Homes in the sun attract MPs: Politicians have bought villas in a republic not recognised by Britain, writes Esther Oxford

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The Independent Online
THE ADVERTISEMENT in the Sunday tabloid described the two-bedroom cottage in Ozankoy, northern Cyprus, as 'Arabic and Moorish'. When Terry and Sheila Carter, both chiropodists, telephoned to book, they were surprised to learn that the cottage belonged to the Ulster Unionist MP John Taylor.

On arrival they were even more surprised to learn that Mr Taylor has three holiday homes in Ozankoy, which is within walking distance of Lapta, Asil Nadir's home village. 'He has a large family,' explained the locals.

The Carters are paying pounds 300 a fortnight to stay at Vine Cottage. They do not appear perplexed by the attention. 'We heard about these MPs buying up houses this morning,' Mrs Carter said, as she gave a tour of the whitewashed villa, its garden bursting with flowers. 'I can't say I'm surprised. Northern Cyprus is a lovely place.'

As yet, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not recognised by the British government. This has not stopped Tory MPs from choosing the region for a holiday home. Sir Keith Speed and Sir Dudley Smith as well as Mr Taylor have homes on the island. More come out every year to look for properties, have a holiday or offer their support. Many stay at Mr Nadir's luxury complex, the Jasmine Court Hotel.

Ian Smith, an architect, renovator and builder, said that MPs from all parties are brought over by members of Friends of Northern Cyprus to 'boost morale for the north'. 'They go round, pledge support for northern Cyprus and say 'you have a good case',' said Mr Smith, who sold a pounds 135,000 holiday home to Mr Nadir's lawyer, Anthony Scrivener QC. It was not difficult to buy a property, he said. They cost about pounds 30,000 for a respectable villa. 'Just be careful not to buy a property owned by the Greeks pre-1975, otherwise you could be in danger of losing the house,' he said.

This explains the abundance of old ruins. Circle the dry, bristling countryside of northern Cyprus and the hills are peppered with empty properties: in 1974 120,000 Greeks were forced to leave their homes in the north, after the Turks invaded, to be resettled in the south.

The present rule is that Greek property in northern Cyprus may be occupied, but unless a title deed is granted by the Denktash government, the property cannot be officially owned. 'As a rule of thumb, people prefer property owned by the British or the Germans pre-1974,' Mr Smith said. 'When I sold John Taylor a house he would not even look at Greek-owned property'.