The parliament in the Republic of Cyprus is calling on the European Union and United Nations to "take concrete measures” against Turkish Cypriot plans to open the entire ghost town of Varosha, following comments made on the campaign trail by politicians in the north.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Greek Cypriot lawmakers in a full House session “unanimously and strongly denounced statements” by Turkish Cypriot politician Unal Ustel who called for the entire fenced town of Varosha to open up to the public.
Ustel, who is chief administrator in the unrecognized northern part of ethnically-divided Cyprus, gave a pep talk to supporters of his National Unity Party this week in Famagusta, saying “the TRNC will not be left behind” and betting on a strong showing in municipality elections.
"We will launch transformation and development with our strong candidates who will win the race while adopting a universal view on local administration,” Ustel said.
The politician went on to say that over a million people had visited Varosha, known as Maras in Turkish, referring to the island’s most popular ghost town that was abandoned by Greek Cypriots in mid-August, after peace talks collapsed during the events of 1974.
Pro-resettlement Greek Cypriot Andrea Lordos has called on both sides to 'do better' to resolve the Varosha predicament, saying 'we have suffered needlessly for a half a century'
"They said we couldn’t open Maras. We built bicycle paths. We opened up beaches,” Ustel said.
The politician went on to suggest that people could take a guess at who were the over one million people who visited Varosha.
“There are those who do not visit. You guess who they are. That's why we have to press on with our work. After elections, we will carry out the full opening of Maras,” Ustel said, suggesting there would be employment opportunities for young people living in the district.
But opening even parts of Varosha previously has been a challenge for Turkish Cypriots, after Greek Cypriots in the south accused the north of violating human rights and sought the backing of the international community.
The abandoned ghost town was destined to return under Greek Cypriot administration as part of a negotiated peace deal between the two sides of the ethnically-divided island, but UN efforts to help broker a deal have failed one after the other.
In recent years, the Ankara-backed Turkish Cypriot administration moved forward with opening parts of Varosha, where Greek Cypriots property owners could resettle.
The south has called on Greek Cypriot property owners not to head back, saying it would be a trap for the political future of the Cyprus Problem.
But pro-resettlement Greek Cypriot Andrea Lordos, a former MP candidate in the south whose family owns a lot of property in Varosha, appeared in an Al Jazeera video last month calling on both sides to “do better” to resolve the ghost town predicament.
“We have suffered needlessly for a half a century. We are undergoing a humanitarian crisis of being locked out of our houses every day, there is no ostensible reason for this,” Lordos said.
But the Greek Cypriot government in the south, which represents the Republic of Cyprus internationally as well as in the EU and UN, has called on Turkey and Turkish Cypriots to back off.
The House on Thursday further “condemned any provocative action directed by the Turkish side that constitutes a blatant violation of the international law and undermines every effort to create a climate conducive to the resumption of the negotiations to reach a Cyprus settlement.”
According to the Cyprus News Agency, the statement by the lawmakers called on the UN and EU “to take concrete measures to hinder the implementation of the Turkish government's provocative actions and promote the implementation of UNSC resolution 550/1984 for the return of the lawful inhabitants of Famagusta to their city.”
UN Security Council Resolution 550 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.”
Turkish Cypriots argue that welcoming Greek Cypriot owners back to Varosha would not be a violation of UN resolutions, with officials in the north often pointing out that the administration of Varosha was offered to the south in a peace plan in 2004, which was supported in the north but overwhelmingly struck down by the south in a simultaneous referendum.
“Greek Cypriots have rejected all the plans we had proposed before. If they had said yes they would enjoy their ownership here,” Turkish Cypriot representative Oguzhan Hasipoglu said in the same Al JAzeera video.
Hasipoglu suggested that the Varosha question could now be resolved away from governments as property owners could resettle under Turkish Cypriot administration.
“Somebody should bring this place to the usage of the international community, to the usage and enjoyment of the private owners,” Hasipoglu said.
But Greek Cypriots, who have called repeatedly for Varosha administration to be turned over to the UN, argue that taking unilateral action on the status of Varosha would be illegal.