Erdogan plans picnic at reopened Cypriot ghost town

woman walks through a newly-opened street of abandoned quarter of Varosha in Famagusta, Cyprus, 8 October 2020. [Katia Christodoulou/EPA/EFE]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday (26 October) said he would visit on 15 November a beach resort sealed off for decades in northern Cyprus before it controversially reopened this month.

A suburb of the historic city of Famagusta, Varosha was Cyprus’s premier resort in 50 years ago, popular with Hollywood stars, until the Turkish invasion which saw Greek Cypriot inhabitants flee in 1974.

The restoration of access to the ghost town of Varosha caused Greek Cypriot anger but boosted Turkish nationalist Ersin Tatar who won this month’s leadership election against the incumbent Mustafa Akıncı.

Turkish Cypriots elect Erdogan's candidate amid east Med tensions

Turkish Cypriots in breakaway northern Cyprus on Sunday (18 October) narrowly elected right-wing nationalist Ersin Tatar, backed by Ankara, in a run-off poll, at a time of heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

During Tatar’s first visit to Ankara since his victory, Erdoğan said he would visit the Turkish-controlled northern third of Cyprus next month.

“We can have a picnic at Varosha,” Erdoğan told a press conference in Ankara.

“We see it on screen, now we want to see it for ourselves,” Erdoğan added.

The reopening was widely criticised by the Republic of Cyprus, which controls the south of the island and is internationally recognised, and by the European Union.

EU frowns at North Cyprus pre-election stunt

Authorities in breakaway northern Cyprus are to open the coastal section of the long-fenced-off disputed town of Varosha, a Turkish Cypriot leader announced Tuesday (6 October) ahead of elections at the weekend.

Tatar served as prime minister in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) at the time of the two rounds of the election.

He reiterated his support for a two-state solution, a marked change from Akıncı who backed reunification with the Greek-speaking majority.

“It must be understood that no result can be achieved under the current parameters following a negotiation process that has lasted more than half a century,” Erdoğan said.

“At this stage, we believe starting talks on the basis of a federation will be a loss of time. Therefore, we believe a two-state solution must now be brought to the table with a realistic proposal.”

The TRNC, now with a population of 300,000, was established after Turkey occupied the north in 1974 in reaction to a coup intended to annex Cyprus to Greece.


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