Every few months a news story breaks about the fenced area of Varosha. This is given extensive coverage in the media, the politicians express concern about the matter and the Famagusta mayor has meetings at the foreign ministry. We witnessed this scenario again, after a Turkish Cypriot reported at the end of last week that three Greek Cypriot-owned hotels in the fenced area had been sold to a Turkish Cypriot businessman, who had allegedly also bought two floors in an apartment block to house the hotel staff.

These reactions, sadly, reflect the powerlessness of the Greek Cypriots to stop Turkey’s plans for the fenced area of Varosha, which have been unfolding at a very slow pace, for now. Plans to open the fenced area were first revealed about four years ago and were dismissed by our foreign minister as an ‘election firework’. At the time Turkish Cypriot journalists were taken on a tour of the ghost town and were told that it would be turned into a Las Vegas/Monte Carlo of the Mediterranean. In October 2020 a type of ‘opening ceremony’ was held, attended by President Erdogan, and by 2022 the beach in front of the King George Hotel was opened, prompting another furious reaction by the Greek Cypriots.

The reported sale of the three hotels was the latest instalment in the ‘opening of Varosha’ saga and the Turkish Cypriot buyer’s claims that he would open the hotels in two years should be taken with a pinch of salt. The chairperson of the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) in the north, said that no such transactions had been recorded by the Commission, the signature of which was necessary to make any such deal legally valid. There may have been sales contract signed between the parties, she said, although this had no legal validity.

Meanwhile, Greek Cypriot politicians once again brought up the idea of setting up a fund that would help people with properties in the occupied part as a way of averting them from going to the IPC, seeking compensation. The idea was first floated in 2013, but nothing came of it, although the Green Party on Wednesday called on the government to put it into practice.

The truth is that owners of properties in the fenced area have been left with no choice other than to sell. There have been no Cyprus talks for six years, the Turkish side insists that partition is the only solution it would discuss, while the Greek Cypriot side insists it would never agree to this. People with property in Famagusta, have seen their hopes of return repeatedly dashed by politicians, whom they can no longer trust. They can sell or seek compensation from the IPC, because the alternative is to surrender their property in the fenced area for nothing. Why would anyone do that?