON
SUBJECT: TURKISH CYPRIOTS UNVEIL NEW SCHEME FOR GREEK
CYPRIOT PROPERTY CLAIMS

REF: A. NICOSIA 728

B. 04 NICOSIA 1869

C. NICOSIA 1737

Classified By: CDA Jane Zimmerman, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).


1. (C) SUMMARY. The Turkish Cypriot administration has
drafted a new law that would significantly alter the way in
which the "TRNC" handles claims for restitution or
compensation for Greek Cypriot property, which makes up
between 80 and 90 percent of the land in the north. In
response to an April ECHR ruling declaring that the existing
Turkish Cypriot Property Commission was not an "effective
local remedy" for property claims, the "Council of Ministers"
has approved a new scheme it says will establish a more
impartial body to grant restitution of Greek Cypriot property
in some cases, and more robust compensation in others. The
new law, which still requires "parliament's" approval and
will take several months to come into force, is an attempt to
thwart further ECHR rulings against Turkey and the Turkish
Cypriot side -- indirectly gaining the ECHR's stamp of
approval for a "TRNC"-sponsored institution and blunting one
point of criticism against EU candidate Turkey's
implementation of EU human rights law. Ankara has reportedly
given its tacit blessing to the new arrangement. But
compensation, much less restitution, will be a difficult and
costly undertaking and the potential disruption it may cause
has already generated criticism from the Turkish Cypriot
nationalist right. It is far from certain the new
arrangement will meet the ECHR's approval as "effective local
remedy." At the very least, however, the Turkish Cypriots
are betting that their new law will slow the pace of property
cases against them, and perhaps even facilitate settlements
with (or buy-outs of) some Greek Cypriot plaintiffs. END
SUMMARY.

CHANGES TO THE PROPERTY COMMISSION
--------------


2. (SBU) On November 22, the Turkish Cypriot "Council of
Ministers" published a draft law that would significantly

change the way in which the "TRNC" handles Greek Cypriot
claims on property in the north. Under article 159 of the
"TRNC Constitution," all Greek Cypriot property in the north
was confiscated in exchange for lost Turkish Cypriot land in
the south. A large portion of this Greek Cypriot land has
since been doled out to Turkish Cypriots, many of whom were
given "TRNC" title deeds to the properties they now use as
homes, farmland, and places of business. Given estimates
that between 80 and 90 percent of the land in the north was
owned by Greek Cypriots prior to the 1974 war, this new law
could have a significant impact on the use of land in the
north -- and on property provisions in any future Cyprus
settlement.


3. (U) The new legislation would abolish the "TRNC" Property
Commission, which was set up by the Denktash regime in 2003
in response to ECHR property cases brought against Turkey as
the "occupying power." Although no Greek Cypriots are known
to have filed claims with the Commission, it is theoretically
empowered by the "TRNC" to compensate Greek Cypriot owners
for their property in the north. Turkey subsequently claimed
that, since an "effective" local (i.e. "TRNC") remedy existed
to resolve the claims against it, the ECHR should dismiss
property cases against it and refer them back to the Turkish
Cypriot Property Commission.


4. (U) In April 2005, however, the ECHR ruled in favor of
Greek Cypriot plaintiff Xenides-Arestis (refs a and b) and
found that the Commission did not constitute a local remedy,
because, among other things:

-- the Commission could grant only compensation, not
restitution, of confiscated property;

-- the Commission was empowered to provide compensation for
real estate only, not movable property, loss of use, or
damages; and

-- the Commission members were not impartial (indeed, some
lived on Greek Cypriot land).

The ECHR did not, however, rule out the idea that a Turkish
Cypriot body could constitute effective local remedy,
notwithstanding the non-recognition of the "TRNC," if these
deficiencies in the Property Commission were addressed. In
fact, in a subsequent (unrelated) ruling over the shooting
death of a Greek Cypriot by the Turkish army in the Buffer
Zone, the ECHR specifically said that "for the purposes of
applying the European Convention on Human Rights," under
which Greek Cypriot property complaints are generally filed,
"the remedies available in the 'TRNC' could be regarded as
domestic remedy."


5. (SBU) With this target in mind, the new Turkish Cypriot
legislation envisions the following changes, among others, to
the Property Commission:

-- the Commission will be empowered to return immediately
Greek Cypriot land to applicants who can prove pre-1974
ownership, unless the property is being used by another
person, a "TRNC" deed has been issued giving another person
rights to the property, or restitution of the land would be a
threat to "security" (probably a reference to Greek Cypriot
land currently used by the Turkish army);

-- in some cases, especially those where "TRNC" deeds have
been issued or the land is currently in use, restitution
could be possible but would be deferred until after a Cyprus
settlement;

-- in cases where restitution is unworkable, the applicant
may be offered another property of similar value, or monetary
compensation based on the 1974 value of the land (adjusted
for inflation and for the value of any Turkish Cypriot land
the plaintiff has acquired in the south). In some cases
compensation for damages (both loss of use and "emotional")
will be allowed;

-- the Commission will consist of "either 5 or 7 members,"
two of which will be foreigners (from a country other than
Turkey, Greece, or the UK);

-- the Commission will also be empowered to grant
compensation for movable property (such as the contents of
homes and stores) lost in 1974;

-- claimants will be allowed to appeal rulings of the
Commission to the "TRNC Higher Administrative Court" and then
to the ECHR.

