The Turkish Cypriot leader announced on Thursday that the occupied city of Varosha which has remained a ghost town since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 will reopen after local “elections” in December.
The move by the Turkish Cypriots is illegal. The UN Security Council Resolution 550 states that it “considers attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible” and calls for “the transfer of this area to the administration of the United Nations.”
“They told us not to reopen Varosha, we opened it…After the elections, we will proceed with the reopening of the entire town,” the so-called Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Unal Ustel reportedly said during a campaign event on Thursday.
He also emphasized that a move to reopen the entire town will be “done with the mother country Turkey.”
He praised the policy as an opportunity to boost the local economy and as a way of increasing employment amongst the younger population.
UN condemns attempts to reopen Varosha in Cyprus
Varosha is the southern part of Famagusta that has been fenced off and abandoned since Turkey invaded in 1974.
Following the Turkish invasion, the entire Greek Cypriot population fled to Paralimni, Dherynia, and Larnaca, fearing a massacre. The evacuation was aided and orchestrated by the nearby British military base. Paralimni has since become the modern-day capital of the Famagusta province of Greek Cypriot-led Cyprus.
In 2021, the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) issued a strong statement against Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot regime in regard to the announcements about Varosha in Cyprus.
The presidential statement of the UN says that the Security Council condemns ”the 20 July announcement by Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders on the further reopening of a part of the fenced-off Varosha area in Cyprus, calling for the immediate reversal of that course of action and for the reversal of all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020.”
In the same year, nineteen members of the US Congress signed a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urging action against Turkey’s and Turkish Cypriot attempts to reopen Varosha.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned the decision to partially reopen Varosha.
In a tweet 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.”
Currently, a few main roads are open to the public as are two main beachfronts with the accessible path cutting across a wide stretch of the town. However, much of it remains off-limits.
Varosha was first partially reopened to the public in October 2020 with smaller steps being taken ever since, including adding amenities and restaurants along the beachfront.
Busloads of tourists arrive just outside the fenced-off area, as a checkpoint has been opened next to the Dr. Fazil Kucuk Stadium. Tour guides across various apps and platforms offer guided day trips to the town.