In an effort to create new realities on the ground, in view of a possible new round of negotiations on the Cyprus issue, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday announced plans to partially open Varosha, the southern part of Famagusta that has been fenced off and abandoned since Turkey invaded the north of Cyprus in 1974.
The plan, which stipulates the opening of an area corresponding to 3.5% of Varosha, ignores relevant decisions by the United Nations Security Council and the European Council.
“Life in Varosha will start again. With respect to property rights, the proceedings will move ahead and the gates will be opened in Varosha for a new era that will be to the benefit of all,” he said during his visit, marking the 47th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion.
The announcements by Erdogan, including his insistence on a two-state solution for Cyprus, were roundly condemned by Greece, Cyprus, the European Union and the United States. EU High Representative Josep Borrell called the announcements “unacceptable,” while new US Deputy Secretary of State for European Affairs Karen Donfried described the move to open Varosha as provocative, saying it will destabilize the region.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar stressed that the area will be declassified as a military zone, “and this will be our second step in the opening of Famagusta.”
The Turkish Cypriot newspaper Kibris Postasi said the area covers the outskirts of the large church of Agios Nikolaos at the city’s entrance.
The private properties in the area, the paper said, will be returned to 36 Greek Cypriots, who have already applied to the “Real Estate Committee.” Property owners, it said, have three options – the return of their properties, compensation or exchange of property – in line with Ankara’s goal to increase the number of applicants who will indirectly recognize the Turkish Cypriot administration in Famagusta.
In his speech, Erdogan also attacked the “enemies of Turks,” including Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“Today all the enemies of the Turks, along with Mitsotakis, probably by teleconference with the US, will speak against us in response to us. Let the enemies of the Turks do it. We give our message. We will uphold our rights,” he said, and accused the EU of forfeiting its promise of financial aid to the Turkish Cypriots. “Their lives are built on lies! They are not honest,” he said
Referring to EU officials who asked him not to make statements that could cause inconvenience on his visit, he said “we don’t need your permission.”