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Turkey to Open Cyprus' Occupied Town, Further Fueling East Med Tensions

The ”ghost town”of Varosha in Famagusta. Credit: Katia Christodoulou, CNA

Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot self-declared government announced on Tuesday that they will open the beach town of Varosha or Varosia on Cyprus, which has remained empty and abandoned since the illegal invasion of Cyprus by Turkey in 1974.
Ersin Tatar, the leader of Northern Cyprus, a state recognized only by Turkey, announced the provocative move in Ankara, as he stood alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He said that the occupying forces will open the once-cosmopolitan seaside town on Thursday, despite numerous UN resolutions forbidding Turkey to do just that, until a negotiated settlement is reached.
“The Varosha issue is a national cause above all political debates,” Tatar said.
“It is a fact that Varosha is a Turkish Cyprus territory. We fully support the decision to make Varosha’s coastline available to the public,” Erdogan declared.
Greece and Cyprus condemned the move. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the government condemn the decision of Turkey and their “puppet” in the north Ersin Tatar, government spokesman Kyriacos Kousios said.
Kousios said the decision to offer entry to the seafront of Varosha is no more than a “campaign fiesta” by Tatar and Turkey on the eve of elections in the north for Turkish Cypriot leader.
“This threatening and illegal action of Turkey and its puppets in Cyprus will be reported to the Security Council of the United Nations, the European Union, and all other international fora as an action that violates international law and the resolutions of the UNSC, and is against the latest conclusions of the EU Council,” he said.
Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias had a telephone discussion with his Cypriot counterpart to create a common response to the Turkish provocation.

Opening any part of Varosha is illegal under international law. UN Resolutions 550 & 789 explicitly call on Turkey to hand over control of Varosha to the United Nations so that the town’s lawful residents can return to the homes they were forced to flee in 1974.
Over 39,000 Greek Cypriot refugees fled the area of Varosha after Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, violently taking control of the northern part of the island.
This move may once again jeopardize Turkey’s relationship with Greece and Cyprus, just as tensions had seemed to lessen after diplomatic talks between the countries.
At last week’s Special European Council Meeting in Brussels, the EU stood by fellow member nations Greece and Cyprus, vowing to hold Turkey accountable in the case of further acts of aggression.
For months, Turkey has provoked Greece and Cyprus by sending military and research vessels into Greek and Cypriot waters, in search of energy reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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