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Turkey's Plans to Open Varosha on Cyprus Draws Fire: Erdogan Doesn't Care

Εθνικός Κήρυξ

Turkey s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar salute during a military parade, in Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

As is his wont, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ignored international denunciation of his plan to further reopen part of the abandoned resort of Varosha on the northern third of Cyprus unlawfully occupied since a 1974 Turkish invasion.

In 2020, part of the beach there was opened for the use only of Turks and Turkish-Cypriots amid concerns by the Greek-Cypriot side he would rebuild the crumbling resort and let Turks take houses once owned by them.

That would be in violation of United Nations' resolutions but Erdogan has shown he doesn't care what the UN or anyone else says, just as he didn't when there was condemnation of turning the ancient revered Agia Sophia church in Constantinople into a mosque.

A proposed U.N. Security Council statement would call on Turkey and breakaway Turkish-Cypriots to reverse a decision to reopen a residential section of the abandoned resort on the occupied territory but would have no weight.

Greece called for the international community to step up pressure over the plan that Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said would put a dagger into any lingering hopes to reunify the island, although Erdogan said he wants recognition for the isolated side and two states.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Turkey’s attempts to legitimize illegal activities by proposing “alternative” ideas would not mislead anyone, reported Kathimerini.

Addressing an event titled Strengthening US-Cyprus relations in the Face of Turkish intransigence” organized by the World Coordinating Committee of the Cyprus Struggle, Mitsotakis noted that “the root cause of the Cyprus problem is the illegal Turkish invasion of 1974 and the continuing occupation of the northern part of the island.”

He rejected the further opening of Varosha or a two-state plan. “There is only one legal framework for resolving the Cyprus issue, the one set out in the UN Security Council resolutions,” he added, the paper reported.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias visited Nicosia and later briefed French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in a letter, as France holds the Presidency of the Security Council this month and backs Cyprus over the Varosha move.

The paper said that Dendias wrote that the return of Varosha to its legal inhabitants under UN administration is a priority even if long-futile attempts to solve the Cyprus question resume.

Speaking in Nicosia, Dendias said Turkey is seeking to create “new realities” on the ground and “to bury once and for all the prospect of reunification of Cyprus,” which has apparently emboldened Erdogan over Varosha.

“They are violating the decisions of the UN Security Council in the most barbaric way. They violate international law… and confirm Turkish intentions, which are none other than the extension of the occupation in Cyprus and the consolidation of a neo-Ottoman hegemony in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean,” said Dendias.

Turkish-Cypriot hard line leader Ersin Tatar, who said he would follow Erdogan's lead, said that a 3.5 square-kilometer (1.35 square-mile) section of the Varosha suburb would revert from military to civilian control.

He made the announcement ahead of a military parade attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

UN mediated talks to try to reunify Cyprus collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana after Erdogan and then Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said a 35,000-strong standing army on the occupied side.

Varosha is a suburb of Famagusta, a city that was Cyprus’ pre-1974 tourism hub thanks to its pristine beaches and modern hotels. After Varosha’s 15,000 Greek-Cypriot residents fled in the face of advancing Turkish troops, the area was fenced-off to prevent any access until last year when Turkish and Turkish Cypriot authorities announced its “re-opening.”

Varosha’s former residents denounced the latest move by Turkish Cypriots and Turkey as a bid to take advantage of their desperation over the area’s future and to psychologically pressure them into selling off their properties. Many Turkish Cypriots also condemned the move as undermining ongoing efforts at reconciliation between the two communities.

The proposed Security Council presidential statement would reiterate “that no actions should be carried out in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with its resolutions,” following the tone of a 1984 resolution.

Anastasiades called the move a veiled bid by Turkish Cypriots, backed by Turkey, to acquire more territory that could scuttle peace efforts and a violation of council resolutions prohibiting any change to the coastal area’s status.

His legitimate government is a member of the European Union that has been reluctant to tangle with Erdogan, fearful he will unleash more refugees and migrants on the bloc through Greece and its islands.

Erdogan is also ignoring soft EU sanctions on Turkish state-owned oil company executives for drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters which exempted him and haven't worked.

UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply concerned” about the Turkish-Cypriot announcement on Varosha, usual diplomatic boilerplate that's wheeled out from time to time.

Guterres “has repeatedly called on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that provoke tensions and may compromise the ongoing efforts to seek common ground between the parties towards a lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue,” said Haq.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price  reiterated Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s appeal Tuesday to Turkish-Cypriots and Turkey to reverse the decision on Varosha, also ignored.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)