Cyprus: Anastasiades discusses EU’s position on Turkey
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Turkish Cypriot authorities announced last week a partial reopening of an abandoned town for potential resettlement, drawing a strong rebuke from rival Greek Cypriots of orchestrating a land grab by stealth. Varosha, an eerie collection of derelict high-rise hotels and residences in a military zone nobody has been allowed to enter, has been deserted since a 1974 war split the island.
Turkish Cypriot authorities opened a small area for day visits in November 2020 and said on Tuesday a part of it would be converted to civilian use with a mechanism in place for people to potentially reclaim their properties.
Mr Erdogan, who was visiting breakaway north Cyprus last week said: “A new era will begin in Maras which will benefit everyone.”
Maras is the Turkish name for Varosha.
The Turkish leader told Brussels to stay out of the row between his country and the EU member state.
But Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, hit back at President Erdogan, branding his move “unacceptable”.
Turkey-Cyprus war: Erdogan announced last week a partial reopening of an abandoned town (Image: GETTY)
In a statement, Mr Borrell said the bloc “condemns Turkey’s unilateral steps and the unacceptable announcements made by the Turkish President … the further reopening of the fenced-off town of Varosha.”
In a stern threat to the Turkish chief, Mr Borrell said the EU will be considering actions against Turkey, should it failed to withdraw its provocations.
He added: “Ministers will consider actions at their next meeting, in case of non-reversal of Turkey’s actions contrary to UN Security Council Resolutions 550/84 and 789/92, following the Statement of the Members of the European Council from 25 March 2021, which reaffirmed the determination of the EU, in case of renewed provocations and unilateral actions in breach of international law, to use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests and those of its Member States, as well as to uphold regional stability.”
Greek Cypriots fear a change to the area’s status displays a clear intent of Turkey to appropriate it. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades also described the move as “illegal and unacceptable”.
Mr Anastasiades said: “I want to send the strongest message to Mr Erdogan and his local proxies that the unacceptable actions and demands of Turkey will not be accepted.”
Greece’s Foreign Ministry said it condemned the move “in the strongest terms”, while the United Kingdom, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, said it would be discussing the issue as a matter of urgency with other council members, saying it was “deeply concerned”.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The UK calls on all parties not to take any actions which undermine the Cyprus settlement process or increase tensions on the island.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the announcement “provocative” and “unacceptable”.
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Turkey-Cyprus news: Joseph Borrell threatened Erdogan with EU sanctions (Image: GETTY)
He said “the United States is working with like-minded partners to refer this concerning situation to the UN Security Council and will urge a strong response”.
United Nations resolutions call for Varosha to be handed over to UN administration and to allow people to return to their homes.
Mr Anastasiades said that if Turkey’s “real concern was returning properties to their legal owners … they should have adopted UN resolutions and hand the city over to the UN, allowing them to return in conditions of safety.”
Last Tuesday marked the 47th anniversary of a Turkish invasion mounted in 1974 after a Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece.
Peace efforts have repeatedly floundered, and a new Turkish Cypriot leadership, backed by Turkey, says a peace accord between two sovereign states is the only viable option.
Greek Cypriots, who represent Cyprus internationally and are backed by the European Union, reject a two-state deal for the island that would accord sovereign status to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state that only Ankara recognises.
Speaking in the divided Cypriot capital of Nicosia, Mr Erdogan said: “A new negotiation process (to heal Cyprus’ division) can only be carried out between the two states. We are right and we will defend our right to the end.”
Varosha has always been regarded as a bargaining chip for Ankara in any future peace deal, and one of the areas widely expected to have been returned to Greek Cypriot administration under a settlement.
The Turkish Cypriot move renders that assumption more uncertain.