Cyprus says Turkey ghost town plan would wreck talks, U.N., EU concerned

(Updated with remarks from Russia)

Northern Cyprus’ plans to resettle a ghost town of Varosha could derail reunification talks on the divided island, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing a Greek Cypriot government document discussed by EU diplomats in Brussels.

Northern Cyprus said on Tuesday it would reopen the beach area of an abandoned resort, whose population fled following the 1974 Turkish invasion that partitioned the island. 

Cyprus has been divided since, with the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus controlling the southern two-thirds of the island, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, only recognised by Turkey, the northern third.

Prime Minister of Northern Cyprus, Ersin Tatar, during a joint appearance with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Tuesday that the town located near the port of Famagusta, the island’s former leading tourist resort, would be reopened to the public on Thursday.

Cyprus has condemned the move, labelling it a breach of Turkey’s international commitments, which would prevent talks on reunification. 

“If Turkey were to be allowed to proceed with her plans on Varosha that would create a ‘fait accompli,’ which would render the aim of reaching a Cyprus settlement, as envisaged in the UN Security Council Resolutions, utterly unattainable,” Bloomberg cited the Cypriot government as saying.

“Cyprus and the prospects for a settlement of the problem will have suffered an irreparable damage,” the document said.

Cyprus is set to protest to the U.N. Security Council, the EU and all international forums, government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos said, citing the move’s violation of international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The U.N. expressed concern on Tuesday over the decision, with  Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warning against “unilateral actions" that could heighten tensions and undermine chances for a resumption of peace talks.

The EU has also condemned the move, with the bloc’s high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, saying on Tuesday it would “complicate efforts” for the resumption of Cyprus settlement talks.

“The EU is deeply concerned about today’s announcements and developments related to Varosha. These will cause greater tensions and may complicate efforts for the resumption of Cyprus settlement talks,” Borrell said a statement.

On Wednedsay, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was seriously concerned by Northern Cyprus’s plans to open Varosha beach, Reuters reported. The ministry called the decision unacceptable.