The leader of occupied northern Cyprus announced on Friday that the once-glittering resort city of Varosha will soon be reopened in a bid to attract tourism and trade.
Reuters is reporting that Ersin Tatar, the leader who has assumed the title of Prime Minister of the Turkish-occupied north, said that the city, which has been encircled with barbed wire since the Turkish invasion of 1974, will be allowed once again to receive visitors.
Along with Famagusta just to the north, the well-known resort city on the northern coast of the Mediterranean island, Varosha has served as a no-mans-land since the day of the invasion. Ruined buildings, abandoned churches and empty hulks of apartment towers dot the landscape, creating a near-apocalyptic scene.
The ceasefire lines split the island into two along the borders of these once-posh cities, displacing many thousands of Greek Cypriots, who fled in terror at the invasion by Turkish troops 46 years ago. No nation in the world outside Turkey recognizes the “state” declared in northern Cyprus at that time.
Reuters quotes Tatar as saying “Varosha is most definitely going to be opened. The tide has shifted, a new page has been turned. (Northern Cyprus) will become stronger by opening Varosha to tourism.”
He gave no timetable for the reopening but stated to interviewers that the work to ready the city for visitors was “almost complete.”
“Varosha lies within TRNC territory,” he said, referring to northern Cyprus. “Nobody can take it from us. We are successfully continuing on our path. The inventory work is almost complete, we are in the opening phase.”
It is noted that back in February, of this year, Turkish and Turkish Cypriot officials, accompanied by members of the military, made an official visit to Varosha, in a very public move meant to show the world that they had no compunction about taking control of the city.
The Greek Cypriots, the descendants of the people who have lived on the island since time immemorial, live mainly in the Republic of Cyprus to the south, which is part of the European Union.
Repeated peacemaking efforts have made no significant progress in the 46 years since the invasion and the discovery of offshore energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean has complicated the difficult situation even further.