Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu confirmed on Thursday that Turkey plans to re-open the fenced-off town of Varosha and that preparations were already underway there, drawing condemnation from Nicosia.
Three days after his visit to Varosha, accompanied by his Turkish Cypriot ‘counterpart’ Kudret Ozersay, Cavusoglu told CNN Turk: “We are making preparations. Yes, we will open Famagusta.”
Cavusoglu reiterated that no one could tell Turkey what to do in the eastern Mediterranean, nor could anyone obstruct its plans. “We will defend our rights and those of Turkish Cypriots.”
The comments come days after his visit to the ghost town of Varosha, which was conducted without a media presence and after which no statements were made.
“We condemn Mr Cavusoglu’s comments in the most categorical way,” was the response from government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou.
The Republic would not remain passive in the face of this latest provocation, the spokesman said in a written statement.
“These remarks…once again reveal Turkey’s main objectives. Mr Cavusoglu said that Turkey does not want the resumption of talks for a Cyprus solution, and he questions Cyprus’ sovereign rights to exploit its natural resources in its exclusive economic zone.”
The government would utilise “all political and diplomatic means available to address these statements by Turkey,” the written statement concluded.
A day earlier, Anastasiades said Nicosia was mulling raising the matter of Turkish provocations in Varosha with the UN Security Council, and taking legal action based on international law.
Varosha is the fenced off area of the Turkish-occupied town of Famagusta. UN Security Council resolution 550 (1984) considers any attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the UN.
During his recent visit to the island, Cavusoglu also announced Ankara’s plans to open a Turkish consulate in Famagusta, stating that it would be “our 243th mission in the world.” The move was widely condemned by the Cyprus government and parties.
Since Ozersay’s proclamation in June regarding the carrying out of an inventory on the abandoned town, which is now underway, Varosha became a renewed source of tension between the two sides, particularly as it was then unclear what the plan was for the future of the town.
Initial indications emerged in late August, when Ozersay told a group of around 40 journalists on a press tour of the area, which has been under military control since 1974, that the Turkish Cypriot administration plans to gradually open Varosha as a civilian area.