Turkey’s possible call on refugees to return to their Varosha properties under Turkish Cypriot administration would be deceitful, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday, speaking after the Famagusta municipality called on the government to come up with a plan to thwart Ankara’s plans for the fenced-off town.
“Any invitation [by Turkey] would be a deception of the Famagusta people,” he said, indirectly urging property owners not to take up on any such offer.
The Famagusta municipality’s call for government action came amidst growing concerns over what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan might announce on July 20 when he is due to visit the north.
Famagusta mayor Simos Ioannou said on Wednesday the situation with regards to Varosha is at a ‘tipping point’ and an urgent meeting of the National Council must be called to come up with a plan to thwart whatever Turkey has in store for Varosha.
The comments came as Ankara announced that Foreign Minster Mevlut Cavusoglu would be in the north on Thursday, and also comes ahead of the planned visit of President Tayyip Erdogan on July 20 where he is expected to make announcements on Varosha that have left the Greek Cypriot side worried.
Varosha was partially opened last October, and works are still ongoing with the Turkish side inviting Greek Cypriot refugees to claim their properties back through the Immovable Property Commission (IPC).
“Unfortunately, they have paved roads. They have cleaned the public gardens, a large part of the beach, installed kiosks, umbrellas and benches. They are proceeding with installing electricity on the streets. They have demolished the Faliro Centre owned by our municipality, claiming the building is dangerous and then they have the audacity to tell members of the international community that they have not demolished, cleared or used private property,” Ioannou said.
“Famagusta does not belong to the occupying power, nor to Erdogan, nor to [Ersin] Tatar. Famagusta belongs to the people of Famagusta.”
Ioannou said the government has a duty to convene a National Council meeting and to come up with a plan of action to deal with whatever Erdogan might announce during his visit. Famagustans, who he said were “shocked indignant and angry”, will hold a protest in Dherynia on July 19.
In his comments Anastasiades referred to a case brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) by a Greek Cypriot resident of Varosha. He said Turkey has already responded that it is property that belongs to Turkish Cypriot religious endowment foundation Evkaf.
“Therefore, it emerged that, they are trying to give the impression that they are allegedly calling on people to return to their properties through a committee that is essentially non-existent and then, their right is questioned by Evkaf,” Anastasiades said.
Evkaf claims that a large part of Varosha belongs to it even though the outgoing British colonial government had paid 1.5 million pounds sterling in full and final settlement of all claims that the Turkish Cypriot community may have had to Evkaf properties.
The municipality has also drawn up a schedule of meetings with ambassadors on the island in the coming days and weeks to seek practical support for the implementation of UN resolutions.
“There may be different approaches on the Cyprus issue. But today, things are at a tipping point,” Ioannou said.
He said if there is no “intense pressure” from the US, the EU and the permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5), Turkey would almost certainly move forward with the next step “to fully open Varosha under Turkish Cypriot administration”.
Ioannou also spoke of the discord being caused between the Famagusta refugees almost 350 of whom have applied to the IPC.
“Confusion and possibly discord between the people of Famagusta people will become a reality. There is no doubt that the impending call to return under Turkish Cypriot administration will cause problems. It is clear Turkey will offer ‘opportunities’ in order to put a final end to the efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue, based on the agreed UN framework,” he added.
Ioannou said returning in this manner in no way guarantees future stability or legally guaranteed restitution of property. He said the municipality was willing to listen and discuss with the refugees who are tempted to take the IPC route.
“What we say to our fellow citizens, after the opinion of both the former attorney-general and the current attorney-general, is that there are many pitfalls and many problems for those who apply,” he said, adding that there is also a political cost for the whole island and efforts for a solution.
“One cannot stop someone from applying but we as the municipality, urge people not to do so.”
On Thursday, members representatives of the municipality will meet US ambassador and later the Greek ambassador. They have already met the ambassadors of the four other P5 countries, France, China, Russia and the UK.
They will meet the president on July 6.
Meanwhile a Turkish Cypriot ‘MP’ Oguzhan Hasipoglu was quoted as saying on Wednesday that Greek Cypriots “instead of protesting on July 19, should on July 20 thank the Turkish president and the Turkish Cypriot president”.
He said the original intent was to return Varosha under a federal settlement so that it could be enjoyed by both communities.
“We no longer have the luxury of Maras (Varosha) being part of a comprehensive solution,” he said, adding that the “so-called” mayors of Kyrenia, Morphou and Famagusta should leave their fantasy world and move into reality.