NEWS

Nicosia links Varosha with trade

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has proposed to Brussels that the Turkish-held port of Famagusta could be jointly controlled under EU supervision if the ghost town of Varosha is returned to its Greek-Cypriot inhabitants, the government said yesterday. «The proposal relates to the return of the fenced-off area (Varosha) of Famagusta to its rightful inhabitants as provided for by UN resolutions, so at the same time a legal formula can be found for the reopening of Famagusta port,» government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said. The proposal is viewed as a countermove by Nicosia, which is keen to prevent Brussels from agreeing to trade directly with the Turkish-Cypriot north of the divided island. [But Turkish-Cypriot administration head Mehmet Ali Talat said there should be no link between Varosha and the opening of the port of Famagusta.] The spokesman said Papadopoulos had already spoken to Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen on the issue and had now followed up with a detailed outline of his position. Varosha – in its heyday the island’s top tourist resort – is a United Nations-protected area with its decaying hotels and sandy beaches remaining empty for the past 30 years. Varosha would have been returned to its rightful residents under a UN reunification plan rejected by Greek Cypriots at a referendum on April 24 but accepted by Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus joined the European Union divided on May 1. The EU has moved to reward the Turkish Cypriots for voting «yes» in their referendum by trying to end the north’s economic isolation. Turkey is pushing Brussels to come good on that promise, while Nicosia argues that the EU proposals to conduct direct trade with the north are illegal.