Apostolides took his case to the European Union's top court after a series of legal battles against Linda and David Oram, a British couple.

Divided island

The Greek Cypriot, who currently lives in the island's south, was forced to leave his land in the north after the Turkish intervention, which saw some 170,000 Greek Cypriots flee their homes.

His land was later acquired by the Orams, who built a holiday home there.

Apostolides challenged their purchase, winning a court case in Nicosia, southern Cyprus, in 2005 that ordered the couple to demolish their villa.

But a British court later backed the Orams, on the basis that EU laws and Greek Cypriot court rulings were not enforceable in the island's north, where Greek Cypriots do not exercise control.

On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice overruled the British decision, saying the "judgement of a court of the Republic of Cyprus must be recognised and enforced by the other member states even if it concerns land situated in the northern part of the island".

Northern Cyprus is only recognised by Turkey in the international community, while the island's south is an EU member state.

The ruling could have implications for many of the estimated 5,000 Britons living in northern Cyprus in disputed properties.

It could also give southern Cypriots an upper hand in negotiations over property rights, which have been a key issue in reunification talks.