Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar unveiled his plan to reopen the infamous abandoned Varosha beach, just days before the 2020 Northern Cypriot presidential election, reports Al Jazeera. The plan was criticized by Tatar’s opponents, calling it an interference by Turkey to sustain his nationalist base in the Turkish-occupied zone of Cyprus.
BBC News states that Turkey invaded the northern section of Cyprus in 1974 after a military coup on the island backed by the Greek government. Since then, this northern third has been run by a Turkish Cypriot government, named the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983, according to CNN. However, only Turkey recognizes this self-proclaimed republic as a legitimate state.
Varosha beach was one of the areas invaded in 1974; it was a Greek-Cypriot resort that attracted the wealthy and famous due to its grand hotels and stunning shoreline. In an interview with an American Greek-Cypriot, BBC News found that, “They talk about it being the hub of art and intellectual activity.” They call it the French Riviera of Cyprus As the Turkish troops advanced, Varosha inhabitants fled with the intent to return when it was safe again. Turkey, however, fenced off the beach and it has been abandoned ever since. The announcement of the reopening plans sparked reactions from around the world.
AP News reports that the United Nations Security Council called on Turkey and Northern Cyprus to close Varosha beach to avoid any actions “that could raise tensions on the island.” The Security Council adopted a resolution in 1984 any settlement of Varosha by people other than its original inhabitants. The resolution called for the transfer of the region to the UN. Again in 1992, the UN called for the beach to be under its peacekeeping forces in Cyprus, but to no avail. The UN is now stressing that no actions should be made regarding Varosha that does not comply with the previous resolutions. Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades called the reopening a flagrant violation of international law.
The Guardian states that European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borell emphasized in a statement to the European Parliament that the reopening would violate ceasefire agreements made under previous UN resolutions. He asserted that reopening would not help and would even worsen an already difficult situation in the eastern Mediterranean. Bloomberg finds that the EU imposed asset freezes and travel bans on Turkish Petroleum employees this February in response to Turkey’s pursuit of natural-gas off Cypriot shores. Most recently, the EU threatened to impose more penalties depending on if Turkey takes necessary de-escalatory actions or not.
Reuters states that Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement stressing their concern about Varosha, calling the reopening plans “unacceptable.” A United Nations Press Release that Security Council President Dmitry A. Polyanskiy of the Russian Federation issued a presidential statement, reaffirming Varosha’s status as set out in previous UN resolutions 550 and 789 in 1984 and 1992, respectively. The Security Council stressed that no actions relating to Varosha should be carried out that are not in accordance with the resolutions. They called for both Cyprus and Turkey-backed Northern Cyprus to negotiate through words, especially given the upcoming election. United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed serious concerns regarding the reopening of the abandoned beach resort, calling it “provocative and seeking its reversal,” Reuters reports.
Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay, a member of the Ozersay’s People’s Party, the third largest in Northern Cyprus, announced his resignation to protest Ersin Tatar’s plans to reopen Varosha. The party also pulled out of the governing coalition, depriving it of its majority, reports Al Jazeera. The election, which took place recently, will enter a run-off vote on . Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Tatar won 32.5 percent of the vote, above Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, the incumbent, who 30 percent of the vote. Since neither candidate won a majority 50 percent vote, the two will go in to a second round of voting.