Europe, US condemn Turkish Cypriot plans to reopen abandoned town

Europe, US condemn Turkish Cypriot plans to reopen abandoned town
Turkish Cypriot authorities are looking to reopen the town of Varosha, which has been deserted since 1974
3 min read
TheCypriot town of Varosha was once a popular tourist spot [Getty]

The European Union, France and the US have condemned plans by Turkish Cypriot authorities to reopen an abandoned town for potential resettlement.

The town of Varosha has been deserted since a 1974 war between split the island. Greek Cypriots fear Turkey intends to appropriate it.

“The EU once again underlines the need to avoid unilateral actions in breach of international law and renewed provocations, which could raise tensions on the island and compromise a return to talks on a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue,” the EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed support for Cyprus on Wednesday.

Le Drian said he discussed the matter on Monday with his Cypriot counterpart and would be raising the topic at the United Nations.

The US "is working with like-minded partners to refer this concerning situation to the UN Security Council and will urge a strong response," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would build a new government complex to symbolise the state of northern Cyprus, which he said the world would "sooner or later" recognise.

Erdogan made the pledge in a speech to parliamentarians of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognised by Ankara, reiterating his support for a two-state solution to the island's division.

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Greek Cypriots - the island's internationally recognised government and an EU member - refuse to discuss a two-state formula as it implies recognition of the TRNC.

"The project work on the TRNC presidential complex has been completed and we will start construction soon, God willing," Erdogan said, adding that the complex would include a new parliament.

"This is the expression of being a state. By realising this project some people must see what sort of a Northern Cyprus state there is," he said.

The east Mediterranean island of Cyprus was split in two in 1974 in a Turkish invasion, exactly 47 years ago on Tuesday, following a brief Greek-inspired coup.

Erdogan said in February the only way to resolve the dispute was to establish two states, but the leaders of Greece and the Greek Cypriot government reject this, saying they would only accept a peace deal based on UN resolutions.

"On the island there are two separate states and two separate peoples. The international community will accept this reality sooner or later," he said on Monday. "We cannot lose another 50 years".

In April, the United Nations failed to bridge disagreements over restarting peace talks between the two sides, which collapsed in acrimony in 2017.

Cyprus's split is a constant source of tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, and has taken on sharper focus since the discovery of natural gas in the region.

For decades, the United Nations has been attempting to piece Cyprus back together as a two-zone federation - the only thing the two sides had, until recently, been able to agree to in principle.

(AFP, Reuters)