An international conference on Varosha is in the works according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who accused European officials of turning their backs on Turkish Cypriots and further insisted that any steps on Cyprus’ ghost town will be “in accordance with the law.”
Erdogan gave a televised interview this week where he addressed the fires in Turkey and a host of other issues, including the Cyprus Problem.
"We are looking into having an international meeting possibly this fall through one of our universities,” Erdogan said, with Turkish media suggesting an academic conference would be organized with a scope on the eastern Mediterranean and the Cyprus Problem, with particular focus on Varosha, the island’s ghost city also known as Maras in Turkish.
Varosha had been kept closed to civilians since summer 1974 as it 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 last year Turkey and Turkish Cypriot authorities allowed visitors to access previously fenced-off parts in the area, only to receive condemnation last month from Greek Cypriots in the south, the European Union, and several UN countries over further announcements made recently by Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.
'When those in the EU show interest and come to the south, why don't you go north? Who scares you? We'll show you what happens in the future,' Erdogan said
A UN Security Council presidential statement has condemned Turkey over Varosha and called for a “need to avoid any unilateral action that could trigger tensions on the island and undermine the prospects for a peaceful settlement.”
But Ankara dismissed the criticism and argued the move was a response to political developments over the issue.
UN-backed plans failed to reunifiy the island time and again, prompting Turkish Cypriots earlier this year to introduce a two-state paradigm as Greek Cypriots rushed to renew their commitment to a bizonal, bicommunal, federal model.
“There was a Geneva meeting. Thanks to this meeting, Mr. Ersin stood tall, stood firm and conveyed our message to the people there. What? Two equally sovereign states. No concessions from here anymore, it's over. We can't wait another 50 years, it's over. Whatever is to be done must be done now,” Erdogan said.
The Turkish president went on to point fingers at EU leaders, criticizing some of them for refusing to visit the north while on official business in Cyprus. Erdogan had previously argued many European leaders did not truly understand the Cyprus Problem and accused Brussels of siding with fellow EU members Greece and the Republic of Cyprus.
“When those in the EU show interest and come to the south, why don't you go north? Who scares you? We'll show you what happens in the future,” Erdogan said during his interview.
Meanwhile an official statement in the north said Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar and his executive associates decided on Monday to establish an executive committee on Varosha.
There was no word on who might head the committee but the statement suggested it would be under the auspices of a head administrator within the executive branch, with a seat on the committee reserved for the municipality that will annex Varosha in the near future.
Nearly 350 applications have been filed by Greek Cypriot property owners who wish to claim their rights through an internationally-recognized Immovable Property Committee established in the north.
Tatar has stated that the process through the IPC would go forward and take place “with respect to property rights and the law,” where possible outcomes include restitution and compensation.
Last month Turkish Cypriots removed 3.5 percent of an area of total 5 square kilometers in Varosha from military forbidden zone, essentially bringing that area under civilian administration.
Ozersay calls Tatar out on IPC vacancies
But a Turkish Cypriot critic of Tatar says the IPC lacks leadership and is in no shape to meet the challenge.
Kudret Ozersay, a former lead negotiator in the north, wrote on Facebook this week that the committee “cannot even hold a meeting, cannot take any decisions,” adding that two positions including chairmanship had been left vacant.
Kudret had famously said earlier this summer that the IPC had not met for two months and that “members are missing.”
A Varosha czar in the north, understood by Knews to be a municipality official sitting on the executive committee, could possibly address issues and bypass red tape as IPC adjudications are made known.
But another big uncertainty did not stem from the committee but Greek Cypriot property owners, who still remain divided over the dilemma of either going back to live in Varosha in a Turkish Cypriot municipality or stick it out in the south and wait for further political developments.
The government of the Republic of Cyprus has publicly called on Varoshiotes in the south not to follow through on their claims with IPC and not go to live in the north, arguing that the reopening of Varosha by Turkish Cypriots was a unilateral action incompatible with UN resolutions.