Turkish Cypriots vow to open all Varosha

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In a move likely to create more friction, Turkish Cypriot authorities said they plan to open the entire fenced-off ghost town of Varosha in phases.

In an interview with the Turkish daily Milliyet, the head of the Turkish Cypriot foreign office, Tahsin Ertugruloglu, said the authorities in the Turkish-occupied north would not suffice with opening 3.5% of Varosha but will be opening the whole city ‘step by step’.

“We will be the ones to decide when and how Varosha will be opened.

“The most important element is that whichever part opens, it will be under our administration,” said Ertugruloglu.

The move is seen as another tension-raising gambit as reopening the once Greek Cypriot-inhabited Varoshia violates UN resolutions and is condemned by the international community.

The Turkish Cypriot official said authorities would not be touching private property, noting that the property issue is a complex matter that cannot be solved overnight.

He acknowledged that most of the land in Varosha belongs to the Turkish Cypriot religious endowment foundation EVKAF.

Asked to comment on the row with the UN peacekeeping force UNFICYP, Ertugruloglu conceded that their demand for the UN to sign an agreement with the north is part of their campaign to gain recognition for the breakaway state.

“Within the framework of a two-state policy, there is no Green Line. There is only an official border, with the buffer zone running between the two states,” said Ertugruloglu.

The Turkish Cypriot leadership has been playing hardball with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus, demanding they either recognise the breakaway state or leave the north.

The Turkish Cypriot authorities have demanded that UNFICYP sign a military agreement with them, allowing the UN to retain its presence in the north.

Ertugruloglu said that if the UN does not sign an agreement, the UN troops will have to go.

“If it comes to that, we will simply tell them to leave.

“It should not surprise them, as we have been telling them we will do it for two years now.”

Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, announced in July 2021 a partial lifting of the military status in Varosha after opening part of the fenced area.

The UN and the EU have denounced the move, but the Turkish side has expanded instead of rolling back.