Today, a scheduled meeting was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to commemorate the new government's inauguration. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kombos, met with the Municipality of Famagusta, led by Mayor Simos Ioannou. The issue raised by the Turkish Cypriot press, particularly the newspaper "Yeni Bakis," about the sale of three hotels owned by Greek Cypriots to a Turkish Cypriot businessman in the enclosed area of Varosha was inevitably placed at the top of the agenda. Mr. Ioannou had earlier refuted the allegations made by the T/C publication during an interview on the "Diaspora News" show on "Spor FM 95.0". He unequivocally denied that the purchase had been approved by the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus, citing a mere presentation of a certifying official's stamp on a private agreement as evidence of approval.
During their discussion, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Municipality of Famagusta reviewed the latest developments with regards to the ongoing efforts for the resumption of talks. They also addressed recent events relating to the partial opening of the enclosed city, property aspects, and the coordination of efforts at an international level to prevent any further developments on the ground. Their focus remained on implementing relevant UNSC resolutions on Famagusta.
According to reports, a Turkish Cypriot businessman claims to have purchased three hotels and two floors of apartment buildings in the enclosed city of Famagusta directly from their owners. The hotels in question are the "Aegean Hotel," "Golden Seaside Apartment Hotel," and "Cleo Hotel." Additionally, the businessman claims to have also purchased two floors of an apartment building to provide accommodation for hotel staff. The businessman, reportedly affiliated with the UBP party, plans to open an electronic booking system within two months for a period of seven years, spanning from 2025 to 2032. He has stated that the hotels will be open for bookings in 2025 unless any obstacles arise. The sale was conducted through the Turkish Real Estate Commission, which operates in the occupied territories.
Today, the General Secretary of the UBP (National Unity Party), Oguzhan Hasipoglu, made statements regarding the sale of the three hotels in Varosha, injecting a clear political dimension to the issue at hand. Hasipoglu insinuated that the administration in the south, referring to the RS, would be panicked if Turkish Cypriots were to purchase the hotels in question instead of other potential buyers. He also blamed the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus, referring to the RS, for the closure of Famagusta, the most important tourist area in the Middle East. Hasipoglu alleged that the administration has consistently rejected all solution plans, elected imaginary mayors in the region, and failed to provide effective management, leading to disappointment among the citizens.
The Turkish Cypriot politician further added, "The enclosed city of Famagusta has become a symbol of negotiations that have continuously failed to yield results. Now, how can they prevent their citizens from living under our administration or disposing of their property? Haven't both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots waited long enough for Varosha?"
The big picture
There appears to be a significant shift in the focus of the matter concerning the sale of three hotels in Varosha. Initially, it was thought to involve the authorities of the RoC, particularly the Land Registry, as suggested by the T/C publication. However, it now appears to be primarily politically motivated, centered around the Cyprus problem, Famagusta, and the resumption of talks. The issue has three significant dimensions to consider:
- The first dimension to consider is the on-the-ground aspect regarding Turkey's actions to open the enclosed city of Famagusta as a fait accompli, which drastically alters the parameters of the Cyprus problem. With one of the hotels apparently situated in the Agios Memnon area, which is a military zone, its potential operation creates new circumstances.
- The issue of appealing to the Property Commission in the Occupied Territories is causing pressure within the Greek Cypriot community, particularly the Famagusta community, and is generating public debate. The Mayor of Famagusta emphasized the importance of equal burden sharing, stating that "the reality is that if the properties in the enclave are sold, the land issue will be closed." This adds to the ongoing discussion regarding the division of property and the impact it has on the broader Cyprus problem.
- Regarding the practical means available to the RoC to prevent Turkey's actions on the ground in the occupied territories, particularly in Famagusta, that may hinder the resumption of the dialogue and the continuation of the talks from where they left off in Crans Montana, as Nicosia consistently communicates in various channels.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]