Cyprus Mail
Guest ColumnistOpinion

The return of Famagusta: starting-point and catalyst to a solution


By Theophilos V Theophilou, George Arestis, and Demetrios H Hadjihambis

We should state at the outset that we are acting as private citizens of Famagusta, not representing any bodies or interests and are independent of political or party beliefs and commitments. At the same time, due to our constant contact with fellow citizens, we believe we express the thoughts and sentiments of many of them. And it should not be taken as self-praise if we say our long judicial and diplomatic service justifies the respect of our fellow citizens in the goodwill of our initiative.

After the Turkish invasion and occupation, it was soon understood that for special reasons the return of the citizens of Famagusta should be achieved before and independently from a solution to the increasingly difficult Cyprus problem. In the High-Level Agreement of 1979 there was provision for prioritising the return of Varosha (Famagusta) under the United Nations. Resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992) of the Security Council which followed the same understanding on the part of the United Nations and contained the decision and commitment of the international community for the return of Varosha to the United Nations for lawful inhabitants to be able to return.

In the 44th year since the Turkish invasion and occupation, with not a single displaced person having returned to his home and not a single square metre of land having been restored, and with the danger of further complications, the need for the return of Famagusta is rendered more urgent than ever. It is to that effect that we have formulated a proposal that, taking into account the passage of time and existing conditions could be acceptable and beneficial to all concerned, primarily Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and be catalytic for the rapprochement and cooperation between the two communities and for the solution of the over-long-standing Cyprus problem. The thoughts and proposals which follow, without claiming to be complete and exhaustive, give the outline of what should govern the return of Varosha to the United Nations.


  1. The reconstruction of the city presupposes billions in cost and many years’ work. This will render Famagusta an enormous and constant construction site which will attract financing, investment and labour on an unprecedented scale, greatly advancing the development of the entire economy. In the reconstruction of the city must participate both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, along with others, so that there will be substantial benefits to both communities, while the Turkish Cypriots will be expected to continue to participate in the economic life of the city thereafter. This will also promote the co-existence of the two communities, bearing in mind that economy unites.
  2. The securing of the financing required for the reconstruction of the city, to a large extent from external sources and especially at the political level, will be facilitated by the prospect of bi-communal participation. Particularly as regards the European Union, its substantial contribution can reasonably be expected, underlining its presence as well as the European orientation of the city, while strengthening the Turkish Cypriot community which now considers itself as unfairly treated by the European Union.
  3. The city harbour can be placed under the joint administration of Greek and Turkish Cypriots under a regime that can be agreed in the context of the proposals made in the past for the transaction of free trade. The benefits for both communities will be substantial and their cooperation will be further strengthened.
  4. The coastal area south of the old city walls adjoining the enclosed city will be suitable for the creation of a marina, with the participation of both communities in its construction and administration, by analogy with the harbour. This, apart from financial benefits, will contribute to the external communication and development of the city and the strengthening of the cooperation between the two communities.
  5. Famagusta will be suitable for the establishment of a bi-communal Centre for Cyprus Studies and related educational and cultural activities for the promotion of cooperation between the two communities. Civilisation, like the economy, unites.
  6. The old city within the walls can be included, at the initiative of the Republic, in the Cultural Heritage list of UNESCO and be used for the purposes of bi-communal cultural activities of international dimensions.
  7. The application of European law in the occupied area of Cyprus has, upon Cyprus’ admission into the European Union, been suspended. It could be considered whether, with the return of Famagusta, it might be extended there. This will be of considerable benefit to the Turkish Cypriots, offering them access to the European Union, opening thereafter the way for the application of European law all over Cyprus when a final solution is reached.


We proceed to express certain thoughts which extend beyond the return of Famagusta to the United Nations for resettlement by its lawful inhabitants and which could come under consideration and elaboration at a later stage and indeed facilitate the desired federal solution itself.

  1. For the purposes of economic viability and development as well as the desired reunification, Famagusta can be extended to an area north of the old city walls so as to include the new as well as the old city with possibilities of further extension towards and including Karpasia, forming a federal area in the context of the bi-zonal and bi-communal federation solution. This would also facilitate the settlement of the territorial aspect as well as of the coastal line of each zone.
  2. The harbour of the city can be placed under the federal government as a federal harbour.
  3. The said area, as a federal area, will be offered for the establishment of an Agency of the European Union as well as of agencies and institutions of the future federal state. Further, the proposed Centre for Cypriot Studies and the existing University of Eastern Mediterranean can become a federal university promoting, through unified studies, federalism and the cosmopolitan spirit which signifies the peaceful coexistence among peoples of a different nationality, religion, language and civilization.
  4. After all this, Famagusta, already reunited as a federal area, will be ideally suited to the final solution as the federal capital.


Theophilos V. Theophilou, Ambassador (rtd), formerly Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the European Union

George Arestis, Honorary Doctor of Laws of the University of Kent, formerly Judge of the Supreme Court of Cyprus and Judge of the Court of the European Union

Demetrios H Hadjihambis, Honorary Doctor of Law of the University of Exeter, formerly President of the Supreme Court of Cyprus

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