The announcement in Ankara on Tuesday that part of the fenced-off ghost town of Varosha in Turkish-occupied Cyprus will be opened for development by Turkish Cypriots was seen in Greece as seriously undermining the recent efforts between the two countries for dialogue.
The decision was announced after a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ersin Tatar, the “premier” of the breakaway state in the north, which is only recognized by Ankara.
More specifically, they announced the reopening of the beach section of the town, a former resort abandoned in no-man’s land after the Turkish invasion of 1974 forced its Greek-Cypriot residents to flee to the island’s south as refugees.
The move was condemned by the Greek Foreign Ministry “in the most categorical way,” stressing that it is a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. It said Greece will back and strengthen all relevant efforts by Nicosia.
What’s more, further complicating matters – after Erdogan on Tuesday expressed his dissatisfaction over the conclusions of the recent European Summit to German Chancellor Angela Merkel – Ankara announced test shots of the S-400 missile system, defying the call by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Monday for the non-activation of the Russian-made system.
Turkey’s moves came as Stoltenberg met in Athens with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday, who welcomed the recent de-escalation with Ankara, but stressed that “it remains to be seen whether there will be continuity or it is a temporary maneuver.”
“We expect consistency and continuity from our neighbors,” he added. Mitsotakis stressed that it is up to Turkey to “close the way to the crisis and open the way to a solution.”
The two men discussed the summer events in the East Med that the PM said “threaten the peace, stability and cohesion of NATO itself.”
“It’s not a bilateral issue. It concerns all the partners in NATO and it’s a challenge to Europe as a whole,” he said. He also welcomed the 24-hour hotline between Greek and Turkish military staff and the conflict prevention mechanism.
For his part, Stoltenberg hailed the hotline, saying it “is available 24 hours a day to facilitate deconfliction at sea and in the air,” adding that it will allow space for diplomatic efforts.