Cyprus Mail

Varosha issue rumbles on

The Varosha issue needs to be discussed by the two sides in Cyprus, Turkish presidency spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Tuesday, days after Turkish Cypriot ‘prime minister’ Ersin Tatar announced the Turkish Cypriot side was moving ahead with opening the closed town.

“There should be dialogue between the two communities on the island on all issues: Varosha, property issues and energy resources around the island,” Kalin told Bloomberg.

On Sunday, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said the Varosha issue needs to be discussed in accordance with international law and UN resolutions as well as contribute to a Cyprus solution.

Akinci’s statements about the fenced-off town in Famagusta, often called a ‘ghost town’, come amid a push by Turkish Cypriot ‘Prime Minister’ Ersin Tatar for the area be opened and resettled, which would violate UN Security Council resolution 550.

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.

On efforts by Tatar and ‘deputy prime minister’ Kudret Ozersay to open the town, Akinci said they were both trying to turn the issue into a strategy for the elections in the north in October.

He accused them of turning Varosha into a ‘contest’, and said they were wrong to not consult the Turkish Cypriot leader on the matter.

Akinci said the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres was waiting for the elections in the north to end in order to start up his initiative to hold an unofficial five-party conference on the Cyprus problem.

“This is Guterres’ commitment, and Turkey has already informed [him] they are ready to take part in an unofficial five-party conference,” he said.

Any other efforts taken in other directions will be damaging, and mostly to the Turkish Cypriot people and to Turkey’s policies, he said.

However, some Turkish Cypriot groups, mainly the religious endowment foundation Evkaf, stake claims in Varosha and the properties in the town, saying the area belongs to them.

The head of Evkaf Ibrahim Benter said in an interview that 100 per cent of Varosha belongs to Evkaf, as during the Ottoman period in Cyprus, three religious endowments owned the land, including the Abdullah Pasha Foundation, the Lala Mustafa Pasha Foundation and a small part to Bilal Aga Foundation.

He said the during British colonial rule on the island, the administration illegally gave the properties to Greek Cypriots and the church.

In his statements, Kalin also commented on Ankara’s searches in the Eastern Mediterranean for natural gas will continue within Turkey’s continental shelf.

However, the area where Turkey is exploring is contested by both Greece and Cyprus, who claim the explorations are violating their exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

Turkish ships are currently located in Cyprus’ EEZ, while both Athens and Ankara were sabre rattling over the past few weeks, when the Turkish ship Oruc Reis entered an area claimed by Greece under the pretense it was exploring an area part of a Turkey-Libya agreement.

The ship was accompanied by other Turkish naval vessels and monitored by Greek vessels.

Greece and Turkey are currently holding separate naval drills in the area, amid efforts by Germany’s Foreign Minister Haiko Maas to quell tensions.

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