Turkey Steps Up Plans to Reopen Varosha on Cyprus

Αssociated Press

A general view of the town as Kudret Ozersay, the foreign minister of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visit to the uninhabited Famagusta suburb of Varosha, in the breakaway, Turkish Cypriot north of ethnically split Cyprus on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP, Pool)

Violating a United Nations resolution, Turkey said it's planning to speed the reopening of the abandoned ghost town of Varosha in the seaside resort of Famagusta on the northern third of Cyprus it has occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said told the private CNN-Turk broadcaster that, “Yes, there are preparations. Varosha will be opened.” The area was fenced off  by the Turkish military after the invasion and has stayed locked in time, right down to 1974 cars in showrooms.

The eastern town, part of Famagusta that used to be known as the "pearl" of Cyprus, has been abandoned since then, for 45 years, the residents forced to flee the advancing Turkish forces with the UN declaring they would one day be allowed to return, which hasn't happened yet.

Last June, the administration in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus had also announced its intention to open Varosha, which is protected by a 1984 UN Security Council resolution, stating that the the empty town can only be resettled by its original inhabitants.

Asked by CNN Turk about Turkey's controversial exploration for hydrocarbon deposits in Cyprus' exclusive economic zone, meanwhile, Cavusoglu said that no one can “prevent” its continued efforts, adding that Ankara will “defend” the rights of the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus.

Officials from Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriot side took an inspection tour there on Aug. 23, said Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News, the visit coming almost a month after Turkish-Cypriot  officials, led by its self-declared foreign minister Kudret Ozersay, visited the ghost town.

This time the ante was upped when Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy visited the region to have an air and ground inspection accompanied by the occupied territory’s self-proclaimed tourism chief, Unal Ustel.

Until now only the Turkish army was allowed in but the Turkish-Cypriot side said on June 18 it would begin allowing tourists to visit the empty, eerie town where 1974 cars are still in showrooms and everything is as it as 45 years earlier.

Ersoy said a project to be prepared by the occupiers will be submitted to Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry, which is ready to provide the necessary technical and financial support after an ownership inventory work is completed, if ever.