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Time's Up? Solomonides Verdict - Opinion

The government is getting strong signals from refugees that the clock is no longer ticking and that time is up on resolving the property issue on the island.

After 36 years of occupation, refugees face the choices of: waiting an indefinite amount of time to gain access to their former properties; going to the European Court of Human Rights for another decade's wait on a verdict; or going to the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) set up by the Turkish-Cypriot authorities and endorsed by the ECHR.

Although the choices above are clearly unpalatable and a hugely bitter pill to swallow considering it's their lawfully-owned land in the first place, the case of Solomonides v. Turkey highlights the fact that refugees on both sides are taking matters into their own hands and becoming pragmatic in their approach. If they can't have the land, they'll take the money and justice can wait.

The government has discouraged the use of the IPC, saying that only a political solution will bring refugees what they want - to return safely to their homes and land. Try telling Solomonides that - the man died in 1998 and the case was lodged in 1990 - there is no going home for him. Solomonide's daughters will receive 1.4 million euros in compensation for not being able to use their 44 plots of land in the north, which is much lower than the 6.8 million for which they sued Turkey.

At the same time, the Turkish-Cypriots are not gaining anything from the situation. It costs the community and Turkey millions of euros which is paid out in compensation to refugees; and a decline in credibility illustrated by an almost 50% drop in property sales because of the legal disputes that keep making national and international headlines.

All the more reason for the government to get cracking on the reunification of the island - the longer the separation goes on, the less trust the government and political parties will retain from the population. Yes, it's a challenge to solve the property issue, but if the politicians won't do it, the courts will - in a manner that is piecemeal, painful and prolonged.


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