Erdoğan to ‘have a picnic’ in re-opened Varosha on northern Cyprus' foundation anniversary

(Updates with the date of the event)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he was planning to visit northern Cyprus next week, to attend some ceremonies and “hold a picnic all together in the closed Varosha region,” state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Saturday.

Erdoğan said during a provincial meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that he would be accompanied by his junior partner in parliament, leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli in his Cypriot picnic on Nov. 15, the anniversary of the declaration of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

The Turkish president had brought up the picnic last month, when former prime minister Ersin Tatar was elected president in the TRNC.

“Inshallah a new process is starting in Cyprus now,” Erdoğan said. “Turkish Cypriots have elected a president who loves and accepts Turkey.”

The fenced-off former resort town of Varosha had been closed since the island’s division in 1974, and was partially opened again last month despite objections from the United Nations.

Unlike Tatar, his predecessor Mustafa Akıncı had a rough relationship with Erdoğan and his government. Akıncı also favoured a federal solution with the Greeks who live in the divided island’s southern part, and objected to Turkey’s control over Cypriot Turks.

“We will live out our togetherness as the motherland and the cub with our brothers in Northern Cyprus,” Erdoğan said. “There was a need for this, but it was delayed. Now inshallah we build it up again.”

Continuing his speech, Erdoğan vowed to “spend every moment of this God-given life in the pursuit of victory for this sacred cause.”

Meanwhile, President Tatar’s National Unity Party (UBP) has been experiencing problems since his election, Turkish news website Duvar reported, citing Cypriot Turkish media sources on Friday.

The party is set to elect a new leader as Tatar has had to resign to become a neutral president, in accordance with TRNC’s laws.  UBP held the first round of its congress last week, and was set to hold the second round this Saturday. The congress was cancelled last minute, upon interference from Ankara, according to Duvar.

“I didn’t know the congress would be postponed until yesterday morning,” UBP’s Zorlu Töre said. “Apparently there were some talks and developments at night. Two colleagues said they would withdraw their candidacies.”

The top contenders for UBP leadership were Faiz Sucuoğlu, who had the lead with a significant margin, and Hasan Taçoy, a close ally of former Cypriot president Derviş Eroğlu.

“I had to approve the cancellation of the second round to avoid any harm to party unity and intraparty peace,” Sucuoğlu said.

Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay said the party congress was “experiencing a similar process to what happened during the presidential election,” and that there was “an unnatural situation” underway.

“Outside intervention against (TRNC’s) institutions and elections restrict the arena for politics and renders political action meaningless,” Özersay said.

One possibility is for former prime minister Hüseyin Özgürgün to return to Cyprus from Turkey to take on the leadership of the UBP, as well as the office of prime minister.

During the campaign process, former president Mustafa Akıncı said he had received threats from Turkish authorities to withdraw from the race.