19 May 1997

More about the concert in Cyprus (eng)

As all is set for tonight's controversial UN- sponsored bicommunal concert by Greek and Turkish pop stars, the Cyprus government said it will not attend but repeated its support to holding the event.

Government Spokesman, Manolis Christofides, said it was the government's political decision for the President and officials not to attend the concert because they wanted the concert to be purely a "UN and young people's gathering".

However, he expressed the hope that similar concerts will be held in the future, covering the island's population.

At the same time, the spokesman reassured that all security measures are being taken by the UN to safeguard the security of all those to attend the concert.

"Tonight's concert message is the encounter of the youth of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots", Christofides said.

His statements echoed those of Justice and Public Order Minister, Nicos Koshis, who expressed the conviction that everything will run smoothly at the bicommunal concert and that measures taken will prove in the end, "unnecessary".

The Minister said he had no reports about the discovery of a bomb at the venue of the concert, as published in a Greek daily.

The concert has sparked criticism in both Cyprus and Greece, not only about the venue but also about the choice of date, the singers and the absence of an anti-occupation slogan.

Today, May 19, marks Kemal Ataturk Day, (the founder of modern secular Turkey) and has been declared the anniversary of Turkey's massacre of Pontiac Greeks on the Black Sea, between 1916-1923.

In the Turkish-occupied areas, the right extremist group "Grey Wolves", responsible for the killings of Greek Cypriots last summer during peaceful demonstrations, claimed they wouldn't have been responsible for the safety of those attending the concert, if the Turkish singer Burak Kut had come to Cyprus via Athens and Larnaca.

Kut arrived yesterday in Cyprus through the illegal Tymbou airport in the Turkish-occupied areas.

The Turkish Cypriot press today referred to death threats by the "Grey Wolves" against Kut.

The extremist organisation called on all Turkish Cypriots to boycott the concert, claiming racial discrimination because Turkish settlers were refused tickets.

An hour before the concert, the Cyprus Motorcycle Federation and the Pancyprian Anti-occupation Movement, will stage a demonstration at central Eleftheria Square in Nicosia against the concert.

In Greece, Government Spokesman Demetris Reppas said the two singers should not avoid the nature of the Cyprus problem and the possible repercussions it might have.

Meanwhile, Greek pop star Sakis Rouvas, who kept everyone guessing until the last minute whether he would attend the concert, arrived on the island early today in a private jet.

Rouvas was whisked at the Police Headquarters for a briefing from senior police officials and officers of the United Nations Peace- keeping Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP) on the security measures taken by the island's security authorities and the UN.

Police spokesman, Glafcos Xenos, told reporters Rouvas is not worried at all about tonight's concert and that he is sure all necessary measures have been taken.

Xenos said the Police was satisfied about the level of measures taken and noted that around 500 officers will be on duty to ensure the concert goes ahead smoothly.

However, he emphasised that UNFICYP bears the sole responsibility for the security of those attending the event at the abandoned Turkish Cypriot "Cetin Kaya" football club pitch, situated in the UN- controlled buffer zone.

Rouvas made his first appearance around midday, when he was taken to the site of the concert for a general rehearsal.

Dressed casually in faded jeans and a T-shirt, Rouvas, whose appearance on the island on other occasions caused a sensation amongst the Greek Cypriot female population, did not answer to questions on the reaction his presence has caused but just smiled.

Rouvas and Kut will give a joint press conference at the end of the concert at the Ledra Palace hotel in the UN buffer zone, opposite the concert venue.

Meanwhile, the Greek board of the "Abdi Ipekci" award, given to Greeks and Turks who promote Greco-Turkish relations, applauding the two pop stars decision to hold the concert despite the furore, said it will propose Rouvas and Kut for the award of friendship and peace.

The concert, for which UNFICYP gave out some 6.000 free tickets to both communities, will be attended by representatives of the majority of the island's political parties and foreign diplomats.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of Cyprus northern territory.


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