EU condemns Turkey’s move to reopen Varosha resort in Cyprus

Status of abandoned tourist town is a highly sensitive topic on the divided island

The EU has condemned plans to reopen the Cypriot ghost town of Varosha and urged Turkey to play a more constructive role on the island.

It criticised “Turkey’s unilateral steps and the unacceptable announcements made by” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar over the resort.

Varosha was once a favourite haunt of the rich and famous. It was abandoned in 1974, when Ankara invaded Cyprus, forcing the local Greek Cypriot population to flee.

Mr Erdogan vowed that “life will restart in Varosha” when he visited the area last week. The Turkish army restored public access to parts of Varosha’s beachfront in October 2020, drawing condemnation from much of the international community.

His visit marked 47 years since Turkey invaded Cyprus. The move, triggered by a Greece-backed coup, has split the island ever since.

Mr Erdogan restated his backing for a two-state solution for the island, a proposal also backed by the unrecognised, Turkish Cypriot administration in the north.

The idea was rejected by both the EU and the internationally recognised Greek-Cypriot government in the south. Both support a federal future.

The EU said it welcomed the UN Security Council statement made on 23 July 2021 “and in particular the Security Council’s condemnation and expression of deep regret about the unilateral actions in Varosha that run contrary to the Security Council’s previous resolutions and statements. The EU equally calls for the immediate reversal of these actions and the reversal of all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell referred to previous UN resolutions that “consider attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible, and which call for the transfer of that area to the administration of the United Nations”.

He said the bloc continued “to hold the Government of Turkey responsible for the situation in Varosha”.

Peace talks between the two sides of Cyprus have repeatedly failed to make headway. The most recent round was held in July 2017.

Updated: July 27th 2021, 4:36 PM