A team of experts will enter the abandoned Turkish-occupied city of Varosha to evaluate properties, “deputy prime-minister” and “foreign minister” Kudret Ozersay said on Tuesday, amid growing tensions over the control of natural gas in the region.
He said that in cooperation with Ankara, the administration in the occupied north is examining the possibility of reopening the city for settlement.
“Steps will be taken for an expert team to begin a scientific study. The team will look into the land registry records in Varosha, the condition of movable and immovable properties. The results of the study will shape our policy,” he said.
“As a result of the study we will decide on the next steps without prejudice to the former residents of Varosha,” he added.
The authorities will coordinate its actions with Ankara, sources told Demirören News Agency (DHA), adding that an expert team from the Turkish-held north will visit Varosha to make a list of movable and immovable properties in the city.
“My position has always been to reopen Varosha under the ‘TRNC’ administration,” Ozersay said.
The city is protected by a 1984 U.N. Security Council resolution, stating that the the empty town can only be resettled by its original inhabitants.
Varosha has been abandoned since 1974 and is currently occupied by the Turkish army. Entry to the public is forbidden.
Before 1974, Varosha was one of the most important tourism centres of Cyprus and had a significant contribution to the island’s economy.
“We are following developments with patience,” Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou told ANTI1 on Wednesday.
Asked to comment on Ozersay’s statements, he said that “recently there was a proposal by the Greek Cypriot side, to hire a committee of experts, an independent committee, which would have evaluated the cost for the maintenance and preparation of the city for a possible return of its citizens.”
He added that the “intent of the occupation regime is to find a way to seize properties from their rightful owners” and argued that this development is connected to growing tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
President Anastasiades met with Kudret Ozersay earlier on Tuesday. The meeting was “social,” the President said.
Greek and Turkish Cypriot media questioned the nature of the meeting and said that Mustafa Akinci had been sidelined.
Cyprus and Greece heaped pressure on the EU on Tuesday to take action against Turkey over gas drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ, as Ankara said it would step up exploration in a move that could further strain ties with Western allies.
A Turkish drilling ship, the Fatih, has been anchored west of Cyprus since early May and recently began drilling.
Turkey’s energy minister Fatih Donmez was quoted as saying on Tuesday that a second ship, the Yavuz, would be dispatched to the area on Thursday.
“We are now at around 3,000 metres deep. We target to drill to around 5,000-5,500 metres deep from sea level,” Donmez was quoted as saying by Anadolu news agency. “We have 100-120 days of a schedule for this task. We will have reached our targeted point at the end of July,” he said.
The Fatih is in an area Turkey considers its continental shelf, while the Yavuz would be dispatched to an area Turkish Cypriots consider they have rights over. The Turkish Cypriots, supported by Ankara, claim a share in any offshore wealth as a partner in the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960.
Ankara, which does not have diplomatic relations with, claims that certain areas in Cyprus’s offshore maritime zone, known as an EEZ, fall under the jurisdiction of Turkey or of Turkish Cypriots, who have their own breakaway state in the north of the island recognised only by Turkey.