THERE was an outcry, a couple of weeks ago when it was reported that the government had not filed observations in a case before the ECHR in which Turkey was advancing the position that the entire fenced area of Varosha belonged to the Turkish Cypriot Islamic organisation Evkaf. The lawyer representing the Greek Cypriot that was making a claim against Turkey, exposed the Cyprus government’s inaction, forcing it to participate in the case.
Although the inaction was attributed to poor communication between the government and the state legal services, there were also suggestions it was indicative of the satisfaction with the maintenance of the status quo by the government, which had given up on the idea of reunification. People from Varosha expressed the view that the government had given up on fighting for the return of refugees, as the status quo benefited big business interests in the free areas.
Famagusta mayor Alexis Galanos, speaking to the Sunday Mail, said Varosha could no longer be swept under the carpet as he took a swipe at the government. He said: “To some, the Cyprus problem today is Limassol, the towers, (selling) passports and natural gas, if we ever manage to extract it; they are indifferent to human rights.” It was an indictment of the Anastasiades government’s disinterest in a settlement, which is becoming more apparent by the day.
This may explain why Galanos proposed that the return of Famagusta should be discussed independently of a comprehensive settlement that has become an extremely remote possibility. Making a priority of salvaging the fenced area of Varosha that remains uninhabited seems a sensible idea, even if it is very difficult to see the Turkish side agreeing to its return with out a settlement. In fact the Turkish Cypriot side last week, announced that it would bring in experts to carry out a study of Varosha – its buildings, land registry records, environmental risks – with a view to starting the reconstruction process.
While this was just an idea – there have been several similar ones in the past that were not acted on – it alerted the Greek Cypriots from Famagusta, as they realise that once the idea is eventually put into practice their slim hopes of returning would vanish for good. This evening, the people of Famagusta will be staging a protest at the presidential palace, with the aim of handing over a memo to President Anastasiades calling for the implementation of the UN resolutions on Varosha. Their protest will also be directed at Anastasiades, who needs to be shaken out of his do-nothing approach.