Occupied Cyprus said on Tuesday it will reopen the beach area of an abandoned resort in no-man’s land, a move condemned by Greek Cypriots and likely to conjure up memories of the 1974 Turkish invasion that partitioned the island.
Ersin Tatar, premier of the breakaway state of occupied Cyprus, made the announcement in Ankara alongside Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who said he backed the decision on Varosha, sealed off within barbed wire for decades.
“God willing, we will start to use the Maras beach on Thursday morning together with our people,” Tatar said, using Varosha’s Turkish name.
Sources in Cyprus said the plan was to open up about 1.5 km of beachfront to the public and not the approximately 6 square km inland that includes abandoned hotels and residences, which its population of 39,000 people fled in 1974 during a Turkish invasion following a Greek inspired coup.
“We hope that the whole of Maras is opened to use after ongoing work is completed by respecting property rights,” Erdogan said, pledging support for Turkish Cypriot officials.
Cyprus promptly condemned the move to partially reopen the abandoned resort and said it would file a recourse to the United Nations Security Council.
“This is an exceptionally unacceptable situation,” Cypriot President, Nicos Anastasiades, said.
Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, also criticised the move and said Greece would support Cyprus.
“I want to condemn Turkey’s decision to extend the entry permit to the Varosia coastal front. This decision is a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolutions,” Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.
EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, added late on Wednesday that the incident would only exacerbate tensions between Turkey and the bloc, already running high over Ankara’s gas exploration in Cypriot waters.
“The opening of this area, which is a closed area according to the ceasefire agreements under the auspices of the United Nations, is a serious violation of this agreement,” Borrell told the European parliament.
He said the bloc would issue a statement later on Wednesday “asking Turkey to stop this activity.”
“For sure, this is not going to help. On the contrary it’s going to make it more difficult to reach an agreement on an especially difficult situation for all of us on the eastern Mediterranean,” he added.