A census to determine the disposition of some 10,000 Turkish Cypriot refugees at the British military base of Episkopi, on the south coast of Cyprus, began on Thursday ( 16 January).
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Background: A census to determine the disposition of some 10,000 Turkish Cypriot refugees at the British military base of Episkopi, on the south coast of Cyprus, began on Thursday ( 16 January).
The refugees, who have been housed at the Episkopi base since last summer's fighting, are being asked whether they want to go to the Turkish mainland. It is generally understood by the refugees that they will then be repatriated to Turkish zones in Cyprus.
The decision to conduct the census -- at both Episkopi and Britain's other base at Akrotiri, where there are 8,000 more Turkish Cypriot refugees -- has drawn sharp criticism from Greece, which has accused Britain of yielding to Turkish pressure to permit the refugees to go to the Turkish zone. Greece's position is that the refugee problem should be settled at talks now being held regularly in Nicosia, the capital, between leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.
But a British spokesman said Greece had been warned of Britain's intention to hold the census if no immediate agreement on the refugee question were forthcoming from the inter-communal talks.
Any Turkey's Foreign Minister, Mr. Melih Esenbel, told a news conference in Ankara on Thursday (16 January) that the British decision to let the Turkish Cypriot refugees make their own choice was unilateral one made on purely humanitarian grounds. Far from aggravating the situation, Mr. Esenbel said, the move should help the Nicosia talks byu creating "a more relaxed atmosphere".
Mr. Esenbel added, however, that the British decision did not oblige Turkey to reciprocate by permitting Greek Cypriot refugees to return to their homes in the Turkish-held north.