A senior Turkish Cypriot official said on Thursday that over the coming weeks details would be unveiled about plans to open up Maronite villages to their original inhabitants.
“Today we exchanged views on when the steps will be taken…and by whom,” said the north’s ‘foreign minister’ Kudret Ozersay after a meeting of the ‘government coalition’.
“There are things that need to be done in order for the initiative for the Maronites to be carried out in a specific way, as regards title deeds, infrastructures and so on.”
The meeting was chaired by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci. Also discussed was the recent naming of a new UN envoy for Cyprus.
It has been a year since Turkish Cypriot authorities announced their ‘Maronite initiative’.
The move came hot on the heels of the collapsed Cyprus talks in Crans Montana, Switzerland.
Akinci’s office said at the time it would 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 totally 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 easier for its residents to resettle there if they wish.
At the moment, around 200 Maronites, mostly pensioners, live in Kormakitis and Karpasha, of which 100 resettled there over the past couple of years following a new support scheme announced by the Republic of Cyprus to encourage the enclaved to return to their villages in the north.
Maronites, along with Armenians, and Latins (Catholics) are considered religious groups and part of the Greek Cypriot community. Following the 1974 invasion, Maronites coming from these four villages opted to remain there as enclaved people, though this was not allowed for Ayia Marina and Asomatos.
The Greek Cypriot leadership has dismissed the north’s Maronite initiative as a ploy to further entrench the occupation. They say the Turkish side’s aim in ‘resettling’ these villages is that so they are not placed under Greek Cypriot administration after a solution.