- Greek Cypriots find reopening of Varosha unacceptable
- Turkish Cypriots celebrate anniversary of Turkish invasion of 1974
- Erdogan calls for international recognition of Turkish Cypriots
NICOSIA, July 20 (Reuters) – Turkish Cypriot authorities on Tuesday announced the partial reopening of an abandoned town for possible resettlement, drawing strong reprimands from rival Greek Cypriots for orchestrating a grab of land stealthily.
Varosha, a strange collection of abandoned high-rise hotels and residences, has been deserted since a 1974 war that divided the island, a military zone no one was allowed to enter.
Turkish Cypriot authorities opened a small area for day-long visits in November 2020 and announced on Tuesday that part of it would be converted to civilian use with a mechanism in place allowing people to potentially reclaim their properties .
“A new era will begin in Maras which will benefit everyone,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, visiting northern Cyprus. Maras is the Turkish name for Varosha.
The Greek Cypriots fear that a change in the status of the area will show a clear desire on the part of Turkey to appropriate it. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades called the decision “illegal and unacceptable”.
“I want to send the strongest message to Mr. Erdogan and his local proxies that Turkey’s unacceptable actions and demands will not be accepted,” Anastasiades said.
The Greek Foreign Ministry has said it condemns the move “in the strongest terms”, while the UK, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has said it will discuss the matter. urgently with other Council members, saying it was “deeply concerned”.
“The UK calls on all parties not to take any action that undermines the Cyprus settlement process or increases tensions on the island,” a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has also expressed concern. “(The) unilateral decision announced today by President Erdogan and (Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin) Tatar risks increasing tensions on the island and jeopardizing the resumption of talks on a comprehensive settlement of the Cypriot question”, he said on Twitter.
United Nations resolutions call for Varosha to be handed over to the United Nations administration and allow people to return home.
Anastasiades said that if Turkey’s “real concern was to return the properties to their legal owners … they should have passed UN resolutions and turned the city over to the UN, allowing them to return safely. “.
Tuesday marked the 47th anniversary of a Turkish invasion organized in 1974 after a Greek Cypriot coup organized by the ruling military in Greece. Peace efforts have repeatedly failed and a new Turkish Cypriot leadership, backed by Turkey, has said that a peace deal between two sovereign states is the only viable option.
The Greek Cypriots, who represent Cyprus internationally and are backed by the European Union, reject a two-state deal for the island that would grant sovereign status to the separatist Turkish Cypriot state that only Ankara recognizes.
“A new negotiation process (to heal the division of Cyprus) can only be carried out between the two states. We are right and we will defend our rights to the end,” Erdogan said in a speech in the Cypriot capital divided from Nicosia.
Varosha has always been seen as a bargaining chip for Ankara in any future peace deal, and one of the areas generally expected to be returned to the Greek Cypriot administration under a regulation. The Turkish Cypriot decision makes this hypothesis more uncertain.
Reporting by Michele Kambas in Nicosia; Additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul and William Schomberg in London, editing by Gareth Jones and Grant McCool
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