Turkish Cypriot PM announces plans to reopen ghost town Varosha over next decade

Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar on Friday repeated his government’s plans to reopen for settlement the former tourist town of Varosha in the next ten years, pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak reported.

Tatar, speaking at a press briefing following a conference on Cyprus in Turkish capital Ankara, said the Directorate of Foundations-owned part of town will be reopened for tourism and settlement, and that the Turkish Cypriot side will not dispute claims based on international law by former residents.

Varosha became a deserted town when it was included in the buffer zone as per the 1984 UN Security Council resolution on Cyprus. The island has been divided since 1974 as the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus in the south and the KKTC (recognised only by Turkey) in the north, following a brief coup by Greece and an invasion by Turkey.

Research into archives revealed that properties had been illegally taken from Turkish foundations in the 1950s, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said at the same conference.

Tatar said they are determined to make Maraş, the Turkish name of Varosha, a part of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) as part of proactive policies backed by Turkey.

 “The audacity of the Greek side and the events in east Mediterranean give us more enthusiasm,” Tatar said, referring to the ongoing dispute over drilling for offshore gas in the region.

Speaking on Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı’s efforts with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Tatar said his government is not keen on pursuing the same path after all chances were said to be spent. The plans to reopen Varosha have emerged because they don’t believe that an agreement can be reached, he said.

“Our model is a velvet divorce,” Tatar said, “Our own state and sovereignty rights, and Turkey’s effective and actional guarantee will not be compromised.”

“Those who think that the wealth of the island and the region only belongs to them will face the determination of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots,” Greek daily Kathimerini quoted Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as saying in a recorded message at the same conference.

Meanwhile, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Thursday said Turkey had “a clear stance regarding the fair distribution of reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Turkey has the same decisiveness that it had in 1974, the defence minister said, adding, “as a guarantor country we will continue to protect our rights and those of our Turkish-Cypriot brothers within the framework of international law.”