By George Psyllides
THE European Union appears to be examining the idea of returning the abandoned town of Varosha to its rightful owners in return for ‘legalising’ the operation of Tympou airport in the breakaway north.
The move would be part of an effort to prepare the ground for a final settlement of the island’s problem, reports suggested.
The government however, remained tight-lipped yesterday.
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Sunday that it looked like Turkey had conveyed to Brussels that the move was possible although things were at a very early stage.
“But from the moment the Turkish side agrees for the European Commission to examine it … I think this is a big step,” Kasoulides told state broadcaster CyBC.
The foreign minister suggested that a big confidence-building step could raise real prospects.
“Something big regarding confidence must happen,” he said.
The Greek Cypriot side had in the past proposed opening Varosha in exchange for opening the port of Famagusta under EU supervision.
‘Opening’ Tympou airport however could be much trickier.
Kasoulides said the operation of an international airport on republic territory could not be allowed “unless the matter of legality is sorted”.
He did not elaborate.
The government would not comment on the issue yesterday.
“The president does not wish further public discussion on the matter of Varosha. Therefore, no comment,” deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos told reporters.
In 1974, Turkish forces sealed off Varosha – with its golden sands and high-rise hotels – and the fact that it remains empty after so many years, without even displaced Turkish Cypriots or Turkish settlers occupying its buildings, fans the flames of injustice felt by its former inhabitants.
Main opposition AKEL asked for the issue to be discussed by the national council.
As a matter of principle, the party was not negative towards EU involvement, its spokesman said.
“The essence is what our positions are on the issue,” Giorgos Loukaides added.