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Cyprus

President calls for bicommunal committee on Varosha

The Varosha coastline

President Nicos Anastasiades has called for help from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in setting up a bicommunal committee on Varosha as a confidence-building measure (CBM), media reports said on Thursday.

Anastasiades reportedly sent Guterres a letter after the round-table discussion last week on Varosha on the opening of the fenced-off part of Famagusta in which Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay participated along with other officials from Turkey and the north.

According to daily Phileleftheros, in his letter, Anastasiades calls for Guterres’ help to get Turkish Cypriots to agree to set up a bicommunal committee on Famagusta as a CBM. This measure would contribute to efforts for the return and resettlement of Varosha to its rightful owners, the letter said.

Anastasiades said that this very important CBM which would contribute to the creation of a positive climate between the two communities.

The government had said last year that the two sides were very close to a deal on the creation of a joint committee on Famagusta back in 2014 when then US Vice President Joe Biden visited the island, but that Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Kudret Ozersay was against that idea.

During Saturday’s meeting Oktay had said that it was time to lift Varosha’s fenced-off status, a statement which alarmed refugees from Famagusta.

Poiltis, citing Turkish Cypriot sources, reported that the aim is to open the fenced-off area in stages starting from the coastal front. Owners of buildings in that area will be called to take them over and utilise them. If there is no response within the set deadline, then the buildings will be given to others interested in using them, under terms, the daily reported.

Sources told the daily that the call will not concern the land, just the buildings. The Turkish Cypriots argue that the land in much of Varosha, belongs to religious foundation Evkaf, the daily reported.

Both Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci condemned the round-table discussion arguing that any move to open Varosha ought to be within international law.

The head of the Turkish Union of Bar Associations that organised the event, Metin Feyzioglu, maintains that from a legal point of view there is no obstacle to opening the fenced-off area. Feyzioglu said that UN resolutions are advisory. He also said that UN resolution 550 on the status of Varosha does not say anything about not opening Varosha, but rather that it should be opened to the old residents.



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