NICOSIA – In a move that could further splinter any hopes of bringing the island back together, hardline Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said the abandoned resort of Varosha on the occupied side will be fully opened in 2023.
Tatar has rejected reunification, instead demanding that the United Nations and world recognize a self-declare republic that no other country in the world apart from Turkey – which seized it in 1974 invasions – accepts.
Tatar, pushed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, authorized a partial reopening of the resort that has sat idle for 48 years before part or the beach was opened to Turks, and with plans to renovate decrepit buildings.
He told state broadcaster Bayrak (BRT) that he tried to keep communication with what he called “Southern Cyprus” – the legitimate Greek-Cypriot government that’s a member of the European Union that Turkey has been trying fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005.
But he said he won’t talk about unity, only acceptance of the occupied side and that all his demands be met. The last round of negotiations – when moderate Mustaf Akinci was the Turkish-Cypriot leader, fell apart at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana in July, 2017.
That was over insistence by Akinci and Erdogan to keep a 35,000-strong standing army on the occupied side and the right of further military intervention, which Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades rejected.
Anastasiades is leaving office in February when elections will be held, becoming the latest Cypriot leader to fail to broker an agreement, and he has denounced the moves on Varosha.
Of the abandoned resort, Tatar said that, “(Previously it was) that on the one hand it’s within our jurisdiction and on the other that we won’t govern there, that policy no longer exists,” for him.
He said it will be entirely reopened in phases, explaining that this was done firstly on a pilot basis whereby a zone was demilitarized and rezoned to civil authority although earlier it was said the cost of restoring buildings was prohibitive.
Tatar further said that all the parks, public spaces and the beach would be open to the public but didn’t say what would become of homes and buildings that were owned by Greek-Cypriots forced out during the invasions. A UN resolution said that only the original owners can re-inhabit them.