The plight of Varosha and its lawful inhabitants for 45 years
By Dr Kypros Chrysostomides
Since 1974 the Turkish occupation army has created a monstrosity in Varosha, leaving it looted and empty. The situation has been tolerated ever since by the international community and the United Nations. Now, in a further outrage, Turkey’s representative, the Turkish Cypriot “subordinate local administration of the occupying power”, is attempting to further underscore the hostage status of Varosha.
Since 1974 this fenced-off part of Famagusta, this historic city, Teucer’s and Evagoras’ Salamis, remains closed and empty behind barbed wire and under the control of the Turkish troops. It used to be home to tens of thousands of forcibly displaced Greek Cypriots who have been deprived of their homes and properties for the last 45 years. They expected to return the very next day. They are still waiting. Varosha, which has been turned into a waste land, now needs to be rehabilitated from scratch at an enormous financial cost.
For the past 45 years Varosha has been a bargaining chip for Turkey, a hostage in their diplomatic game.
Varosha’s return to its legitimate inhabitants has been expected for a very long time, at least since the beginning of the negotiations in 1974. This was demanded in many documents and even in binding resolutions of the UN Security Council. The following can be cited by way of example:
In the High Level Agreement of 1979 (Kyprianou-Denktash) it was expressly agreed that: “Priority will be given to reaching agreement for the resettlement in Varosha under UN auspices simultaneously with the beginning of the consideration by the interlocutors of the constitutional and territorial aspects of a comprehensive settlement…” This did not happen.
In its mandatory part, Resolution 550 (1984) provided that the Security Council: “Considers any attempts to settle any part of Varosha with people other than its inhabitants as unacceptable and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the United Nations.” This did not happen.
In Resolution 789 (1992) it is stated that the Security Council: “Urges all concerned to commit themselves to the confidence building measures …(c) With a view to implementing resolution 550 (1984), the area now under the control of the force be extended to include Varosha;…” This did not happen.
And I cannot accept any allegations that Varosha was ever offered to either the UN or to its legitimate inhabitants. If any such suggestion was ever made it was accompanied by unacceptable political conditions on behalf of the Turkish side, implying recognition of the secessionist regime, which were then rejected by the lawful Greek Cypriot leadership with the full consent of all political parties.
All these references, agreements and resolutions were binding on all, primarily the occupation power. Turkey, however, never showed any willingness to comply despite its diplomatic rhetoric at times, and, alas, the international community has not been able to implement even the binding decisions of the Security Council.
More recently as part of the European Union’s efforts to economically assist the Turkish Cypriot community – something that our side agrees with – the Greek Cypriots submitted proposals for Varosha and the occupied port of Famagusta. These came after Cyprus’ accession to the EU and in addition to other measures already announced unilaterally by the Republic of Cyprus. The proposed EU measures were not rejected by the Greek Cypriots.
The Cyprus government was courageous enough to propose a solution which, with the cooperation and support of the EU, would have been a step forward. It suggested opening up the occupied port of Famagusta for the export of both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot products to Europe, with a joint administration by Greek and Turkish Cypriots under the auspices of the EU.
This was contingent on the closed city of Famagusta being opened up to its legitimate inhabitants so that reconstruction could commence. It would have meant the revitalisation of the area, economic and building activity in the city and an increase in the channels of business cooperation and understanding between the two communities. It would also have paved the ground for a definite solution of the Cyprus problem and reunification. The other side rejected the proposal. They always considered Varosha a ‘military area’.
The EU consequently abandoned the idea. But do they now hear the audacious Turkish allegation that Varosha is owned by Evkaf, the Turkish Islamic religious foundation since 1571? Why don’t they refer to the previous historical owners: Teucer, Evagoras or even the Venetians, Mark Antonio Bragadino etc? The EU and the UN Security Council now hear that the representatives of the secessionist Turkish Cypriot regime are trying to “settle” illegally and occupy the properties of thousands of lawful inhabitants of Varosha.
It is now abundantly clear that whatever the administration of the occupied areas is called, it is nothing more than Turkey’s subordinate structure established by the force of arms. This fact is flagrantly confirmed by their present actions, because obviously the instructions from Ankara are executed by an aspiring leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Kudret Ozersay. Clearly acting on the instructions of his master’s voice in Ankara, and combined with the latter’s illegal tampering with the Republic’s exclusive economic zone, Ozersay clearly aims at frustrating the efforts to resume the Cyprus negotiations.
We hope our Turkish Cypriot compatriots will take a stand and resist such a monstrous distortion of history and a violation of the international rule of law. Under the arrangements for Cyprus’ independence in 1960, the Turkish Cypriot community was compensated for whatever properties Evkaf had in Famagusta. The lawful inhabitants of this ghost town hold their legal titles of ownership.
Has anyone out there taken notice of the plight of this hostage city and its lawful inhabitants over the last 45 years? Are the international community and its institutions recording the blatant contempt of their official pronouncements? Do they themselves, whether the EU or the UN, respect their own pronouncements? Are there any values left?
Dr Kypros Chrysostomides is a lawyer and former government spokesman