NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus’ president vowed on Thursday to press ahead with creating a national park in a largely untouched area of the tourism-reliant island, following a string of deliberately-set forest fires that were blamed on local landowners’ development plans.
Nicos Anastasiades tweeted that such actions only make authorities more determined to protect and rehabilitate the remote northwestern Akamas Peninsula.
Anastasiades said any development “can and must” be in step with efforts to safeguard the peninsula’s environmental value.
Authorities say “premeditated arson attacks” on Wednesday burnt around 70 hectares (173 acres) of dense pine forest in the area.
Authorities believe the fires may have been set by local residents who fear that declaring the area a national park will reduce property values and prevent land development.