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Leaders condemn ‘unacceptable’ meeting on opening up Varosha

Inside the ghost town of Varosha

The UN on Monday said they were continuing to monitor developments concerning Varosha while both leaders condemned Saturday’s round-table discussion, attended by Turkish and Turkish Cypriot officials, on the opening up of the fenced-off area arguing that any such move ought to be within international law.

UN spokesperson in Cyprus, Aleem Siddique said on Monday that the UN’s position on the issue remains unchanged.

“We continue to monitor developments in Varosha closely. The UN’s position remains unchanged as per relevant Security Council resolutions,” Siddique told the Cyprus News Agency.

Speakers at Saturday’s meeting, among them Turkey’s Vice-President Fuat Oktay, maintained that it is time to open up Varosha as there has been no progress in finding a solution to the Cyprus problem for almost half a century.

Oktay said that the round-table discussion was part of the inventory on buildings and other infrastructure carried out by the Turkish Cypriot ‘government’. He said they would look into the state of the approximately 8,650 buildings in Varosha.

Both leaders criticised the meeting and its announced goal.

President Nicos Anastasiades described the meeting and its intentions as “unacceptable” and said he would strive to find a solution that would allow people to return to Famagusta and other occupied areas of the island.

He underlined that such a solution would ensure political equality for Turkish Cypriots and warned he would “not accept and tolerate the political inequality that Ankara wants to impose on our country”.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci also criticised the meeting, arguing that while Varosha should not remain closed, the steps to be taken should be in line with international law.

It would only make sense if the issue was handled in a way that contributes to the Cyprus problem without conflict with the UN, he said. He also criticised the timing of the event, just a few months before the elections in the north for the new Turkish Cypriot leader.

The initiative, “was very faulty in terms of participation, scope and timing” he said. “It is also obvious that it will not serve the desired goal.”

He recalled the agreement reached in July 2017, at a meeting attended by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and representatives of Turkish Cypriot parties to give priority to the ‘Maronite Initiative’, namely the return of Maronites to their villages in the north.

But Metin Feyzioglu, the head of the Turkish Union of Bar Associations that organised the event told Turkish Cypriot media that from a legal point of view there is no obstacle to the opening of the fenced-off area. Feyzioglu told daily Kibris Postasi, that UN resolutions, such as the 550, are advisory. “The UN resolutions on Varosha do not say don’t open it. It says open it to the old residents,” he added.

He said that the property issue would be easier to solve in Varosha than elsewhere because no one lives there, adding that there were 281 cases of Greek Cypriots who filed to the Immovable Properties Commission (IPC) for compensation. According to Feyzioglu the overall compensation for these properties is around €2 billion. Another case is now before the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that the IPC was no longer an effective remedy, Feyzioglu said, adding that the commission’s budget is now in order.

“Our solution is very practical. It does not contradict the wording in UN Resolution 550 that says give it to its former inhabitants and it is also in line with the option of resolving the ECHR’s problems with the IPC,” he said.

Feyzioglu said that most buildings need to be demolished and rebuilt, adding that old residents can do it. Turkish Cypriots and Turkey will ensure access to financial resources, but China is looking for investment opportunities he said. There are also very serious investors from Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, he reportedly said.

Government spokesman Kyriacos Koushios said that Anastasiades during his forthcoming visit to Brussels would meet with the presidents of the European Council, the European Commission, and the European Parliament to discuss the issue of Varosha. He also said the government was taking political, legal and diplomatic measures but refrained from elaborating.

In the meantime, spokespersons for the French embassy and the British High Commission in Nicosia said that they expect all sides to fully comply with the UN Security resolutions on Varosha.

According to UN Security Council resolution 550 (1984) any attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants is inadmissible. It also calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the UN. Resolution 789 (1992) says that the area at present under the control of Unficyp should be extended to include Varosha.


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