Officials in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on Tuesday declared a partial reopening of a deserted city for possible resettlement, which drew a strong reprimand from Greek Cyprus and international leaders, including the United States.
Varosha, a newfangled collection of discarded high-rise hotels and apartments, has been abandoned since a 1974 war that divided the island, a service zone that no one is allowed to enter.
Northern Cyprus authorities opened a small area for day visits in November 2020 and said on Tuesday that part of it would be converted into private use, with a mechanism enabling people to recycle their properties.
“A new era will start in Maras, which will serve everyone,” said Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who visited the breakaway of Northern Cyprus on Tuesday. Maras is the Turkish name for Varosha.
“We do not have another 50 years to waste,” Erdogan told a crowd during a parade celebrating the 47th anniversary of his country’s invasion that divided the Mediterranean island.
He referred to decades of failed UN efforts to reunite Cyprus.
“No progress can be made in negotiations without accepting that there are two peoples and two states of equal status,” he declared.
Greek Cypriot officers fear that a change in the region’s status has a clear intention for Turkey to implement it. Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades called the move as “unacceptable”.
“It grows or is an attempt to change the status quo,” he said.
The Greek Foreign Ministry said it condemned the move “in the strongest terms”.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said the decision was “contrary to UN Security Council resolutions” which “explicitly call for Varosha to be run by the United Nations”.
“The United States views the Turkish Cypriot action in Varosha, with Turkey’s support, as interesting, unacceptable and inconsistent with its past promises to engage in constructive dialogue,” he said.
“We call on Turkish Cypriots and Turkey to reverse their decision announced today and all steps taken since October 2020.”