The United Nations have not been informed of any plans by the Turkish Cypriot side to hand over the fenced-off city of Varosha to UN control, the Cyprus Mail was told on Saturday.
A UN spokesperson was commenting on an astonishing report by Turkish Cypriot journalist Esra Aygin, which cited a “senior Turkish Cypriot source” as saying that the Turkish Cypriot side’s intention is to give up the area so it can be placed under UN control, according to UN resolutions and international law. The source stressed it would not be “under Turkish Cypriot control”.
According to the report, the unnamed source denied the plan had ever been to open up Varosha for its rightful owners under Turkish Cypriot control. Such reports were widely circulated earlier in the week and came in the wake of Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci announcing that Maronite villages in the north will be opened up for their original inhabitants to return.
The government responded that opening up Varosha under Turkish Cypriot control would be tantamount to extending the Turkish occupation.
“All the work that is being done is towards opening Varosha under the UN control in line with UN resolutions and international law,” Aygin quoted the source as saying.
“Nobody is talking about opening it under Turkish Cypriot control.”
The government spokesman was unavailable for comment.
UN Security Council Resolution 550 of 1984 calls for Varosha to be handed over to the administration of the United Nations and resettled by its former inhabitants.
Varosha has been a ghost-city since August 1974, when its inhabitants fled as the Turkish army advanced to the south.
It was fenced off by the Turkish army, with access allowed only to Turkish military.
It has always been understood that, as part of any territorial adjustment in the context of a comprehensive solution, Varosha would be among the areas to be returned under Greek Cypriot administration.
At the very least, the Turkish position has been that Varosha would not be returned unless the Greek Cypriots allowed the opening up of the north’s ports and airport.
That is why a unilateral move to cede control to the UN and allow lawful residents to return would be seen as a hugely positive move from the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot sides.
Unsurprisingly, the story exploded on social networking sites within minutes, with most users reacting positively while others expressed disbelief.
“Is this true or am I dreaming?” one wrote.
“About time, too,” another said.
“Dare I raise my hopes? Please God if this is true we are on the road to mending our broken island,” another hopeful said.
But as others posted overjoyed messages of hope, some voiced scepticism.
“Need to see it to believe it,” one wrote.
“Exactly. Seeing is believing,” another responded, adding “I pray it is true, it will be a great step forward.”
“I’ve learnt (the hard way) to be sceptical after everything that has happened and been said recently,” a user said. “Nevertheless, this will indeed be fantastic news if true.”