Akinci Rebuts Report Turkey Will Open Cyprus’ Varosha Ghost Town

Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

NICOSIA. Refuting media reports in the wake of failed unity talks, Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said Turkey, which has occupied the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion, isn’t going to open the fenced-off neighborhood of Varosha in Famagusta.

Akinci, whose negotiations with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades fell apart over Turkey’s demands to keep its 35,000-strong standing army on the island along with the right to militarily intervene, said opening Varosha would have to take place with the backing of the United Nations, which keeps a small peacekeeping force on the di divided island.

During an interview with Turkish Cypriot daily Milliyet, Akinci said that neither side had an interest in perpetuating the current status of Varosha – the deserted southern quarter of the city of Famagusta in the island’s occupied north – adding however that opening up the town to its lawful inhabitants “all political and legal aspects must be taken into account.”

“This decision will need to be made in the framework of UN parameters,” he said. “We are focusing on this.”

Asked about recent peace talks at the Swiss Alpine resort of Crans-Montana, Akinci blamed the failure to reach a settlement on the Greek Cypriot side, saying it was “acting like a bride that does not want to dance” without explaining what he meant.

Earlier, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini said that according to unconfirmed reports, Turkey’s diplomatic and military authorities received instructions to prepare for the opening of Varosha and to offer Cypriots who left during the unlawful 1974 invasion to return – but only if they agree to submit to Turkish law.

Turkish Cypriots announced that members of the island’s Maronite community can return to their villages in the north but would have to live under Turkish Cypriot administration in a self-declared Republic only Turkey recognizes.