Erdogan plans to ‘picnic’ in Varosha

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to attend a “picnic” next month in fenced-off Varosha, as he pushes for a two-state solution on the divided island, Bloomberg reported.

“I would like to have a picnic in Varosha,” Erdogan said Monday. “I see it from television screens, and I would like to personally experience it.”

He’ll travel to the occupied north on November 15 to attend the 37th anniversary of the self-declared Turkish Cypriot state, only recognised by Ankara.

Erdogan, speaking during a joint briefing with the newly elected Turkish-Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, dismissed talk of an UN-backed federal solution as a “waste of time.”

With Ankara’s encouragement, the breakaway Turkish Cypriots earlier this month partially opened Varosha’s beachfront to the public for the first time in 46 years.

The Republic of Cyprus said the move hindered reunification attempts while the EU and United Nations urged Turkey to reverse the decision.

Varosha was the island’s premier tourist resort before it was abandoned and sealed off following the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus in the summer of 1974.

Turkish-Cypriot authorities now want to redevelop Varosha which would need billions in rebuilding its infrastructure.

Tatar made opening up Varosha part of his election campaign and visited the area on the day it opened to the public.

The move has put more obstacles in the way of peace talks resuming after three years in limbo.

Nicosia has said it will consider any attempt to unilaterally change Varosha’s status as a breach of Ankara’s international commitments and prevent peace talks.

Varosha is seen as a hostage to Turkey’s wider claims in the region as it ups the ante with Cyprus and Greece over rights to developed energy reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. (source Bloomberg)