Greek Cypriot owners of property built on Evkaf land in the closed-off town of Varosha in Famagusta will have the right to pay rent to use it, the head of the Islamic religious foundation Ibrahim Benter has said.
Speaking to Turkish daily Yeni Safak, Benter reiterated that most of Varosha belongs to Evkaf since it belongs to three vakifs (religious endowments).
Benter said the inventory of the town’s properties recently announced by the TC authorities will take between six months to a year.
According to the paper, Benter said the land registry records of Varosha were discovered by accident in 1990. He said Greek Cypriots were attempting to smuggle them out but they were arrested.
These documents were submitted in court that ruled they were vakif properties, he said.
When these title deeds were examined, he said, it was determined that a large part of Varosha belonged to the Abdullah Pasha Foundation, another part belonged to Lala Mustafa Pasha Foundation and a small part to Bilal Aga Foundation.
According to Benter, a team of experts who could read Ottoman arrived in Cyprus in 2009 and studied all title deeds dated between 1571 and 1974. They went through 2,443 registry logs, 13,000 files and eight million documents, he said. The enormous volume of information that was collected was stored electronically as well as 424,000 additional documents and thousands of photographs, he said.
Benter said that the Varosha inventory was initiated within the framework of that investigation, whose results showed that the biggest part of Varosha is vakif land.
“We know which land is ours but there are issues, such as the research for buildings sitting on this land and their condition,” he said.
He added that after these works are completed, if there is purchase of services by large companies and if procedures are sped up, Varosha could be restored back to its glory days.
As regards the Greek Cypriots, he said that there will be possibility for persons who have invested in Evkaf land to rent the property and use it.
“In case a Greek Cypriot comes and says ‘I had a hotel there and I accept this is vakif land, I am ready to sign a lease contract, then we will tell them OK, sign the contract and we will give you the building you invested in for a rent,” Benter told the paper.
According to him, claims by the Greek Cypriot side that the area had been purchased by the British for UK£1.5m were baseless.
He said that during the period when vakif properties were under British administration, the rent was decided by the British and that for years they were asking for very low rent. As a result, the funds to maintain these properties were inadequate and the Turkish areas were neglected, so after the British admitted their mistake, they gave UK£1.5m for the restoration of these properties, he said.
He added that this is included in a 1960 agreement that mentions that this money was given for that reason.
Benter said that the Greek Cypriot community has a false perception that the money was given for the properties that had been stolen and that Evkaf will never be able to take them back.
Dr Atan Atun, who was consultant to former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, told the paper that the Greek Cypriots who were working in the civil service during the British colonial period started forging the land title deeds especially for the vakifs of Abdullah Pasha and Lala Mustafa in Varosha and land extending up to Larnaca.
He added that in 1915 the British, in violation of Evkaf regulations, allowed those using vakif properties to sell them, despite that the vakif properties of Lala Mustafa and Abdullah Pasha were sacred and could not be sold or donated.
A team of experts who have been appointed by the TC authorities to make an inventory of the buildings of Varosha and assess their condition visited the abandoned town on Thursday.
In the meantime, the Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ said that journalists would be allowed in Varosha in due time as soon as the inventory reached a certain point, media in the north said.