Varosha could be opened to its former residents under Turkish Cypriot administration, says Kudret Ozersay, adding that the process of reviving Cyprus’ ghost town after the pandemic crisis cannot be halted.
Ozersay, who is in charge of foreign affairs in the north, declared in a written statement that rights of former residents of Varosha would be respected, adding that policies and preparations aimed at reopening the ghost town were “on the right track.”
Reports in the north said developments regarding Varosha could take place after the end of the pandemic crisis, with Ozersay saying he was ready to pursue “proactive diplomacy internationally” on the issue following October elections in the north.
Ozersay added that property rights would be respected, with the Turkish Cypriot official saying property owners could file petitions for the return of their property.
But property ownership in Varosha has been complicated after Turkish officials argued the ghost town belonged to Turkish Cypriots, citing deeds from Ottoman archives.
A UN resolution calls for the transfer of the ghost town under UN administration and considers 'attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible'
A United Nations Security Council resolution calls for the transfer of the ghost town under UN administration and considers “attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible.”
Earlier this year, Turkish legal experts argued that the UN resolution did not call for Varosha to remain closed, prompting reactions from Greek Cypriots including MEPs who raised the issue with the European commission.
While Greek Cypriots reject Varosha claims by Turkish Cypriots, media in the south also reported that Ozersay’s campaign on reopening Varosha was facing resistance from certain groups in the north, including trade unions.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci also expressed disagreement on any moves made outside the scope of international law or the United Nations.
But Ozersay, who has met earlier this year with Turkish officials and legal experts during a Varosha conference not attended by Akinci, claimed there was wide support for his vision compared to earlier years when it was being ridiculed.
“Many actors and the Turkish Cypriot public now have started to support this policy,” he said.
Ozersay argued that both the Greek Cypriot side and other international players understood that “as long as we proceed carefully, our policy on Varosha will come alive and cannot be prevented.”
Varosha, a popular Mediterranean resort located on the eastern coast of Cyprus, has been fenced off and abandoned after the Turkish military sealed it off. Ankara sent Turkish troops to Cyprus on 20 July 1974 following a short-lived, Greek-inspired coup on the island. Greek Cypriot residents fled the town that summer and never returned.
Debate over Varosha was back in the spotlight in summer 2019 when reporters set foot inside the ghost town for the first time since 1974, when Cyprus was split between the Greek Cypriot south, which is internationally-recognized as the Republic of Cyprus, and the Turkish Cypriot north recognized only by Turkey.