The law must now wend its way through legislative committee
and then a full floor vote in the "National Assembly" before
becoming law. According to one parliamentarian, this will
probably take "several more months."

"ECHR COMPLIANT?"
--------------


6. (C) The main purpose of this law, according to a Turkish
Cypriot "minister" we spoke to privately, was to blunt
further ECHR property suits by Greek Cypriots. By
establishing a new, "ECHR-compliant" Property Commission, the
Turkish side could force Greek Cypriot claims to be
adjudicated on the island with "fairness and finality," he
told us. He was not certain whether the Turkish side would
push the ECHR to rule on the new law by filing an appeal of
the Xenides-Arestis decision. But prominent Turkish Cypriot
property lawyer Emine Erk suspects "it's too late" to appeal
the court's decision in this case, and that the Turkish side
will simply wait for another property case (many are pending)
to work its way to Strasbourg.


7. (C) Either way, the "minister" told us, if the ECHR
determined that the new Commission did constitute an
"effective local remedy," it would remove a significant
human-rights related stumbling block from Turkey's EU
accession process. It is for this reason Turkey "backs the
new legislation fully" and, according to the "minister," was
already discussing with the "TRNC" the possibility of
extending additional grants and loans to cover the costs of
administering the Commission and paying for compensation.
Ankara, which is already on the hook for compensation arising
out of cases such as Xenides-Arestis and Loizidou, would
"just as soon pay out" via the "TRNC" and not directly, he
said.


8. (C) From the Turkish Cypriot perspective, the "minister"
noted, a favorable judgment on the new Commission would have
the added benefit of giving an international seal of approval
to a Turkish-Cypriot sponsored institution. "We don't want
political recognition," he said, but "we want to the world to
recognize we are here" and to deal with the Turkish Cypriots
"on practical matters."

OBSTACLES TO IMPLEMENTATION
--------------


9. (C) But there are several factors that complicate the
"government's" plans. The first is domestic politics. While
the ruling CTP has a strong position in the legislature,
passage of this controversial law is not guaranteed.
Property is a very emotive issue; strong political resistance
last fall forced the CTP to withdraw a previous proposal
limiting the sale of land in the north to foreign developers.
The new law has excited similarly vigorous opposition.


10. (SBU) Nationalist icon and "TRNC" founder Rauf Denktash
has already spoken out against the new legislation, which he
says would leave Turkish Cypriots without anywhere to live.
Meanwhile, "MPs" from the opposition UBP -- as well as
backbenchers from within the DP of Serdar Denktash (CTP's
junior coalition partner) -- have expressed outrage over a
law that would give away land to the Greek Cypriots without a
final Cyprus settlement. Observers note the coalition party
discipline is high, and expect the law to pass -- but wonder
if the opposition or public anger could force the CTP to
water down key provisions of the bill, making it less likely
the ECHR would agree that the new law is "effective" local
remedy.


11. (C) Even without changes, it is far from certain the ECHR
would bless the new Property Commission scheme. One "TRNC
Land Registry" employee estimated that only 3-5 percent of
Greek Cypriot property in the north is undistributed and
unused, and therefore liable for immediate restitution under
the draft scheme. It remains to be seen whether the ECHR
will agree that restitution of such a small amount of
property (or delayed restitution, which is also envisioned in
the law) indeed constitutes effective, meaningful redress for
Greek Cypriots plaintiffs.


12. (C) Finally, it is not clear how many (if any) of those
Greek Cypriots offered compensation instead of restitution
under the new plan would accept it. Assuming the "TRNC" can
find the cash to offer compensation, some individuals might
take the money and run, as the Turkish Cypriots hope. But
the ROC's strong official position against dealing with the
"occupation regime" is certain to encourage many Greek
Cypriot plaintiffs to stick to their principled stance,
appealing decisions of the new Commission and pushing for
total and immediate restitution in the courts.

COMMENT
--------------


13. (C) Even if the new law does not work out as the "TRNC"
leadership hopes, it could nonetheless have the effect of
slowing down the numerous property cases pending against
Turkey at the ECHR. Furthermore, what appears to be an
honest attempt to respond to the concerns outlined by the
ECHR in Xenides-Arestis may also, at least temporarily, ease
some of the criticism Turkey faces over its spotty
implementation of European human rights law. Meanwhile,
Turkish Cypriot plaintiffs continue their own cases against
the ROC's uncompensated use of their land in the south (ref
c). The ongoing two-way battle of litigation threatens not
only to create an increasingly large body of jurisprudence
that will complicate the property provisions of any final
settlement deal -- it also makes the atmosphere of bicommunal
trust needed for a final agreement even harder to imagine.
END COMMENT.
ZIMMERMAN