The United Nations Security Council unanimously insisted on Friday that Turkey not go ahead with implementing its plans to reopen the coastal suburb of Varosha in Northern Cyprus. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry promptly shot back by insisting that the Council’s statement was “based on Greek-Greek Cypriot black propaganda and groundless claims”.
Friday’s presidential statement by the Security Council, which all 15 members approved, insisted that “no actions should be carried out in relation to Varosha, that are not in accordance with its resolutions.”
“The Security Council condemns the announcement in Cyprus by Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders on July 20, 2021, on the further reopening of part of the fenced-off area of Varosha,” the statement said.
The Security Council also expressed “its deep regret regarding those unilateral actions that run contrary to its previous resolutions and statement” and went on to call “for the immediate reversal of this course of action and the reversal of all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020.”
Varosha, known as Maraş in Turkish, has been uninhabited since Turkey invaded the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 and established the internationally unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
The Security Council worries that by repopulating Varosha 47 years later, Turkey and the TRNC could raise tensions on the divided island. The statement insists that any resettlement of
Varosha “by people other than its inhabitants is inadmissible”.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry responded with a statement that dismissed the Security Council.
“We reject the Presidential Statement made by the U.N. Security Council on the second phase of the Maraş initiative, announced by the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), H.E. Mr. Ersin Tatar, on July 20 2021, as well as the statements from various countries which are based on unfounded claims and inconsistent with the realities on the Island,” read the statement, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.
“These statements are based on Greek-Greek Cypriot black propaganda and groundless claims, such as that Maraş is not TRNC territory, that the TRNC will confiscate the properties in Maraş and bring settlers there against the property rights,” the statement continued.
The statement also contended that the area “has not been opened to settlement and was declared as a military zone as a good will gesture by the TRNC authorities” and that Turkish Cypriot authorities “respect the property rights and are in full compliance with international law.”
The TRNC also released a statement in which it claimed that the “wording of the statement of the UNSC Presidency on the ‘reopening of the part of the fenced-off area of Varosha’ is misleading.”
“The TRNC Council of Ministers has not made a decision for the reopening of the said area removed from military status,” it added.
Ersin Tatar, the leader of the TRNC, announced on July 20 that a 3.5 square-kilometre part of Varosha would return to civilian control. His comments coincided with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to mark the 47th anniversary of the Turkish invasion with a military parade.
Varosha is a suburb of the city of Famagusta. In 1974, about 15,000 Greek Cypriots fled the area as a result of the Turkish invasion. It remained completely fenced-off from 1974 until October 2020 when Turkey and the TRNC announced it was “re-opening”, the Associated Press reported.
Varosha’s former Greek Cypriot population fear that this move could pressure them into selling their properties. Turkish Cypriots also worry that the move could undermine attempts to reconcile the divided island’s two communities, AP said.