Weekend Herald

Cypriot ghost town’s beach opens to pub­lic

Greek Cypri­ots fear Turk­ish takeover of quar­ter

- European Politics · Middle East News · Politics · Cyprus · Turkey · Northern Cyprus · Ankara · Greece · UN Security Council · United Nations · European Union · Varosha · Famagusta · Nicosia · Nicos Anastasiades · Kahramanmaras

The pris­tine, azure wa­ters lap­ping at the skirts of un­in­hab­ited Varosha con­trast sharply with the di­lap­i­dated, crum­bling build­ings lin­ing the beach­front of this aban­doned sub­urb of Fa­m­a­gusta.

For the first time in 46 years, mem­bers of the pub­lic were yes­ter­day per­mit­ted to ac­cess the beach of Varosha in the break­away Turk­ish Cypriot north of eth­ni­cally di­vided Cyprus.

Hun­dreds filed through a gate manned by Turk­ish Cypriot po­lice to walk on a freshly paved as­phalt road lead­ing to the beach that was the jewel of what was once Cyprus’ premier tourist re­sort. The road was lined on both sides with po­lice tape to pre­vent pedes­tri­ans stray­ing into win­dow­less homes and rust­ing busi­ness, some swal­lowed up by decades­old, snake- in­fested un­der­growth.

For some, like one woman draped in the Turk­ish and Turk­ish Cypriot flags, it was a mo­ment of joy to wit­ness an “his­toric” mo­ment.

For oth­ers, like Greek Cypriot Varosha na­tive Kyr­i­akos Char­alam­bides watch­ing on TV from his Ni­cosia home, it was a mo­ment of bit­ter­ness and sor­row. “Even though I ex­pected this, I shud­dered as I watched those fa­mil­iar places,” Char­alam­bides, a play­wright, said. “It’s a sor­row that can­not be con­soled . . . Varosha is lost.”

The de­ci­sion, by Turkey and the break­away Turk­ish Cypriot state recog­nised only by Ankara, to open the 1.6km- long stretch of beach was roundly con­demned by the is­land’s Greek Cypriot- run, in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised gov­ern­ment.

Varosha’s Greek Cypriot in­hab­i­tants fled as Turk­ish troops ad­vanced in 1974, when Turkey in­vaded fol­low­ing a coup by sup­port­ers of union with Greece. Since then, the area was placed un­der Turk­ish mil­i­tary con­trol, cor­doned off and left to the rav­ages of time.

Cypriot Pres­i­dent Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades con­demned the open­ing as a “fla­grant vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law” and United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions that con­sider at­tempts to set­tle any part of Varosha — Maras in Turk­ish — by any­one other than its in­hab­i­tants as “in­ad­mis­si­ble”. The res­o­lu­tions also call for the area to be trans­ferred to UN ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Greek Cypri­ots fear the beach open­ing is only a first step to Turkey and the Turk­ish Cypri­ots com­pletely tak­ing over Varosha.

Anas­tasi­ades said in a state­ment yes­ter­day that his gov­ern­ment has al­ready protested to the UN, the Euro­pean Union and other in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions. He re­peated that the “uni­lat­eral” ac­tion could hin­der at­tempts at re­launch­ing stalled talks to re­unify the is­land.

Both UN Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res and EU For­eign Pol­icy Chief Josep Bor­rell ex­pressed concern at the ac­tion they said could heighten ten­sions and un­der­mine fresh at­tempts at restart­ing talks.

For­mer Varosha res­i­dents staged a demon­stra­tion yes­ter­day at a cross­ing point along a UN con­trolled buf­fer zone to voice their op­po­si­tion to the open­ing. The check­point — one of nine from which Greek Cypri­ots and Turk­ish Cypri­ots can cross on ei­ther side — was shut on the Turk­ish Cypriot side as part of mea­sures to counter the spread of Covid- 19.

“How can some­one not be up­set by what they have seen to­day?” the Greek Cypriot mayor of Fa­m­a­gusta, Si­mos Ioan­nou, said. “Varosha should have been handed over to its right­ful own­ers . . . this is psy­cho­log­i­cal pres­sure.”

But Turk­ish and Turk­ish Cypriot of­fi­cials in­sist the move is to ev­ery­one’s ben­e­fit and that the rights of Greek Cypriot prop­erty own­ers aren’t af­fected since it’s only the beach that’s open­ing for now.

Turk­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu said an in­ven­tory on all the prop­er­ties within Varosha is cur­rently un­der­way to de­ter­mine what will hap­pen with the rest of Varosha.

But at least for now, the open­ing of the seafront and some roads where there is no pri­vate prop­erty was im­por­tant,” Cavu­soglu said af­ter a meet­ing yes­ter­day with his Greek coun­ter­part, Nikos Den­dias.

“It will be use­ful to take such steps that are to the ben­e­fit of all, that re­spect pri­vate prop­erty rights, with­out vi­o­lat­ing UN de­ci­sions,” Cavu­soglu said.

The open­ing took place just three days be­fore Turk­ish Cypri­ots elect a new leader to rep­re­sent them in UN­fa­cil­i­tated peace talks.

 ?? Photo / AP ?? The UN and the Euro­pean Union are con­cerned that Turkey’s move to open the beach­front could hin­der ef­forts to re­unify Cyprus.
Photo / AP The UN and the Euro­pean Union are con­cerned that Turkey’s move to open the beach­front could hin­der ef­forts to re­unify Cyprus.

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