The European Union has warned Turkey it will “consider actions” if there is no reversal on a plan by Ankara-backed Turkish Cypriots to partially reopen the abandoned town of Varosha.
In a declaration attributed to High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the European Union, the bloc “strongly condemns Turkey’s unilateral steps and the unacceptable announcements made by the Turkish President and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community on 20 July 2021 on the further reopening of the fenced-off town of Varosha.”
The written statement came one week after the EU’s top diplomat said on July 20 that the EU would continue “to hold the government of Turkey responsible for the situation in Varosha.”
It also came after Ankara remained defiant following a UN Security Council presidential statement on Friday that condemned the decision.
“The EU welcomes the Statement made by the President of the UN Security Council on behalf of the Council on 23 July 2021, and in particular the Security Council’s condemnation and expression of deep regret about the unilateral actions in Varosha that run contrary to the Security Council’s previous resolutions and statements. The EU equally calls for the immediate reversal of these actions and the reversal of all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020,” the declaration said.
Earlier this week, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a response to the UNSC statement, backing Turkish Cypriots who accused various countries of basing their decision on “unfounded claims” and views that were “inconsistent with the realities on the Island.”
The EU underlined once again the 'need to avoid unilateral actions in breach of international law and renewed provocations, which could raise tensions on the island'
Ankara also argued that Varosha was part of territory administered by Turkish Cypriots, adding that the authorities in the north never opened the ghost town for settlement but declared as a military zone as a “good will gesture.”
But Borrell said the EU underlined once again the “need to avoid unilateral actions in breach of international law and renewed provocations, which could raise tensions on the island and compromise the ongoing efforts to seek common ground between the parties towards a lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue in line with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.”
Greek Cypriots have long been calling on Brussels for much more strong-worded statements against Turkey and Turkish Cypriots.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had also called the decision to reopen Varosha an “attempt to grab more territory.”
Varosha, currently under military status in the northern part of the island, was abandoned in 1974 and had been a ghost city until last year, when Turkey and Turkish Cypriot authorities allowed visitors to access previously fenced off parts of the area as construction took place to open a beach strip and rebuild roads.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar has argued that a process through an Immovable Property Committee in the north, which calls on Greek Cypriot property owners to claim their rights through restitution or compensation, would go forward “with respect to property rights and in accordance with the law.”
A UN Security Council Resolution in May 1984 “considers attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of that area to the administration of the United Nations.”
The declaration also said that the EU would continue to be “guided by the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions with respect to Varosha, in particular Resolution 550 (1984) and Resolution 789 (1992), which consider attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible, and which call for the transfer of that area to the administration of the United Nations.”
“Full respect for and implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions also require an immediate end to restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in the Varosha area,” Tuesday’s statement said.
The declaration ended with a warning that EU ministers “will consider actions at their next meeting, in case of non-reversal of Turkey’s actions contrary to UN Security Council Resolutions 550/84 and 789/92, following the Statement of the Members of the European Council from 25 March 2021, which reaffirmed the determination of the EU, in case of renewed provocations and unilateral actions in breach of international law, to use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests and those of its Member States, as well as to uphold regional stability.”