Cyprus has appealed to the U.N. Security Council over plans by Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway Turkish-held north to partially reopen the abandoned resort of Varosha.
At the same time, Turkey repeated its call for a two-state solution on the divided island despite international criticism.
Turkish Cypriots, backed by Ankara, said on Tuesday that part of Varosha – now a military zone and an area touted in the past to be returned to its legal Greek Cypriot inhabitants – would come under civilian control. And to be open for potential resettlement.
It triggered an angry reaction from Nicosia, the internationally recognised government, and a chorus of disapproval from Western powers, led by the United States which called the move “unacceptable”.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is deeply concerned by the decision by the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey, said U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq in a statement as Turkey just 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. United Nations resolutions have called for the area to be turned over to U.N. administration.
Repurposing the area to Turkish Cypriot civilian authorities effectively challenges a widely held assumption that Varosha would be among the possible areas returned to Greek Cypriot control in the event of a Cyprus peace settlement.
“This is a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and will have a negative impact on efforts underway to restart talks,” Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said.
The east Mediterranean island was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 and UN-brokered reunification efforts have repeatedly failed.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, backed by Ankara, says only a two-state deal will now work.