Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci has suggested that Varosha, a southern suburb of Famagusta that has been fenced off and abandoned since Turkey invaded northern Cyprus, is being used as an election gimmick, adding that he supports UN-backed efforts to reopen the ghost town.
Referring to a meeting that took place in the abandoned town on Saturday, organized by the Turkish Union of Bar Associations and attended by several top Turkish Cypriot politicans, Akinci said on Wednesday that, “a meeting was organized with everyone except Akinci… Things are said two months before an election. There is no one who doesn’t know what that meeting meant.”
In comments made after touring the area on Saturday, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said it was time to open Varosha despite failure to reach a peace settlement. He said the move would benefit tourism, commerce and the economy.
“My opinion is that it would be good to open Varosha under the supervision of the UN,” Akinci said Wednesday.
Reports emerged on Thursday that President Nicos Anastasiades has requested UN help through a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to set up a bicommunal committee on Varosha, as part of a confidence-building measure (CBM).
Anastasiades said such a move would allow for a resolution of the two communities’ clashing claims on the Famagusta town, and would provide a positive climate for the return of its rightful owners. Turkish Cypriots argue that much of Varosha land belongs to Evkaf, a religious foundation, though Greek Cypriots claim that the rightful owners are those holding title deeds.
In 2014, when US Vice President Joe Biden had visited the island, the two communities had almost managed to create a joint committee on Varosha, the Government said, though efforts were hindered by the Turkish Cypriot ‘Foreign Minister’ Kudret Ozersay, who opposed the move.