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Turkey Plans to Make Cyprus Ghost Town Varosha Tourist Lure

August 26, 2019

Turkey plans to help Turkish-Cypriots reopen the abandoned town of Varosha, a once-famous celebrity-filled seaside resort, that was shut down after the unlawful 1974 invasion that saw Turkey occupy the northern third of the island.

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.

The town was abandoned after the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 550 on May 11,1984, which barred the resettlement of the town but Turkey, which has gotten away with defying the UN before, is doing so again without consequences.

It wasn’t indicated how it would be possible to make the town safe for visits as the infrastructure has crumbled and deteriorated from lack of maintenance and it’s not known if buildings are safe or the condition of water supplies and other utilities.

Earlier in July, Cyprus’ government denounced stepped-up plans by Turkey to reopen the fenced-off abandoned Varosha neighborhood in the city of Famagusta, which Greece and Cypriots call Ammochostos.

Ozersay led an entourage to inventory  decaying residential buildings, hotels, and infrastructure as part of a land registry study to determine ownership of properties by Greek-Cypriots, and the Muslim community trust, the EVKAF, which claims substantial holdings, The Irish Times said.

PROPERTY RIGHTS DISPUTE

Ozersay said the aim was to see if the can be be opened again – under Turkish control – and that it should not remain abandoned and  empty, he said, “while people who have rights to their properties there have no connection,” the paper reported.

Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said the visit violated UN Security Council resolutions and jeopardize any hope of resuming reunification talks that collapsed in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would never remove a 35,000-strong occupying army and wanted the right to militarily intervene again when they wanted.

Ozersay said if the city can reopen – it would take expensive and immense renovation and restructuring as it’s frozen in time and deteriorated – that rights would be respected and former inhabitants would be allowed to return to their properties under Turkish-Cypriot “sovereignty.”

Only Turkey recognizes the territory it seized in 1974 and a long line of diplomats, envoys and other officials have failed to make any headway despite many talks.

Ozersay said the Turkish-Cypriots want to make Varosha a tourist destination again as it was one of the mos famous in the world in the 1960’s and 1970’s, a favorite of the wealthy, celebrities and movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor.

That could give the weak Turkish-Cypriot economy a boost although the cost of making the crumbling buildings reusable again isn’t known and it could be prohibitive although Turkey is the major source of funds for the occupied territory.

After the Turkish army took control, Varosha’s population of 39,000 fled, many of them Greek-Cypriots hoping they would be allowed to return once the fighting subsided. That never happened and Turkey sealed off the town.

The move comes as Turkey has sent energy drilling ships into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to hunt for potentially lucrative gas fields, in defiance of Cyprus, the European Union, Greece and the United States who made proclamations.

Turkish-Cypriot self-declared prime minister Ersin Tatar admitted Varosha is being held hostage by Turkey and his side for reunification concessions and to force the legitimate government of Cyprus to give Turkish-Cypriots a bigger say in licensing of foreign energy companies offshore.

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