The Cyprus issue is gaining momentum in US politics across the aisle after the latest provocation by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to announce the reopening of part of Varosha, a fenced-off town since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
On Tuesday, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar announced that a 3.5 square-kilometer (1.35 square-mile) section of Varosha would revert from military to civilian control. He made the claim ahead of a military parade attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
Varosha is a suburb of Famagusta, a city that was Cyprus’ pre-1974 tourism hub thanks to its pristine beaches and modern hotels. After Varosha’s 15,000 Greek Cypriot residents fled in the face of advancing Turkish troops, the area was fenced off to prevent any access until last year, when Turkish and Turkish Cypriot authorities announced its “re-opening.”
Senator Bob Menendez, the chairman of the all-powerful United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said on Wednesday that President Erdogan’s “goal is to advance a separate state on the island of Cyprus.
“Simply put, this violation of international law is unacceptable and I expect to hear from the Under Secretary today a plan on how the Biden administration will respond. I led a letter with several members on this Committee to the President last week.
“Erdogan’s actions are not simply about Cyprus, but mark a crucial test for the UN system and the U.S. response. We need to see a strong statement from the UN Security Council today condemning this move,” Menendez stated.
In the House, Gus Bilirakis, the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 12th Congressional district, took the floor to condemn Erdogan’s provocation and the continued illegal occupation of Cyprus.
“His presence (in occupied Cyprus) was a deliberate and provocative move that demonstrates the absolute insanity of how, in the 21st century, a NATO ally can continue to illegally and militarily occupy an EU nation,” said Rep. Bilirakis.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the decision to open Varosha. In a tweet late on Tuesday he said:
“We condemn the decision to have Turkish Cypriots take control over parts of Varosha, which is inconsistent with UN resolutions, unacceptable, and incompatible with past commitments to resume settlement talks. We urge a reversal of this decision and steps taken since Oct. 2020.”
We condemn the decision to have Turkish Cypriots take control over parts of Varosha, which is inconsistent with UN resolutions, unacceptable, and incompatible with past commitments to resume settlement talks. We urge a reversal of this decision and steps taken since Oct. 2020.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 21, 2021
UN mulls proposal asking Turkey to reverse decision on Cyprus
In New York, Britain tabled a proposal for a UN Security Council statement which would call on Turkey and breakaway Turkish Cypriots to reverse the decision to reopen part of Varosha.
The proposed Security Council presidential statement would reiterate “that no actions should be carried out in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with its resolutions.”
A May 11, 1984 resolution says the Security Council “considers any attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of that area to the administration of the United Nations.” A Sept. 14, 1992 resolution reiterates that to implement the 1984 resolution the area under control of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus should “be extended to include Varosha.”
The draft presidential statement stresses the importance of implementing council resolutions “including the transfer of Varosha to UN administration.”
It would also express “deep concern” at Tuesday’s announcement “on the reopening of an area constituting 3.4% of the fenced-off area of Varosha and the resettlement of this same area.”
The draft presidential statement would reaffirm the Security Council’s commitment “to an enduring, comprehensive and just settlement in accordance with the wishes of the Cypriot people, and based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, as set out in relevant Security Council resolutions.”
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades called the move a veiled bid by Turkish Cypriots, backed by Turkey, to acquire more territory that could scuttle peace efforts and a violation of council resolutions prohibiting any change to the coastal area’s status.
The Greek Foreign Ministry also issued a statement condemning plans to reopen part of Famagusta. The ministry said the latest announcement is in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, as well as with the conclusions of the European Council and the calls by the international community.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell reaffirmed the bloc’s commitment Tuesday to reunification based on “a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality.”