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Maronites to return to villages in the north (Updated)

Ayia Marina


Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci announced on Wednesday that a decision had been made to allow Maronites to return to all their villages in the north of the island.

The decision to open the villages for settlement by its former inhabitants was taken at Akinci’s office on Wednesday morning.

Akinci’s office said it work with other civil and military authorities together with the Turkish ‘embassy’ in the north to coordinate works which will allow access to Maronite and mixed villages where Maronites and Turkish Cypriots used to live together.

Ayia Marina, Asomatos, and Karpasha are the three Maronite villages controlled by the Turkish military since 1974. Ayia Marina and Asomatos are currently off limits, while Karpasha is also under military control but residents are allowed to live there. The fourth Maronite village, Kormakitis, has no such status, and it is far easier for its residents to resettle there if they wish.

Authorities will work together to make the arrangements and draw a roadmap for the decision to be realised fairly soon, the announcement said.

Maronites, along with Armenians, and Latins (Catholics) are considered religious groups, part of the Greek Cypriot community. Following the 1974 invasion, Maronites coming from these four villages opted to remain there as enclaved persons, though this was not allowed for Ayia Marina and Asomatos.

At the moment, around 200 Maronites, mostly pensioners, live in Kormakitis and Karpasha, of which 100 resettled there recently following a new support scheme announced by the Republic of Cyprus to encourage the enclaved to return to their villages in the north.

Wednesday’s announcement follows reports earlier in the week that the authorities in the north would allow the return of 16,000 refugees to the fenced city of Varosha, in Famagusta and 4,000 to Ayia Marina, Asomatos and Karpasha.

Media reports had said that this was one of the new unilateral steps Turkish Cypriots have begun planning following the collapse of the talks in Switzerland earlier in the month. Turkey said that it would seek another way on the Cyprus issue outside the parameters of the UN, speaking of a plan B.

‘Deputy prime-minister’ and head of the Democrat Party Serdar Denktash said in an interview to Kathimerini that was published on Sunday that the Turkish Cypriot side may announce initiatives that will surprise the Greek Cypriots and the international community the way it did with its decision to open the crossings in 2003. He added that these decisions would be announced in due course.

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