After backing off demands for Turkish drilling for energy off Cyprus and planning to do the same off Greek islands, penalties could be back on the table after Turkey opened a beach at the abandoned ghost town of Varosha on the occupied side of Cyprus.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades withdrew calls for sanctions by the European Union over drilling until talks could begin between Greek and Turkish officials in Ankara.
The EU gave a deadline for year's end for some kind of resolution and warned otherwise that Turkey could face penalties, which it has often threatened only to pull back amid fears that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Edogan would flood the bloc through Greece with refugees and migrants.
Turkey is holding more than four million of them who went there fleeing war, strife and economic misery in their homelands, especially Syria and Afghanistan as well as Sub-Saharan Africa.
Reopening the beach at the resort on the side occupied by Turkey in an unlawful 1974 invasion has drawn fire as Erdogan doesn't recognize Cyprus – a member of the EU that Turkey since 2005 has been trying to join – and bars its ships and planes.
The move came just ahead of the Aug. 11 elections on the Turkish-Cypriot side for a leader with incumbent Mustafa Akinci seeking to return to power but facing challenges, including from the self-declared premier and foreign minster, Ersin Tatar and, Kudrey Ozersay, said to be Erdogan's choice, Al Jazeera reported.
“Turkey needs to take a step back. If it doesn’t, next week both Cyprus and Greece will table the matter for discussion by EU leaders at the October 16-17 European Council,” said Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas.
Mitsotakis condemned the move to reopen Varosha, saying it was “a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Greece will support all relevant efforts of the Republic of Cyprus.”
But he didn't do that at an Oct. 1-2 meeting in Brussels between the EU and Turkish officials when Greece wouldn't go along with supporting Cyprus over a veto on sanctions for Belarus' rigged presidential elections if Turkey wan't punished.
Varosha was evacuated during the invasion, the once-famous resort and playground of celebrities and the rich crumbling for decades and only the Turkish military or officials allowed in.
Erdogan said he wanted the whole town restored although the cost could be prohibited and that would violate UN resolutions that only the original inhabitants should be allowed back although many are long dead.
The UN has called for Varosha to be handed back to its former Greek-Cypriot inhabitants, or at least to the UN peacekeeping force UNFICYP which patrols the Green Line dividing barrier in the capital Nicosia.
Erdogan announced the reopening of Varosha, in a joint press conference with Tatar but Akinci called it “a shame for our democracy” and “interference in our elections.”
The Turkish-Cypriot population of the island has grown from 80,000 in 1974 to more than 200,000, partly due to Turkish moves to encourage its citizens to resettle on the island through some incentives such as free housing, the site also said.