In Controversial Move, Northern Cyprus Reopens Border-Beach Before Elections

Beachgoers wave Turkish and Northern Cypriot flags at the reopened Varosha beachfront on October 8, 2020. (Photo courtesy of (AP Photo/Nedim Enginsoy)

    By Harshana Ghoorhoo
    International News Writer

    The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has reopened part of Varosha, a beach resort, which had been abandoned and left as a ‘no man’s land’ area since Turkey invaded Cyprus decades ago. The region of Varosha, found in the ancient city of Famagusta, has been forbidden to public entry for years. Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay has resigned in protest against the Prime Minister Ersin Tatar move to reopen Varosha, a ghost town since 1974. The decision comes only a few days prior to an impending presidential election.

    The strained relations of Turkish and Greek Cypriots goes back since 1974, when Turkey’s military invasion clashed with a coup backed by the Greek government. The country was divided in two between the Turkish-Cypriot north and Greek-Cypriot south. Under international law, the southern, Greek-Cypriot government in the south is recognized as the legitimate government of the island. Northern Cyprus is recognized as an independent state by its only ally, Turkey.

    The limited reopening has taken place during a very crucial time for TRNC, which is facing presidential elections. Residents will cast their vote for the second time on October 18 as the presidential candidates failed to secure 50 percent of the votes in the first round of the elections. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has affirmed that once the results of the elections are announced, he hopes to relaunch diplomatic talks between both parties.

    A map displaying the de facto political boundaries which divide the island of Cyprus. (Image courtesy of CIA World Factbook)

    According to CNN, Ersin Tatar, the prime minister of TRNC has said, “We are starting the process to make people use the public area of our land, Sahil and Demokrasi streets, and the beach,” Turkish President Erdogan has supported this move, saying, “It is Turkish Cypriot authorities who have a right to stay there. We are fully supporting your decision of reopening the beautiful beach of Maras for the use of your people,” On the hand, TRNC President Mustafa Akinci has repelled the action, expressing that Turkey is interfering in the presidential elections. Akinci favors a reunification of the island and hopes to loosen ties with Ankara, earning him the hostility of Erdogan.

    Abandoned buildings line the beach at Varosha on October 8th, 2020. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Nedim Enginsoy)

    The move has garnered global concerns and criticism. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades labeled the move as illegal and a, “clear violation of international law and UN Security Council Resolutions,” according to Politico. EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell has voiced his concern over the matter, saying that the bloc was “very concerned” and emphasized that there is a greater need to restore confidence rather than create further divisions. Russian Foreign Ministry also condemned the action, calling it an inacceptable decision. The UN, which monitors the buffer zone in Cyprus, has also come forth warning against any form of unilateral actions that have the potential to engulf the region in tensions and endanger the return to dialogue or unification talks. Given the rising instability in the region, it remains to be seen how the international community will come forth to resolve these tensions.


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