Over half a million tourists have visited Maraş (Varosha) in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) since the area's partial opening by authorities in 2020.
A portion of the region – about 3.5% of the total area – has been reopened since October 2020.
The number of people who visited Varosha reached 500,000 in 600 days, Gazimağusa Mayor Ismail Arter told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Arter expressed his wish that the opening of Varosha would be beneficial for the Cyprus talks.
Sevgi Işık, the 500,000th visitor, said this was her second visit to Varosha.
"I'm glad it's been opened," she said.
Varosha was a famous resort area on the island that boasted a capacity of 10,000 beds across more than 100 hotels. Turkish military forces intervened on the island following a Greece-backed coup, which stopped the yearslong persecution and violence against Turkish Cypriots by ultra-nationalist Greek Cypriots.
The city of Varosha is protected by a 1984 United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution, stating that the empty town can only be resettled in by its original inhabitants. If the Greek Cypriots had accepted the 2004 U.N. Cyprus reunification plan, known as the Annan Plan, Varosha would now be back under Greek Cypriot control and its residents back in their homes. Despite this, the majority of Greek Cypriots voted against the plan, while Turkish Cypriots voted for it.
Since partially opening on Oct. 8, 2020, after remaining a "ghost town" for decades in the wake of Turkey's 1974 peace operation on the island in response to a coup aimed at Cyprus's annexation by Greece, Varosha has attracted both people living in the TRNC as well as foreign tourists, with the environment and landscape around the town also boosting its appeal. Located in Northern Cyprus, entry into the town was forbidden except for Turkish army personnel stationed in the TRNC.
Cyprus has been mired for decades in a dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the U.N to achieve a comprehensive settlement. Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety. In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece's annexation led to Turkey's military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the TRNC was founded in 1983. It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K.