If Varosha is lost the course for a solution is lost and we shall all sink in a sea of partition

By Achilleas Demetriades

Perhaps we could start the New Year with some soft law given the prospects for a solution of the Cyprus Problem.

Obviously, it is a political issue, but its solution will, at least partly, rely on both soft and hard law.

People often ask me why I am so passionate about Varosha since I do not have any roots in Famagusta.

I must say “I feel like a Varoshiotis” very strongly and it is perhaps, because I spent most of my summer holidays there. Thus, the strong memories.

But I also believe that the Rule of Law should prevail and I can not stand watching the gradual opening of Varosha in total disregard of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions and Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

I strongly believe in and advocate the need for legal vindication. This is how, in my mind, the right of return of the legal owners of Varosha can be preserved.

Other than the ECHR, I do not know of any other legal path that can bring about the restitution of owners to their properties in Varosha.

Obviously, to do this, one has to exhaust Turkish domestic legal remedies. These include the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) set up by the subordinate to Turkey local administration in occupied Nicosia. If the IPC does not give an adequate remedy, then after exhausting local remedies, one can go before the ECHR.

I advise for a claim for restitution and loss of use from 1974 to-date, plus interest.

The objective is to protect these properties from potential users or better trespassers. There is still, I believe, time before Turkey opens up Varosha and turns it into a Las Vegas, as it has already stated!

I feel that Varosha is the beacon for the solution of the Cyprus problem. If this beacon is turned off, then the course for a solution is lost and we shall all sink in a sea of partition.

Unfortunately, in this troubled past year the indecisiveness and inaction of the government has not helped Cyprus.

This has culminated in President Erdogan’s ‘picnic’ in the rainstorm, showing total disregard for UNSC Resolutions as well as Judgments of the ECHR.


Erdogan in Varosha in he rain

Unfortunately, the inactivity on the level of negotiations for the last 3.5 years has done the island no good. Repeated UN calls for a positive response and return to the negotiating table did not materialise.

The government’s predictions have failed and the opening up activity in Varosha was far from a pre-election flare. And worse they have not even taken responsibility for their failure and are still avoiding the issue.

Their contradictory statements that on the one hand they respect individual Human Rights before the ECHR, but on the other have abandoned Cypriot applicants against Turkey, are inexcusable.

Also their 2.5 page supporting submission to the case before the ECHR against Evcaf’s claim to Varosha was no match to the Turkish submissions.

And on top of that they have the audacity to ask the displaced Applicant for €3,000 as a fee to supply a valuation for loss of use – which will benefit everybody from Varosha.

And all these after successfully supporting Cypriot Applicants for nearly 30 years in Strasbourg with the Loizidou v Turkey case being the first.

How do we get out of this mess?

A serious effort to resume negotiations from where we stopped 3.5 years ago is a must. Now is not the time to analyse the reasons for the delay and to calculate the damage caused or indeed the gain, that some have made.

I strongly believe that the Bizonal Bicommunal Federation (BBF) with respect to European Human Rights, is a viable option. This will also be based on UNSC Resolutions covering political equality. The six-point framework of UNSG Guterres is the rubric for the negotiation process.

  • The need for a new Security system and not the continuation of the existing one must be dealt with.
  • The issue of the rapid reduction of Troops must be addressed.
  • The need to finalise the map for Territory to be returned to G/C is there
  • The Property issue must be addressed and the question of the criteria for restitution to the owner agreed.
  • Need to further elaborate on Equal Treatment
  • And last, but not least, a formula for Power-Sharing must be finalised.

There is need to prepare negotiation teams that have the understanding and ability for cross-negotiation on the six points above. Only then will we be ready and effective.

It is not good to avoid negotiation. It is good to fight it out in the context of these UN sponsored negotiations and the EU should be there to assist, given the broader geopolitical interests of the Union.

Clearly, sanctions against Turkey are not the way forward. We are better off investing any negotiating capital we have left with Europe in the new status that Turkey is seeking from the EU.

It is better to be part of the ‘win-win’ solution than the problem. We need to grasp the meaning of the surrounding developments and use them as the springboard to solve the Cyprus problem.

There is an urgent need for a ‘Positive Agenda’ with the EU where all Cypriots and the whole of the island will benefit.

Creativity is required in matters relating to the restarting of the economy, health, the Green agenda and digital transformation. These challenges of the 21st century are in addition to the Turkish occupation, the division and the refugees. Supporting these EU initiatives in all fields can become the catalyst for solving the problem and Cyprus can only gain from it.

Essentially, we need to decide if we want to be players in the EU game or simply spectators?

Happy New Year!

Achilleas Demetriades, Advocate, is Partner for Lellos P. Demetriades Law Office LLC