Famagusta Mayor Simos Ioannou is seeking urgent meetings with the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council after Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar announced on Friday that in the coming months he would be opening a number of ‘municipal’ and ‘government’ buildings in the fenced-off town of Varosha.

Speaking ahead of the Turkish Cypriot side’s celebrations to be held for the second year of reopening of the abandoned area, Tatar said that it was “no longer a ghost town” and that it attracts numerous tourists from Turkey and other countries.

Tatar told a Turkish TV Channel that the ‘government’ has gained a lot from this opening and the prospects of Varosha as a tourist destination are great, and that the north could benefit financially.

Tatar also announced that they would give the first visitors today to Varosha a gift and there would be a concert to mark the occasion.

Mayor of Famagusta, Simos Ioannou, responded swiftly saying that following the latest statements from the Turkish Cypriot side, the municipality had requested meetings with the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Ioannou told CNA that on the occasion of the anniversary marking two years since the opening of part of the fenced-off area, it seemed that the Turkish side was preparing to renovate some old public or municipal buildings, such as the municipal market, located on Evagorou Avenue, or other buildings, plus municipal schools, which are located at the edge of the enclosed area.

He said it was clear the Turkish Cypriot leadership wanted to exploit the area, “for now only for tourism and to bring financial benefit to the pseudo-state and then to colonise the area by building tourist units and similar facilities , in cooperation with companies in Turkey,” he said.

The mayor added that regarding the 3.5 per cent pilot area where legitimate owners could return, nothing had been done yet to facilitate this.

“The municipality of Famagusta has requested – following the new statements about Varosha-, meetings with the ambassadors of the countries of the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, and a positive response had already been received from the French Ambassador,” Ioannou said.

They would also have a meeting with the Slovak Ambassador at his own request, he added.

Also, on October 23, a delegation from the municipality will travel to London where they will have contacts at the Foreign Office and the House of Commons. A delegation will also travel to Brussels to consult with MEPs and ask for action to be taken.

Commenting on the announcement by Tatar that a gift would be given to the first visitors to Varosha today at 12 noon exactly, Ioannou said: “It is ridiculous in a politically civilised world. These things don’t happen. They are provocative,” he said, adding that the Turkish side was trying to give the impression that they were the ones who own Varosha and not its legal residents.

The fenced off area, he said, makes up only 16 per cent of the entire municipal boundaries of Famagusta and there were areas there today, which have seen the same fate as Kyrenia, Lapithos, Karavas. “There are settlers and there is development,” he said.

“Saving the fenced off area, which is supported by relevant UNSC resolutions, there is a possibility to save the rest of Famagusta as well. If the territory issue is lost, everything will be lost.”

UN Security Council resolution 550 of 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. UN Security Council resolution 789 of 1992 also urges that with a view to the implementation of resolution 550, the area at present under the control of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus be extended to include Varosha.

The Turkish Cypriot leadership announced in July 2021 a partial lifting of the military status in Varosha. A few months earlier, on October 8, 2020, they opened part of the fenced area following an announcement made in Ankara on October 6. The UN Security Council called for the reversal of this course of action, while the UN Secretary General, in his latest report on his mission of Good Offices in Cyprus, reiterated his concern over developments in the fenced-off area, noting that the position of the UN on Varosha remains unchanged. The EU also expressed grave concern.