Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar on Tuesday announced plans to reopen part of Varosha, a southern suburb of Famagusta that has been fenced off and abandoned since Turkey invaded northern Cyprus.
Tatar, a proponent of closer ties to Ankara, said authorities plan to lift the military status for part of Famagusta, adding that 3.5 percent of the area will be granted civilian status.
The Foreign Ministry in Athens issued a strong-worded statement condemning the move.
The announcement was made during a two-day visit by Erdogan, coinciding with the anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus that split the Mediterranean island along ethnic lines.
In his speech, Erdogan attacked the “enemies of Turkish Cypriots,” including Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“All these will today make speeches about Cyprus. We will listen to them, but we do not care what they say.”
The Turkish president reiterated his call for a “two-state solution” in Cyprus, while slamming the European Union which has rejected the idea.
“We will not take their advice… We will do what we need to do,” Erdogan said on Tuesday.
European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said in Nicosia earlier this month that the 27 member-bloc which Cyprus joined in 2004 would “never, ever” accept such an arrangement.
On Monday, hundreds of Greek Cypriots staged a protest against Erdogan’s visit in Dherynia village near Varosha, an abandoned suburb of the town of Famagusta in the north that until recently had been off-limits and under strict Turkish military control.
Varosha had remained empty and barren since 1974, but Turkey and Turkish Cypriot authorities last year allowed access to the area. That enraged many of Varosha’s Greek Cypriot residents who saw the move as a bid to pressure them into relinquishing their rights to their properties.
Protester Eleni Marangou said Turkish Cypriots also joined the protest to voice their wish for a peace deal reunifying Cyprus.
“Famagusta residents haven’t forgotten their town and are united in demanding it back as well as an agreement that reunifies our country,” Marangou told the Associated Press. “We want the powerful of this world to hear our voice.” [Kathimerini, AP]