United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is worried over Turkey’s threats to reopen part of fenced-off Varosha, urging all sides to refrain from unilateral tensions that may compromise the resumption of Cyprus talks.
A statement by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for Guterres, said the: “Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the announcements made on 20 July by the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey regarding a further opening of the fenced-off town of Varosha”.
“The Secretary-General has repeatedly called on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that provoke tensions and may compromise the ongoing efforts to seek common ground between the parties towards a lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue.”
Haq said the position of the United Nations on Varosha “remains unchanged” and is guided by the relevant Security Council resolutions.
“The Secretary-General calls on all sides to refrain from any unhelpful actions and to engage in dialogue to bring peace and prosperity to the island through a comprehensive settlement.”
Varosha, the fenced-off section of the Turkish occupied town of Famagusta, is often described as a ‘ghost town’.
UN Security Council resolution 550 (1984) 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 UN.
UNSC resolution 789 (1992) urges that with a view to the implementation of resolution 550, the area at present under the control of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus be extended to include Varosha.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar declared Tuesday – during the visit of Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan – a partial lifting of the military status in Varosha.
Cyprus appealed to the UN Security Council on Wednesday over plans by Turkish Cypriot authorities to partially reopen the abandoned resort, as Turkey repeated its call for a two-state solution on the island despite international criticism.
Turkish Cypriots, backed by Ankara, said that part of Varosha – now a military zone and an area earmarked to be returned to rival Greek Cypriots – would come under civilian control and be open for potential resettlement.
It triggered an angry reaction from Nicosia and a chorus of disapproval from Western powers, led by the United States, which called the move “unacceptable”.
Turkey shrugged off the criticism.
An estimated 17,000 Greek Cypriot residents of Varosha fled the advance of Turkish troops in August 1974.
It has remained empty ever since, sealed off with barbed wire and no-entry signs.
Repurposing the area to Turkish Cypriot civilian authorities, challenging a widely-held assumption that Varosha would be among the areas returned to Greek Cypriot control under a Cyprus peace accord.
Tatar, backed by Ankara, says only a two-state deal will now work.
Cyprus peace talks have focussed on uniting the island under a federal umbrella.
Greek Cypriots reject a two-state deal that would accord sovereign status to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state that only Ankara recognises.
Under the terms of a 2004 UN reunification blueprint, Varosha was one of the areas which would have returned to its inhabitants under Greek Cypriot administration. The plan, which detailed reunification under a complex power-sharing agreement, was rejected in a referendum by Greek Cypriots.
A poignant symbol of division, in its glamorous heyday, Varosha once attracted the jet set and Hollywood royalty, including Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman, and is said to be the first venue where four Swedish singers – later known as ABBA – sang together in 1970.
On 8 October 2020, the Turkish side opened part of the fenced area of Varosha to the public for the first time in 46 years.
Construction work in the area has been ongoing ever since. (source agencies)