Northern Cyprus opens 'ghost town' Varosha for settlement

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 18.06.2019 20:38
Updated 19.06.2019 12:22
Northern Cyprus opens 'ghost town' Varosha for settlement

The government of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on Tuesday decided to open Varosha (Maraş), a tourist resort abandoned since 1974 near Famagusta (Gazimağosa), for settlement amid heightened tension in the Eastern Mediterranean.

"The Council of Ministers will evaluate the conditions for action in Varosha, which is legally a military zone in the TRNC," the country's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay said.

The TRNC government will coordinate its actions regarding Varosha with Ankara, sources told Demirören News Agency (DHA), adding that an expert team from the TRNC will visit Varosha to make a list of movable and immovable properties in the city.

Varosha was a famous resort region in Cyprus which boasted a capacity of 10,000 beds across more than 100 hotels, however it has been closed since 1974. That same year, Turkish military forces intervened in the island following a Greek-inspired coup. The coup followed decade-long inter-ethnic violence and terrorism targeting Turkish Cypriots, who were forced to live in enclaves when Greek Cypriots unilaterally changed the constitution in 1963 and stripped the island's Turks of their political rights.

The city is protected by a 1984 U.N. Security Council resolution, stating that the the empty town can only be resettled by its original inhabitants. If the Greek Cypriots had accepted the 2004 United Nations Annan plan for the reunification of the island, Varosha would now be back under Greek Cypriot control and the residents would have their homes back.

Despite this, the majority of Greek Cypriots voted against the plan, whereas Turkish Cypriots supported the plan.

If the Greek and Turkish sides reach an agreement, Greek Cypriots will gain access to Varosha and Turkish ports and airports, and Turkish Cypriots will be able to engage in direct trade via the Famagusta port.

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