Turkish plans for the abandoned town of Varosha on the northern third it has occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion are to make it once again a resort mecca and gambling haven, in defiance of United Nations resolutions proclaiming only the original inhabitants can return, those alive.
The occupied land is a self-declared republic no country in the world other than Turkey recognizes but it’s still Turkey – not Turkish-Cypriots – calling the shots on what happens there with Turkish officials having made several tours of the the ghost town to survey what could be saved or resurrected after 45 years of decay.
During its peak, Varosha was a resort that attracted celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor but now is a decrepit ruin, stuck in time in 1974, an area of abandoned hotels, empty apartments and weed-covered streets taken back by nature.
In a feature, the British newspaper The Telegraph said if Turkey can make it happen that a revitalized Varosha could be a playground again, if you don’t mind going to an occupied land for partying and fun.
Varosha “will become Las Vegas again,” Ersin Tatar, the Turkish-Cypriot self-declared prime minister, said during the summer and all the trappings are there to make it happen unless the infrastructure is unsafe and too far gone.
Land claims by thousands of Greek-Cypriots would be taken into account, but Tatar said preference would go to conflicting claims by Islamic religious organizations dating back to British colonial rule of the island, paving the way for Turkey to take it all.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the plan is “completely unacceptable,” and has undermined hopes of restarting reunification talks that fell apart in the last round of talks in Juy, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.
Around 45,000 Greek Cypriots had to flee the area during the war between the two sides and they still own land and property in the sprawling ghost town, which is situated in the Turkish Cypriot north on the southern edge of the port city of Famagusta, the paper noted.
Untouched for 45 years and open only to the Turkish military, Varosha has clothing stores with 1970’s fashion and 1974 cars in showrooms. out of bounds to the public, Varosha harbours old clothes shops with mannequins dressed in 1970s fashions and a car dealership full of old Toyotas.
Nikos Nikolaou, 57, who owns a cafe right next to the No Man’s Land sign, near the Greek-Cypriot town of Deryneia told the paper that he was 12 when his family fled, leaving behind houses, a restaurant ,land, including beach front plots which will be worth a fortune if the resort is developed. “The Turkish Cypriots are taking a city that doesn’t belong to them,” he said.